“I Don’t Play With Girl Toys!”

So said my five-year-old nephew on Sunday. And then Feminist Auntie came out in full force.

Or rather, Feminist Auntie kind of lost her shit, but we’re not aloud to swear above the cut so we don’t anger the Google Gods. (We, for one, welcome our Google Overlords. ~ed.) Here’s the story– my six-year-old niece, Sierra, called me on Sunday to see if I could take her to Barnes & Noble. As I am always down for a trip to the bookstore, I went and picked up her and her four-year-old sister, Charlie, and headed over for some book shopping. What they actually wanted were the Lego Friends sets that B&N carry, and while much has been written about the ridiculousness of the need to have sets marketed specifically to girls, many of them are actually really cool. Yes, there are stereotypical sets, but there are also science labsconcert stagesdrum kits, and emergency mobile vets. Sierra had been saving up for Olivia’s house, which we got, and Charlie got the Pet Groomer Salon. I chipped in for the aforementioned drummer set and Olivia’s Newborn Foal because I am a sucker and they know it. They asked if they could come over to our house for a bit before going home, so off we went.

When we got home, we found out that my nephew would be stopping by with Jon’s parents, too, so it was about to be one awesome impromptu play date. Those kiddos adore one another and get along famously.

photo of Kym and her nieces and nephew inside a restaurant snuggled up in a booth
How cute are these little nuggets?

Charlie and Sierra had already busted out their small Lego sets to play with– I was not about to start putting together a 700-piece house at 6 p.m. –  when my five-year-old nephew, Patrick, arrived. He saw the girls playing with the Legos and promptly and excitedly stated the he “loved” Legos  As he glanced around the room, however, he saw the boxes that the other sets were in. Purple boxes, with girl dolls. Suddenly, he wasn’t too keen on playing with them anymore. That was when he said he “doesn’t play with girl toys.” I knelt down beside him and asked him what made them girl toys. “I don’t know, they just are,” was his reply. I asked if horses were girl toys. He said no. I asked if drums were girl toys. He said no. I asked what exactly it was that made them girl toys. Was it because the box was purple? He still didn’t have an answer, but he wanted me to find him some Legos to play with. I told him those were the only Legos in the house, but he was welcome to deny himself the fun of playing with them in order to avoid “girl toys” and find something else to play with in the toy box.

I tried not to make a big deal about the whole thing, but I wanted him to think about his decision. I wanted him to do more than proclaim something off limits because it didn’t come in a blue package. But I also knew that the coolest toys in the house were the Lego sets, and he could go digging for something else, but it wasn’t going to be as much fun. After about five minutes of stubbornness, he noticed that Charlie was having some trouble with her set, and he asked her if she needed help. They sat together and started building, and Patrick kept on after Charlie lost interest. When he left, he informed me that he “actually liked playing with girl stuff, sometimes.” I’m counting that as a win.

Two young girls playing with Lego Friend sets on a couch with toys in the background
Sierra (right) is a Lego Pro. She put the whole  700-piece house together by herself.

I talked with the girls on the way home about what had happened, and about why people thought some things were for girls and other things for boys. Sierra talked about how much she liked Star Wars, and how boys at school didn’t think she actually knew anything about it because she was a girl. She informed them that she had seen the movies “like a hundred times” and probably knew more about it than they did. She’s mouthy, that one, and I love it. She is surrounded by mouthy, independent broads that don’t take shit from the menfolk around, and it shows. I wanted her to think more deeply about the situation, though. I want her to be mouthy enough to not only stand up for herself, but to stand up for others who may not be able to stand up for themselves.

two young girls, Sierra and Charlie, Sierra wearing a blue Star Wars t-shirt and a polka dot denim skirt, cahrlie wearing a red dress and sunglasses
We have had to buy them boys clothes for years since they love Star Wars, Thomas the Tank Engine, and other “Boys Only” stuff. Sierra wore Thomas boys Underoos regularly. So awesome.

I asked her what would happen if a boy at her school wanted to play with dolls. She responded with the brutal honesty of a kid, that he probably wouldn’t have any friends and people would make fun of him. Yes, that is totally mean, but unfortunately, it is also probably pretty accurate. I asked her why people would be mean to someone for playing with something that made them happy, and if that was fair. She determined that it was not fair, and that people should do what makes them happy. She then went on to say boys should wear pink if they want to, and also, why can’t boys wear dresses? She kept at it, thinking of tons of different examples of boys vs. girls nonsense, and concluded that it was all so silly. I heartily agree.

I don’t know where Patrick got his hard-line stance on girl’s toys. He, too, has strong female role models in his life, women who, even if they don’t identify as feminists, totally are. I have to assume most of the socialization to that effect goes on at school for all of them, and when there is such a huge swath of time in kids lives where conformity is one of the most important things to them, how do you combat the daily onslaught of gender roles? I wish there was any easy way, but until the world stops sucking so much on this front, I am going to keep on keeping on with my feminist rants when the opportunities arise. They will be my little equality army, fighting for justice and the ability to play with whatever the fuck makes you happy.

3 year old girl, Charlie, wearing a "This is What a Feminist Looks Like" t-shirt
This is what Charlie sleeps in (my This is What a Feminist Looks Like shirt) when she spends the night. I put Sierra in my Obama shirt and then send pictures to their dad, the super Conservative, to make sure he knows I am turning them into bleeding heart liberals.

9 thoughts on ““I Don’t Play With Girl Toys!””

  1. To be honest, I haven’t really looked at the “girl” lego sets. I think legos are legos and pink legos with flowers don’t interest me. In my child care the girls invariable dig out the purple and pink ones. I am all for throwing in sets of bricks to make the collection more balanced in appeal and color.

    1. He’s learned that responding only makes it worse. During the 2008 presidential election season, he made some snippy response to Sierra wearing the Obama shirt, and when he picked her up, his adorable 2 year old, upon being prompted “what do we want?” Started chanting “Obama! Obama! Obama!” over and over and over as two year olds love to do when they find a fun new word to say. Mwahhhahahahahahahaha!

  2. That reminds me of my one male cousin. Before he came along, my three years younger cousin and I played with whatever the hell we wanted. Usually we made pillow forts and tied them into the novels we were reading. Then Nathan and the two other girls came along. The twins were girly-girls and Nathan’s only rival in ultimate obsession with “boy things” was me. His mom wouldn’t let him bring any toys related to his obsessions when he visited. He always had to make do with whatever was at my house. Eventually, I convinced her to let him bring lightsabers. I think I’m making some progress in convincing him that my old toys aren’t girl toys as I routinely beat him in lightsaber battles and that is clearly what makes me a trustworthy source.

    1. Of course! I need all the nieces and nephews I can wrangle since we aren’t having kids, and everybody tells me I will have nobody to care for me when I’m old. So my plan is to spoil them all terribly so they will, in turn, change MY diapers someday. Don’t worry, you’re far enough away that you could get the spoiling benefits without diaper duty. :)

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