My daughter had her fifteen-month shots last week, and on our way home, I decided to take her through the drive-up at McDonald’s to get a special lunch. After ordering a Happy Meal, the drive-up attendant asked, “boy or girl?” I assumed she meant, “do you want a toy for a girl or a toy for a boy?” so I replied, “either would be fine.” She seemed a little caught off-guard and asked for clarification: “well … is your kid a boy or a girl?” I responded, “either toy would be fine, thank you.”
Back at home, my daughter chowed down her chicken nuggets while I did some quick research and learned that the current Happy Meal toy offering is Adventure Time toys for boys and Paul Frank monkey notepads and purses for girls (because obviously all boys like going on adventures and all girls carry purses and write in a diary — what!?).
Through my research, I also found that I’m not the only Kansas City mom frustrated with McDonald’s and their apparent need to offer a “girl toy” and a “boy toy.” This recent article in the Kansas City Star outlines exactly how I — and how other moms — felt when asked the “boy or girl” question in the drive-thru window line.
Here’s my thing: my daughter might end up liking blue and playing with trucks (her two favorite books are The Little Blue Truck and the sequel). She might end up liking pink and playing with dolls (just last week, I posted a picture on Instagram of her feeding her “baby” a bottle). Or, she might end up enjoying a variety of toys in a range of various colors, shapes, sizes, and subject matter, which is also fine and dandy with me. What I don’t understand is why we are typically given two main options as parents: “girl toys” or “boy toys.”
One quick walk through the toy aisles at the nearest big box retailer proves my point:
Lego has even managed to frustrate their own target consumer, as evidenced by the now internet-famous seven-year-old girl who wrote them a letter urging them to “let [girls] go on adventures and have fun, ok!?!”
And who could forget the debate over Merida’s makeover last summer, which turned the spunky, unruly-haired Scottish adventurer from Disney’s movie Brave into a “sexier” version (which Disney later retracted due to harsh criticism from fans).
The gender/toy debate is not a new one, but it does seem to be getting a lot more attention these days – and I, for one, am thrilled. I think this is a discussion that all parents need to participate in, and one that each of us needs to take a stance on. I also think it’s an opportunity for us to teach our children about a variety of topics including diversity, career options, emotional well-being, respect for others, life skills, and more.
While my daughter is young, I want to focus on providing her with a variety of toy choices: different colors, different subject matter, different sizes, “boy” toys, “girl” toys — whatever — and then just let her play. As she grows and matures, she’ll be able to choose what she likes and dislikes and will develop her own preferences and interests; then, it’s my job to support her choices. In my opinion, it really is this simple:
One final note: there are thousands of articles and pieces of research out there regarding gender and toys. I’m not an expert, and I always want to learn more. Here are a few links to other articles I found that were thought-provoking: check out this, this, this, and this. As always, feel free to share your thoughts and additional articles or links in the comments below!