Tuesday, August 31, 2010

For my mom: what I mean when I get all feminist about "boy" stuff and "girl" stuff and why it isn't all biological and why it is societal and cultural and socialization

Longest post title ever.

So my friend Real OC Mom posted about her favorite kids' gift today - a really cool looking doodle book that comes with some slight instructions to the doodler - sort of a graphic fill-in-the-blank, if you will.

But here I go getting' all political and feminist like again - why do there need to be two versions - a boys' book and a girls' book?

Is it really that bad to be a bit gendered? No.  Do I buy cute pink dresses and frilly things for my little girl, yes.  But I don't like the gendering of imagination, which is what these books do. 

Boys get to design scary shields for a couple of knights and girls get to shower the diva in flowers?  Boys get to invent a robot, depict an alien invasion, problem solve a boy's escape from an alligator, draw their hero, design a spaceship, and finish a castle.  Girls get to draw the best bouquet, give the fish a fabulous home, populate the penguin colony, create a perfect party cake, draw each dog a designer outfit, give mademoiselle big hair, show where the fairies are hiding, show what Gran has knitted now, fill a pond with lilies, and design some henna tattoos (just lost my mom as a buyer, right there).

What does this quietly tell our kids?

Boys are engineers - they get people away from alligators, build spaceships and robots, they solve problems, they intimidate, are powerful, are warriors, have heros, and are architects.

Girls like flowers, interior design, fashion, and baby penguins.

Is this bad?  No.  Is it okay to like flowers, interior design, fashion, and baby penguins, of course!  But what about a little boy who loves the beauty of flowers or the click of knitting needles? And what about the girl who stargazes and would love to build a spaceship?  Can either child doodle in the other book, yes, of course.  Might that child wonder whether it's okay to work on a BOY book if she's a girl or a GIRL book if she's a boy? Probably because that's just how we're socialized.

I would love to buy both and inflict some serious copyright infringement by cutting them up and photocopying a complete child version.  Because maybe the child who doodles in that book will come up with the best flower-populated oxygen farm on the eventual spacestation and be prepared with scary shields when the robot alients invade while still being able to show appreciation for interstelllar opera singers.


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