Because Tonka knows all.

While gendering toys is no new thing, Tonka takes it to the next level.

Wowzers.
Hat tip to reader Monica.

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145 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Exactly, SarahMC and sgzax.

  2. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Eh, I’m not bitter. I didn’t realize life sucked until Bush was in office. My childhood taught me that the world is a beautiful place, and the people in are inherently good, whatever their actions may be.
    If a child NATURALLY acts in a way that doesn’t fit into traditional gender roles, then there is no problem. If you’re specifically ENCOURAGING them, though, then the problem arises.
    And girls don’t get physically and emotionally abused for doing “boy” things. You can’t start with children without seriously hurting them long-term, you have to start by changing adults.
    I guess what I am arguing is not so much that you teach boys to be boys in the most traditional way, but simply that you teach them to hide their emotions and feelings, a traditionally male thing. If they can hide the parts of themselves that don’t fit in, they can play with dolls all they want. This may also be true for girls, but not at the same level or age.

  3. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Basiorana, I agree that one role of parents is to prepare their children for life. But that should take the form of raising a child who is self-confident, a critical thinker, and has the resources to handle whatever life will throw at them. This does NOT equate with making sure that the child fits the status quo.

  4. Nick
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I was a sissy boy. I read books a lot (about 15 years above my reading level, typically). I wore matching (even hot pink) clothing. I hated sports. I played musical instruments. I sang. I was one of the three lowest boys on the pecking order (and the three of us were pretty mean to each other too). And yeah, I don’t have found memories of elementary school.
    But those experiences helped teach me *not* to treat others like that, and they really helped empower me based on my *own* motivations, not societal expectations, and sped up my emotional and moral development light years beyond my peers.
    Ultimately, they helped turn me into the liberated and confident individual I am today. They built character.
    Grade school is 12 years at most. Compared to the rest of my life, that’s nothing.

  5. fremontmama
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I was so mad the first time I saw this commercial, 1. for obvious reasons and 2. b/c it was on PBS when I was watching Sesame Street with my daughter. I put it on mute, and said to her that thankfully we don’t have to believe everything the tv says, b/c girls like to play with trucks and boys like to play with dolls and while boys and girls are different genders, they can totally like the same things. After Sesame Street we listened to Free to Be You and Me.

  6. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Baisorana, you’re lying. I got physically and emotionally abused for eleven straight years in school for not being “feminine” enough or a “normal” girl and for doing “boy” things.
    And guess what? I’m fine.

  7. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    When you teach boys that they must hide their feelings you are creating an emotionally blighted adult. When you teach boys that they must hide their feelings you are creating an adult who will see expression of emotion as weak-willed and hysterical.
    Please, whatever you do… do the world a favor and don’t give birth to a boy.

  8. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I plan to do the world a favor and raise a boy who can think for himself, as well as a girl who could run anything she wanted.

  9. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Nick– you are stronger than most, I think. For some, childhood struggles might “build character,” but I know of many others who are left hating their mothers and the whole feminist movement for putting them through that.
    sbanon– Would I be a bad parent simply because I would not want to see my son come home with black eyes? Better to fit into the existing mold than to require a hospital visit.
    I can’t really stay around, and I feel bad about monopolizing this comment thread anyway. If you wish to continue talking to me about this subject, I set up a post on my own blog . I will be on later to check it.

  10. pram in the hall
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I agree with thordora–It’s a delight to see what children are interested in when they have real choices. My kids (2 boys and a girl) are exasperated by kids who talk about “boy” and “girl” toys/colors/activities. It is hard for them to constantly challenge the real world. My son asked why people thought he shouldn’t wear nail polish. I explained the best I could about why people want to bifurcate gender (no I didn’t say bifurcate to him) and then said he should wear nail poish if the pleasure he got from doing it was more that the annoyance he got from teasing. He stopped wearing it. Recently I bought some black nail polish, which he felt would be masculine enough to wear to school, which he has done with no ill effects. I hope my kids can feel good about themselves in the world but work for change at the same time, but I never want to force them to carry out my political agenda.
    I will never buy a Tonka truck again.
    By the by, Jordan is a nice gender neutral name.

  11. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Yes yes yes sgzax!
    Of course it’s easier for a boy/man to be inconsiderate of others’ feelings, to take other people for granted, to be an asshole with reckless abandon because he’s male and that’s what we expect from men!
    But that doesn’t mean raising a child with this attitude ON PURPOSE is right.
    And it’s NOT easier for a boy/man to go through life bottling up his emotions until he either has a heart attack or shoots up his workplace. I’ll never tell a son of mine he must keep things inside. What a recipe for high therapist bills later in life. There’s nothing wrong with men who don’t fight to solve problems. There’s nothing wrong with men who appreciate literature or treat animals kindly (stereotypically feminine). I’m sick of men avoiding certain beneficial, enjoyable activities & hobbies just because girls and women have begun to take an interest in them as well. That’s why there’s a (very overstated) “boy crisis” in schools and higher education. Now that girls have an equal opportunity to learn in this country, and are performing well, it’s no longer “cool” for boys to pursue intellectual stimulation/success. ‘Cause “that’s for girls!!”

  12. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    fremontmama, yay for Free to Be You and Me! I loved that tape and book when I was little! :)
    And as a matter of fact, one of my favorite songs from the tape was “William’s Doll”, which has wonderful lyrics and is quite relevant to the discussion at hand: http://www.guntheranderson.com/v/data/williamw.htm

  13. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    pachakuti– last comment, promise– I’m sorry. All statements I make are generalized and do not apply to everyone.
    And sgzax, SarahMC–I would teach any child to hide their emotions from all but those they trust most, because those who hide their emotions are the most successful in this world. That’s not saying they would be inconsiderate of others, simply that they would hide their own.
    Now, farewell.

  14. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Ah, yes. Teaching children that they should hide emotion from those outside their family essentially teaches them that there is something wrong with having emotions. I was raised by the mom that did that!
    Which probably explains why I’m an emotional cripple when it comes to telling people how I feel in public.

  15. The Slant
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    “Please, whatever you do… do the world a favor and don’t give birth to a boy.”
    I think the fact that Basiorana works with kids on a daily basis is even more concerning.
    Basiorana– Wow. If you enjoy hard data as you seem in infer, you might want to read up on studies about “traditional gender roles” which you seem to think are automatically ingrained in a child at birth. This is nonsense. Gender roles are just that – roles that we learn to play. As children we are influenced by our parents, our peers, our teachers, the media, and by society as a whole that being a male means ABC while being female means XYZ. Attempting to go against these forces does not endanger the child or make the child suffer; in fact, it helps the child realize that individuality is important, and that conformity is not always in your best interest.

  16. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Girls aren’t teased or tormented for not being feminine enough? Ohhhhkay!
    And Basiorana, it’s telling that instead of turning their anger and resentment at THE PATRIARCHY (which is the gender role enforcer in the first place), boys/men aimed their anger at feminism (which seeks to give individuals MORE freedom of expression).

  17. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    When little boys are actively discouraged from doing the things little girls are actively encouraged to do, they grow up with the sense that “female” traits are negative while “male” traits are positive.
    Girls are so emotional! God how annoying!
    Girls express their feelings, ughh!
    Girls like to hug and kiss one another – barf!
    And so on and so forth.
    Enforcing strict gender roles is a recipe for creating a misogynist.*
    *Some turn out OK :)

  18. DrkEyedCajn
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “Do the world a favor and don’t give birth to a boy”… wow. A bit harsh, I think. How about instead of discouraging Basiorana from parenting completely, we encourage her to learn more about feminism? Point her in the direction of some great literature, which I’m sure you know of, which addresses feminist concerns for both genders? I think Basiorana is genuinely here to learn, not to troll and inflame.
    I know most of you know much more about feminism than I do. I’m just a dabbler. Some of you have studied this for years. What are some good works to read on feminism and masculinity?

  19. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    “And girls don’t get physically and emotionally abused for doing “boy” things.”
    I did. My Dad has and had some fairly rigid ideas for want girls should be like, despite raising me in a rather masculine fashion. I had a fairly narrow area of acceptable as far has he was concerned. More so, I was tall 5’10″ by 8th grade. Through out my childhood I got teased for by other kids for being big, for being smart, for not being girlish enough. It happens. Girls and women are frequently punished for being bitches, for trying to act like men, for trying to play with the big boys.

  20. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    When I was a little girl, I wanted construction truck toys. I loved digging in the dirt and building things.
    I only ever got stuffed animals. =(

  21. The Slant
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “When little boys are actively discouraged from doing the things little girls are actively encouraged to do, they grow up with the sense that “female” traits are negative while “male” traits are positive.”
    Ding ding ding!! We have a winner!

  22. Halfmad
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the link to the “email us” at the Tonka site. They make you jump through one hoop (they ask for an address, but that’s an easy sub if you don’t want to give it to them). Here’s the URL:
    http://hasbro.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/hasbro.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=
    And here’s my letter to them:
    Boys are built different. Okay. Aside from the obvious physiological differences, I shall infer that you would prefer that I never again purchase any Tonka products. After all, you wouldn’t want to sully my pretty little girl-head with products built for boys, nor would you want me to spend my inferior girl-dollars on your products for my children, my nieces, or the daughters of my friends. Good to know. That saves me time.
    For the record, my favorite toy as a child was a Tonka truck that I pestered my mom to buy for me. Back when they were made out of metal. I still have it. Perhaps I should rethink that. Since I’m a girl, you know, and I know how to think.
    And obviously, I think your marketing stinks.

  23. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    DrkEyedCajun: Although it’s not about masculinity per se, I think Gender Trouble by Judith Butler serves to stick some dynamite in this topic and blow the sucker up.

  24. Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Boys are built different, but this toy aids in the boys’ first steps? I don’t think there’s anything keeping all girls from walking . . . .

  25. sarah
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    As a mother of a 20-month-old daughter, I’ve been seeing these TV commercials, and the print ads in magazines… SO offensive. My daughter loves trucks, motorcycles, dolls, nerf balls, kitchen tools, etc. She’s a kid! And, I take such offense to the notion that boys are ‘built differently’.
    Thank you for posting this.

  26. raginfem
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Gender neutral names that I love:
    Madison
    Kennedy
    Taylor

  27. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Basiorana:
    What works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone, obviously. But just like some posters have pointed out we can’t force children to play with certain toys, you also can’t make generalizations about how some degree of gender roles are right for all boys. You know some guys who are unhappy that their parents tried to raise them gender-neutral. Fine. I know some men who are non-stereotypically masculine, and are no less happy with their lives than most other people I know. (And some of them are hella successful with women too, especially if they belong to a noncomformist subculture like the arts or activism or something).
    So would you take away these men’s ability to appreciate the human condition as the great complexity it is, and to relate to men and women both?
    And then there is the perspective of well, while gender roles can hurt men and women both in different ways, there is certainly still a lot of validity to the idea that boys feeling a need to be boys actually hurts women more than it hurts the boys (b/c of a culture that says boys are the strong ones, boys are powerful/overpower/outcompete others, etc.) So what’s wrong with wanting to raise boys to be more sensitive for the benefit of their female classmates, as well as the boys themselves?
    Finally, I was a girl who was raised fairly gender neutral. I always thought boy toys were way cooler (I had a car collection, and action figures, and everything). I was harassed majorly in grade school for not being conformist enough -I would say it started in kindergarden, and got particularly bad in third grade. Grade school sucked, sure, but I, like Nick am glad for the things I learned, and for the fact that I never had the idea I couldn’t do certain things b/c they were “boy things”. I think it allows me to be more intimate/better friends with males as well than I would be otherwise. However, I always hella resented being told that things I liked to do were “boy things” (I still get them some now, actually). If there weren’t the idea of gender roles for boys, there wouldn’t be the idea of restrictive gender roles for girls either. Since our culture currently views male/female as opposites, you can’t have one without the other (the way you seem to think you could have it for boys, but not for girls).

  28. iheartben
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I haven’t read all the comments because I don’t have time right now. And first of all, I HATE marketing like this, I think its horrible. And me and my sister both had tons of tonka trucks when we were younger. And tons of barbies.
    But how many of you actually have kids? I have a 4 year old son. We don’t have TV, he hasn’t seen marketing like this. When he was younger I encouraged him to play with dolls, gender neutral toys… etc. He has been OBSESSED with cars, trucks, heavy equipment, etc. since he was about 6 months old. His first “word” was BBBRRRRRRMMMMMM. (car noise). He’s fascinated by anything that moves or explodes or drives or smashes. He’s been raised by me, alone, since he was 5 months old. For most of his life he lived with women (me, my mom, roommates, my aunt). But he loves to smash and break and take things apart, and could care less about all the dolls and the cute little (gender neutral) firehouse I got him with dolls and furniture. I realize there are girls who are into the things he’s into, and there are boys who are into dolls and more gentle play. However, I also have two like minded friends of boys, who totally agree with me… that our sons have been into this “boy” stuff since they were TINY. In fact, my friends sons favorite color is pink. He loves glitter, and a lot of his clothes (she buys him what HE likes) are pink or have glittery pink designs on them. I think that’s awesome. But he has also been into smashing and cars and very traditionally “boy” activities. And both of us have tried very hard to raise our kids in an environment without stereotyped gender ideas.
    Anyway, the commercial clearly sucks. This is one of many many reasons my son doesn’t get to watch TV. He does watch movies (without commercials, that I pick!!) and that’s not perfect either but overall I feel like he’s going to grow up learning that boys and girls are equal. Yesterday I took him to the doctor and I was so happy that the doctor was female and the nurse was male. and he goes to an amazing ananda marga preschool where there are about as many male as female teachers. But… he still thinks smashing things and driving cars and wrestling with his friends it the most fun ever. And so yes, my opinion on this issue has changed because I really do think that as a whole, little boys are more into that than little girls. take away my feminist card! I just think that even without preconceived gender roles and stereotypes…. boys and girls, as a general rule, are into different things. We just shouldn’t try and assume that they will be into X or Y because they are one gender or the other.
    and yes, that commercial is a piece of shit.

  29. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the link to Hasbro. I left feeback.
    When it pressed for my address (why is this necessary?) I said I was Ms. Ann B. Davis at 123 Brady Way in Bradyville, CA.

  30. iheartben
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I haven’t read all the comments because I don’t have time right now. And first of all, I HATE marketing like this, I think its horrible. And me and my sister both had tons of tonka trucks when we were younger. And tons of barbies.
    But how many of you actually have kids? I have a 4 year old son. We don’t have TV, he hasn’t seen marketing like this. When he was younger I encouraged him to play with dolls, gender neutral toys… etc. He has been OBSESSED with cars, trucks, heavy equipment, etc. since he was about 6 months old. His first “word” was BBBRRRRRRMMMMMM. (car noise). He’s fascinated by anything that moves or explodes or drives or smashes. He’s been raised by me, alone, since he was 5 months old. For most of his life he lived with women (me, my mom, roommates, my aunt). But he loves to smash and break and take things apart, and could care less about all the dolls and the cute little (gender neutral) firehouse I got him with dolls and furniture. I realize there are girls who are into the things he’s into, and there are boys who are into dolls and more gentle play. However, I also have two like minded friends of boys, who totally agree with me… that our sons have been into this “boy” stuff since they were TINY. In fact, my friends sons favorite color is pink. He loves glitter, and a lot of his clothes (she buys him what HE likes) are pink or have glittery pink designs on them. I think that’s awesome. But he has also been into smashing and cars and very traditionally “boy” activities. And both of us have tried very hard to raise our kids in an environment without stereotyped gender ideas.
    Anyway, the commercial clearly sucks. This is one of many many reasons my son doesn’t get to watch TV. He does watch movies (without commercials, that I pick!!) and that’s not perfect either but overall I feel like he’s going to grow up learning that boys and girls are equal. Yesterday I took him to the doctor and I was so happy that the doctor was female and the nurse was male. and he goes to an amazing ananda marga preschool where there are about as many male as female teachers. But… he still thinks smashing things and driving cars and wrestling with his friends it the most fun ever. And so yes, my opinion on this issue has changed because I really do think that as a whole, little boys are more into that than little girls. take away my feminist card! I just think that even without preconceived gender roles and stereotypes…. boys and girls, as a general rule, are into different things. We just shouldn’t try and assume that they will be into X or Y because they are one gender or the other.
    and yes, that commercial is a piece of shit.

  31. iheartben
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    damn sorry about the double post!!!

  32. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    girls don’t get physically and emotionally abused for doing “boy” things.
    Tell that to Hillary Clinton.
    A truly hard childhood, like that which “sissy” boys (as determined by other boys) face, doesn’t teach a kid how to face problems, it teaches them that the world is evil and cruel and leaves them bitter.
    How will teaching them to mask their true selves in favor of phony, affected “machismo” not teach them the world is evil and cruel and leave them bitter?
    The fact that naturally “sissy-ish” boys are teased and tormented IS proof that the world is cruel! That’s why our masculinity standards have to change! The solution is more feminism, not more patriarchy.

  33. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    iheartben:
    You just got me thinking about how the things that kids expose other kids to might make a pretty big difference in what tiny kids like.
    For instance, all the guys I know who grew up with older sisters and no brothers, did a lot of playing with “girl” things like makeup and dress up and dolls when they were little.
    That being said, my personal opinion is that “boys toys” -things that move and smash, are just way more fun in general. I wouldn’t be surprised if /most/ kids, male and female, would like those toys, unless they were sent a message they shouldn’t. But I could be told about a kid that didn’t like those things, and I’d be a little surprised but I’d have to believe it, b/c the fact is we all like different things, and it’s so hard to separate the affect of environment from genetics, etc.

  34. iheartben
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    One other thing… he also went through a phase where he wanted to paint his nails and liked me and my sister to put his hair in pigtails and ponytails. I let him. It was very cute. If I have a girl, I will raise her the exact same way I’ve been raising my son. She can do whatever she wants. But I won’t be surprised if she’s totally different than my son and wants to color and play with dolls (when my son “colors” it mostly involves smashing the crayons and stabbing the markers all over the paper…) I think the important thing is that you not tell kids that what they like is wrong because of their gender.

  35. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Moral of the story:
    “I think the important thing is that you not tell kids that what they like is wrong because of their gender.”

  36. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “What are some good works to read on feminism and masculinity?”
    The best book in my opinion is “The Masculine Self” by Kilmartin. It reviews how gender roles influence men, how they create strain on men, and the negative consequences of these male gender roles for both men and women. It’s often used in Men’s Studies / Psychology of Gender courses.
    It’s exspensive ($35), but you can buy used versions of previous editions for like 4 bucks.
    2006 version: http://www.amazon.com/The-Masculine-Self-STUDENT-EDITION/dp/1597380059/ref=sr_1_2/103-9750555-7070245?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193937732&sr=1-2
    1999 Version:
    http://www.amazon.com/Masculine-Self-Christopher-Kilmartin/dp/0073035327/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-9750555-7070245?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193937732&sr=1-1

  37. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah well the fact is that overall, on average, little boys are more physically active than little girls. I know in like chimpanzees, for instance, little girls concentrate better, and are able to learn termite fishing skills at younger ages than the boys do.
    So maybe this would translate into the idea that toddler males run around and wreak havoc slightly more than toddler girls, and little girls are somewhat more likely to have patience for something like coloring (the difference is far from black and white though, obviously. Ask my mom who had 3 rambunctious, aggressive girls). Also in humans this difference in energy and concentration ability evens out more once kids get to be older.
    However, anything as specific as “boys are naturally more inclined to like trucks and technology” though, is wear the heavy load of B.S. starts, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not like monkey boys are more likely to enjoy trucks than monkey girls. And I’ve known chimpanzee males who loved their stuffed animals. No, when you get something like “doll” or “truck” most of how we interpret and understand it is cultural.

  38. Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Gah, I hate that commercial.

  39. Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I hate toy commercialism in the first place. Whatever and whomever they are selling too. My daughter has an ENTIRE room filled with toys. ANd she’d rather play with the playdough I made for 50cents and some crappy cookie cutters. Or the box that came with our barbecue that we made into a car for her. Or the other box that is a house (and the things she has in that house!). She doesn’t touch her barbies, Bratz dolls, or the cars. she does love her duplo.
    WHat the hell happened to the lego sets that were JUST LEGO PIECES and you built whatever you wanted out of it? I want those back, because the duplo blocks are too large to get enough to build something decent out of.

  40. Posted November 1, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I hate toy commercialism in the first place. Whatever and whomever they are selling too. My daughter has an ENTIRE room filled with toys. ANd she’d rather play with the playdough I made for 50cents and some crappy cookie cutters. Or the box that came with our barbecue that we made into a car for her. Or the other box that is a house (and the things she has in that house!). She doesn’t touch her barbies, Bratz dolls, or the cars. she does love her duplo.
    WHat the hell happened to the lego sets that were JUST LEGO PIECES and you built whatever you wanted out of it? I want those back, because the duplo blocks are too large to get enough to build something decent out of.

  41. Jem
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    wow. I honestly can’t believe someone thinks it’s a good idea to teach that emotions need to be suppressed to protect them. This is a recipe for a mal-adjusted and unhappy person, and like someone mentioned above, I can just imagine the years of therapy that will ensue.
    P.S. I love the “moral of the story” summary.

  42. Posted November 1, 2007 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    A few thoughts on the topic:
    1. I freaking hate that commercial with the burning loathing of a thousand fiery suns. The Rose Petal Cottage, too.
    2. A gender-typing anecdote of (to me) extreme cuteness. My son has always been obsessed with swords. He was seriously born several centuries too late. However, when he was very small he loved baby dolls, too. When he was about 2, he called out to me, and I went into his room. He handed me his baby doll, and picked up his sword. He said ‘you stay here’. Then he threw his stuffed six foot long snake out of the room, closed the door and wailed on it with it his sword. He came back in and took the baby from me and said ‘Nake dead, baby safe’, and then I was shooed out. He was wearing his sister’s pink nightgown at the time, and there was a time not too long ago when every time he was in a funk, all it took to cheer him up was makeup, glitter, and fairy wings, which he’d wear down to the creek and get grubby playing in the mud.
    3. I believe ALL CHILDREN of any gender/gender expression should be actively encouraged to be fearless risk-takers. To me, there’s nothing sadder than a boy OR girl afraid of his or her own shadow, afraid of catching a ball, afraid of every passing animal, afraid of living and getting dirty and working hard and getting sweaty and messy. Fearlessness has been co-opted as a masculine gendered trait, and if I as a parent have to pick my battles (which, believe me, you do), then that’s the first and foremost one to fight, IMHO. So if the boy wants a sword and the girl wants a doll, or vice versa, whatever. I roll with it. But to me, the battle that’s paramount is raising kids who aren’t afraid of interacting fully with their world.

  43. Vervain
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    But… he still thinks smashing things and driving cars and wrestling with his friends it the most fun ever.
    The question is, why must this be considered a “masculine” activity? Some girls like this stuff too, and some boys don’t like it at all. Children like what they like. They don’t assign gendered labels to their behaviors and interests. Their parents do. How strictly they enforce the roles depends on the parent, but I think the ones who make less of an effort to enforce them produce children who grow into better-adjusted adults.
    Even if it’s true that more boys prefer cars and more girls prefer dolls, there will always be a broad area of overlap between the sexes. We’re more alike than we are different. Rather than labeling “sissy boys” and “tomboys” as exceptions to the “rule” we should try to see them ALL as just kids having fun doing what they like.
    Indulging stereotypes like “All boys like X” or “All girls like Y” is as foolish as believing any other stereotype about gender, race, sexuality, etc. is true for all members of that gender, race, etc. I understand why the human brain creates stereotypes, and why it needs to do so, and I understand that children begin to forge their identities in part by “othering” in order to determine what they’re not, but it’s so frustrating to see how much these behaviors limit our thinking and perceptions when we encourage them too vigorously, or fail to grow beyond them when we get older. There’s just no easy way around it.
    Fortunately a lot of parents are determined to make the effort anyway. Good on them!

  44. LindsayPW
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Um boys are built different, but only between their legs. Every other part: the legs, head, arms, feet, are built exactly the same. Fuck Tonka.

  45. jmcchesney
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know- I do actually have kids, a 3 year old girl and 1 year old boy, and they both pretty much like the same things. They play with megablocks, stuffed animals, dolls, books, etc… They both like to take baths and play dress up and have their nails painted, but they also both like to play outside, roughhouse and race cars. The biggest difference I have found is that my son is a bit more rambunctious than my daughter, but I wouldn’t say significantly so. In fact, my son is currently walking across the room with a doll on his head and my daughter’s kid tough camera in his hand and my daughter is singing a song she learned at school and trying to make herself a shirt of headbands. I pretty much let the kids pick out their own toys and yeah, the family members usually gender the toys they give for presents, but they both play with each other toys and have a grand time doing so. I agree with Aieli though… at this point I’m first and foremost concerned with raising kids who aren’t fearful, who are open to new experiences and who have compassion for other people.

  46. universaltraveler
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    i saw this on tv, too! most commercials today are more subtly sexist.. some even try meekly to do the whole “daddy can do housework, too” thing… but i saw this and was really appalled.

  47. ShelbyWoo
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    asrai:
    WHat the hell happened to the lego sets that were JUST LEGO PIECES and you built whatever you wanted out of it?
    Duplos are for 4 and under. They still make regular LEGOS, although, apparently they are gendered now too. It’s been years since I had to buy LEGOS (my 17-yr nephew was a Lego nut) but I remember that it was difficult to find anything other than the sets in the stores. I would recommend shopping around online (check-out LEGOS website, they sell in bulk). They make a bucket of LEGOS – seems like it would be right up your daughter’s alley.

  48. Pickleberry
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Good gender neutral toys – BRIO train sets with the rearrangeable wooden tracks and big wooden blocks. I think BRIO actually sells the blocks too. As a little kid (and now, if I can get my hands on them), I found the plain wooden blocks to be the most fun. Your kids can be creative too. The blocks are pretty cheap, or you can make some if you have some good hardwood and someone able to cut it evenly and sand it down. They’re too big to fit in a kid’s mouth, so I think they’re good for any age too.
    Good gender neutral name: Casey or Cayce (either one for either gender). I like Sam too.
    As far as homeschooling goes, it’s a LOT of work, but you probably know that already. My cousin did it with her kids for a while. Most areas with substantial populations have homeschooling networks where some families collectively hire subject teachers for a group of home-schooled students so that they don’t have to hire language tutors individually, for example.

  49. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Pickleberry, that homeschooling idea sounds neat.
    When most people think of homeschooling they imagine fundie Christians sheltering their children from the evil secularists, but I would consider homeschooling my own children because public schools are not intellectually rigorous enough these days – what with NCLB and the ever-increasing focus on anti-scientific bullshit being taught in science class.
    I’d want my children to grow up learning in a completely different way than most kids learn in school these days.
    No “Let’s celebrate Columbus Day! Oh yeah and February is black history month.”
    The primary focus in history, lit and civics classes is on the white male perspective. I’d want my kids to have a more liberal, hippie-ish education.

  50. Halfmad
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, I got back a form letter — so they’ve obviously gotten enough complaints that they’ve issued a form letter! It’s written like it came from dir of marketing Angie Salem (shudder!) but the email had the tag at the bottom as being sent from a Veronica Donofrio. Here’s the letter: I’ll let you dissect it; I have too much work to do:
    Hi Halfmad,
    Thank you so much for your recent inquiry about our marketing strategy on Tonka. As the mother of a 3 and a half year old girl, I can certainly understand the fun and wonder when a little girl or little boy breaks “stereotype” and plays with non-traditional toys. My daughter is totally into Spiderman, and I LOVE IT!
    As a family organization we are committed to finding exciting and appropriate play experiences for boys and girls of all ages, and if you log on to our website at http://www.hasbrotoyshop.com , I am sure you will find many toys that are both gender neutral as well as gender specific.
    The gender specific toys help to build confidence and create wonderful bonding experiences amongst both parents of same sex children and amongst the children who they relate with most.
    Specifically on Tonka, there are essentially two reasons why we choose to market Tonka to boys. In all of our research, the overwhelming majority of Tonka interest is with little boys. Further, we have scores of research that tell us about the psychological differences between boys and girls and how they play. In fact, there is some recent research that explains how this can actually be traced back to the actual biology and chemistry in the brain. This research proves to us that while there will be girls who defy these studies, the marketing is best targeted to boys and moms of little boys.
    Thank again for your concern and interest, and I hope this letter helps to shed some light on our marketing strategy.
    My Very Best,
    Angie Salem
    Director of Marketing, Tonka brand
    Hasbro, Inc.
    Veronica Donofrio
    Consumer Affairs Representative

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