What Toys Do Feminist Preschoolers Prefer? The Gender-Neutral Toys' Mania Installment

It’s that time of year, the one when all the catalogues arrive and all the email blasts promise you holiday success and to the extent that the little girl says she wants any toy or thing it’s a Barbie (but that’s another story—although I did see this week during a promotion via Zuilly that I Can Be President Barbie not only started out more inexpensively than pretty much any other Barbie but once discounted, she was pretty darn… cheap—sigh).

It’s been over a decade since my blood boiled inside a Toys R Us with its blue and pink aisles (that’s because it’s been over a decade since I set foot inside the mall). I have to admit that although all those catalogues come to me (even after Catalogue Choice attempts to ditch them), I don’t look nearly so carefully as I once did (because we must have or have had every single toy I’d ever want to buy by now, right?). I read with interest all over the place about Swedish toy catalogues conscientiously going gender neutral—so much so they were photoshopped explains Deborah Siegel, herself a mom to boy-girl twins, and thus thick in the real-time gender-parenting experiment feminist moms seem to find ourselves “in” regardless of whether our kids agree to not-conform—or not (it’s early in the morning, forgive all attempts to be clever; they are bound for failure). Girl Legos did not pass the test, apparently; holiday gender-wars toy-mania is in full swing.

I’ve detached myself somewhat from the fray. Long, long ago, I picked the toy swords out of the Playmobil sets (and now my ten year-old wants a sword for a costume for a school assignment—how far you travel as a parent!). When the daughter arrived, I had no need to buy her a baby doll; we already had plenty. My personal issue this holiday season is giving toys away to make our house and playroom feel more livable but still, the what to encourage or whether to encourage question is interesting. What I see with my gal these days is that she likes to draw and write and her favorites are blank paper and a Thumbellina (Barbie) coloring book she managed to get me to pick up at our local independent grocery store (Why? I was probably really tired and said, “sure”). One thing I am: pro-drawing.

That’s to say I don’t have a smart answer. Not even about the Barbie (although even I am wise enough not to need Santa’s input on the fact that I Can Be President Barbie wouldn’t exactly “count” to the twirling dress-crazed girl, but that’s another post). What’s more vexing to me is the way my husband’s iphone is the favored toy so often—and even that, for kids who do lots else, well, I just have to remember not to get one so they take my phone the way they take his. No one really bothers with my aging, semi-decrepit flip phone.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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