“Daddy, pachycephalosaurus had a very hard head with bony ridges so he could protect himself from meat-eaters.”
When it comes to dinosaurs, my daughter is a genius. She can tell you more about the hunting habits of velociraptors, the semi-aquatic life of a spinosaurus, or the differences between sauropods such as diplodocus and brachiosaurus than anyone I know. And she’s just coming up on age four.
When we hit the toy aisles, she zips past the Barbies and doesn’t even look twice at the My Little Pony plushies. If she does stop in the pink-dominated section, it’s for Disney princess merchandise — but dinosaurs always come first. Then it’s on to the superheroes (she prefers DC characters to Marvel, which shows taste).
Her favorite toys are in the “boys” section and we often draw strange stares when we party there.
Why is a mystery.
It’s strange that we artificially separate “boys toys” from “girls toys.” I cannot think of a single child’s toy that has anything to do with genitalia.
Target has recently drawn flack for announcing it will stop specifically labeling certain sections of its toy sections as being for one gender or the other. Some people are foaming mad about that for some reason I can’t fathom.
Dinosaurs, I don’t know why, are “for boys,” I’ve been told by any number of people. Maybe it’s because animal aggression is conflated with machismo. I don’t know. As far as I can tell, there were both boy and girl T-Rexes. And when we visit the Cleveland Metro Parks Zoo, there are not separate exhibits for boys and girls only, as though tigers fell into one camp and kangaroos into another.
Superman, Wolverine, and Thor are apparently also for boys, which sends the strange message that girls shouldn’t concern themselves with heroism. If you ever scratch your head and wonder why we have so few women police officers and firefighters, maybe it’s because of the way we teach our girls to play: Finding a Wonder Woman action figure is all but impossible at a brick-and-mortar store (we did hunt one down at World Market in Avon). Good luck finding a Bat-Girl figure. And the only Princess Leia we could find in the past few weeks was wearing the slave costume from “Return of the Jedi.”
I want my daughter think scientifically, which is why I love her fascination with dinosaurs. And she deserves to have heroes, whether in a half-shell, in capes, or in fancy ball gowns.
I also want my son, now 19 months old, to have compassion — which is why I think it’s OK for him to play with baby dolls.
Ideally he’ll someday be a father too, so it makes sense for him to practice at a young age caring for another human being. Good dads should be expected to be there for their babies, to roll up their sleeves and change diapers, and take their fair share of midnight feedings so why do we have such a problem with boys and baby dolls?
We need to get over the mass cultural delusion we’ve backed ourselves into when it comes to toys and gender. I suspect doing so will mean taking a hard look as parents at our own insecurities and asking why we are so obsessed with the blue-and-pink divide.