On Thursday, I worked my usual shift at the baby store stocking freight and finding homes for all the extra stuff that doesn’t fit into the space out on the floor. I don’t work toys, but I often wander over there to check if there are any new items of interest. Not that I ever plan to spend money on new toys, because M would much rather play with the spices than any other thing in his toybox, but I like to know what’s out there just in case.
So my colleagues were unloading some giant boxes as I cruised by on my way back from gift wrap. In the boxes were brand new wooden “retro” kitchen sets from KidKraft. And they were all pink. Every last box.
We already had a few other kitchen set pieces from Plan Toys in bright primary colors, which are pretty nice looking. These new kitchens, however, included all three of a range, sink and refrigerator together for the same price as just one of the Plan Toys pieces, sold separately. So, obviously a better bargain. Except for the color.
Now, I understand that most parents in the market for a kitchen set are shopping for toys for their little girls. I get it. Girls play house and dolls and stuff like that. Boys play guns and trucks and G.I. Joe or whatever. That’s usually the way it goes. But. Sometimes it doesn’t.
When I actually have the desire and financial ability to purchase a plaything for my son, I tend to want to get him something that he will actually use. Something he wants. If he’s interested in tools or trucks, I will get him some more tools, more trucks. If he wants puzzles or crayons or talking alphabet magnets, well, there you go. But if he wants a toy stroller, a baby doll or a kitchen, the choices become narrowed because he (not to mention his father) doesn’t really care for pink. And most of the baby dolls wear pink. Their strollers are a lot of pink. The kitchen, well, you can get a kitchen that’s not pink, but I’d probably have to shop around a little more or even order online to find a set the same price as the pink.
I have no problem with pink as an option, and why not add pink to the color pallet of trucks and tools, too? In fact, with a quick Internet search, I discovered that even KidKraft makes another style of kitchen set in silver. But why make all the kitchens in this particular style and set just the one “girly” color. Why not do this one in silver, too, or white, or heck, since it’s supposed to be all “retro,” make it mustard yellow or avocado green. If you’re only going to make something in one color, pink’s not quite the right one. Because it just reinforces the gender stereotypes already in place.
Now, a female coworker of mine and a couple of the warehouse guys got into a little discussion about this particular new product. The guys were adamant that, pink or no, no son of theirs will even be allowed to own a toy of this nature. Period. Because giving a son a “girl” toy is equivalent to writing him off as lost to the “other team,” so to speak. They have no problem with the boys learning to cook in the actual kitchen, but “playing house” in a kid-sized kitchen is the same as picking Dick over Jane.
I truly don’t understand that mindset. Kids don’t know anything about what’s girly or manly until we teach them that it’s wrong for a boy to play “girly” or for a girl to be a “tomboy.” And though tomboys are a bit more tolerable than “sissy boys,” (especially to dads) there is still a bit of a stigma attached to the tomboy as well.
My husband has surprised me with his acceptance of the few pink baby items that we happened to acquire in anticipation of our child (whose gender remained unknown until his birth). He teased me a little bit for buying a sippy cup that was pink, though I personally believe it to be more red. But really, even if it was pink, he’s secure enough as a man that he knows he’ll raise a fine son, even if Mommy brings home the occasional object in pink.
And another thing, so what if he turns out gay? As long as he can find someone to love, someone who treats him with respect and truly loves him back, I’ll be happy, and I think James would be, too. But the reality of it is that whether or not I allow my boy to play with dolls does not in any way influence the outcome. Forbidding certain toys based on loosely defined gender categorization will only make him think that something he likes to do or discover is wrong and shameful, when it’s only natural to want to know more about the world in which he lives. And I find it sad that a lot of people just don’t seem to get it.
Again I say, if it comes down to the choice between either a “boy” toy that M shows no interest in or a toy that he shows great enthusiasm for but only comes in pink, I’d probaly go with the pink. But I’m enlightened like that, I guess.