I took Sammi to Wal-Mart recently to buy a toy for her as a reward for helping me around the house. We immediately found ourselves in the 'pink aisle' that was filled with baby dolls, Barbies, toy kitchens, Easy Bake Ovens... I even saw toy vacuums and toy ironing boards. After walking up and down the row a few times Sammi couldn't make up her mind.
Sammi: "I've already got Barbies. This row is kinda boring. Let’s go to the other row."
We went down another aisle that had toy cars, swords, action figures and Lego’s.
Connor (Sammi's brother): "This is a 'boy row’ - you can't get any of these toys..."
Sammi: "Boy row? That's not fair! Just because I'm a girl I have to get a doll or a stupid toy vacuum?!? Why can't I get a sword or a racecar if I want? That's racist!!!"
After quickly explaining to her the difference between racism and sexism, I started thinking about the crazy way that the corporate world markets toys to kids and their parents. They are reinforcing specific gender roles for children: babies and 'homemaker' toys for girls and building sets, microscopes and sports for boys. I instantly became as outraged as my daughter.
Me: "You're right honey that is stupid. You can get a toy from any aisle that you want."
Sammi smiled and spent a few minutes looking at the Lego’s and the toy cars. Eventually though, she made her way back to the pink aisle and settled on a baby doll after all...
Oh well, at least she knows now that she never has to settle for the 'pink aisle' if she doesn't want to - it's her choice.
I think for Christmas this year, I'll get her a remote-controlled car.