Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On raising a girl

is this the bane of my existence?

The Good Daughter has a pink play kitchen. My daughter has a fucking cotton candy pink play kitchen. How could I have let this happen and why am I getting worked up over a toy?

First of all I got it as a hand me down. If I didn't take it from a neighbor, she was going to throw it away and as a crazy, "green" hippy, I couldn't let that happen. So I told her I would take it. And TGD likes to play pretend anyway, so I knew she would like it.

So what's the fucking problem you ask?

I guess the most important is how obviously gender stereotypical this is. A pink play kitchen for a girl. A pretty common girl toy since the Great Depression and a hold over from the era of the most rigid gender oppression that is currently providing nostalgia through Mad Men.

By giving TGD a play kitchen I am subtly telling her, her place is in the kitchen. She might not know yet it is b/c she is a girl, her place is in the kitchen but she knows girls are in the kitchen most of the time. She sees me in the kitchen daily. She sees me cooking dinner and lunch and snacks and me cleaning. She knows there are Mamas and Dadas and that her Mama is in the kitchen most of the time.

But just as a play kitchen reinforces the idea that girls should be in the kitchen, the most powerful chefs or the ones most accessible through food network are men. Mario, Bobby, Emril, Morimoto, Wolfgang. These are the men that are making the most money from being in the kitchen. Yet there are no play kitchens marketed to boys. Or at least I have never seen a pink play kitchen marketed to boys.

Which brings me to another pain in my ass. Pink shit.

I hate pink shit. I don't hate the color per se. I just hate what the color implies. And I loathe the fact that makers of everything from tool kits to sports jerseys to board games (here, here, here, here, here and here) to guns think that women will only buy their product if it is pink. It also sends the message that the girl version is the "other", a deviation from the norm since scrabble is inherently nongendered. It wasn't until marketers thought of slapping pink on it to attract girls that it became gendered and that gender - girl - is not the default.

I won't even touch on the absurdity of the pink for breast cancer shit.

And I know I have pink on my blog. I do so ironically since I am also not a perfect or good wife.

Just as I struggled with how I can enjoy domestically as a feminist, I am struggling with how to raise a girl in a sexist and very unfeminist world. I will admit that I didn't want to have a girl as my first born. I worry about her growing up oversexualized. I worry about her only finding her worth in a man and I worry about her trying to cope with the pressure of being skinny and beautiful and vapid surrounded by media that holds up Taylor Momsen and Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (who both will be 30 this year, mind you, just like I will) as enviable instead of Gabby Giffords or Sonia Sotomayor or Hillary Clinton.

So do I ban all pink and girly things?

Clearly I haven't since she has a pink play kitchen and barbies and princess crap and pink clothes. I also dress her in dresses.

I'm just tying to find the line where she can play with a pretend kitchen and a pink princess tea set but also with trucks and tools and not know there is a difference between "boy" and "girl" toys and just see toys.

But can she just see toys when I am hyperaware of the difference? Can I limit her exposure to pink and princess and girl things without making them forbidden and thus so totally desirable? Can I teach her to be a lipstick feminist?

I wish I could say with 100% certainty I could. I wish I could say that pressure from media and society and friends will not have an effect on her if The Good Husband and I can be strong role models. But I just don't know.

And that scares me more than an entire room filled with fucking cotton candy pink play stoves.


Andrea said...

I grew up heavily influenced by my older brother's "boy toys." I didn't want barbies or dolls or anything pink. So I got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman.

But as a young woman, I now feel myself gravitating back to all things girly and pink. Maybe to make up for lost frills as a child... I don't really have a point, but I guess it goes both ways.

And yeah, at 23 years old, I have a hot pink took kit, including an electric screw gun.

Sarah said...

I have thoughts like this sometimes too with my daughter, although she's still an infant. I keep telling myself that it's important for her to embrace being a girl, because it will help her embrace being a woman. Being a girl isn't "weak". It isn't "lesser". It's just different. And I think helping my daughter embrace her femininity and learning how to be a woman is important in developing her confidence.

I don't want to send her mixed messages by having her grow up watching me clean and cook and be a homemaker, but then demean my job and my role in our family by insisting she do something else with her life or not letting her play with housekeeping toys. We will raise her to know she can do anything that she wants with her life, and if she chooses to be a homemaker like Mommy then that's great. If she chooses to be a scientist or a lawyer or a college professor, then that's great too. She will have a mix of toys, including "housekeeping" toys. It will be up to her what she wants to play with! But I refuse to teach her the attitude that my job as a wife, a mother, and a homemaker is something that I was forced to do solely because I am a girl, and I certainly don't want to teach her that I hate my job. I love being a homemaker and a mother, and I know she will grow up watching me in that role. If she wants to play alongside me with her housekeeping toys, then I will consider it a compliment. And I also won't be hurt if she chooses to play with race cars and trucks and play doctor kits. Because, after all, wasn't the whole feminist movement about giving us the choice about what to do with our lives?

My other thought is if the pink kitchen bothers you, you could always paint it. Maybe a white kitchen would be less girly? :-)

Connie Brzowski said...

She won't get the idea from a pink play kitchen. She'll get the idea from a Mom sitting on the floor beside her saying, "Lookie precious. Someday *you* can make goodies in the kitchen all day for your Prince Charming."

If Mom says something like, "See this? It's a saute pan. Someday *you* can start your own business and take over Food Network", she'll get the idea, trust.

Sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on things, no worries :)

The Good Wife said...

@Manhattanette - I can understand the desire to have a color option for some things. I just would never choose pink. ;)

@Thank you Connie. I will have to remember to tell her she can kick ass more!