Gender has been a hot topic lately on our blog. Holly wrote a great piece about her and her wife’s reactions to her son wearing a tutu; Sarah recently blogged about UK-based Toys R Us stores adopting a “Let Toys Be Toys” approach when it came to merchandising the once-gendered items in their stores.
Reading these posts, I found myself agreeing with their writers; when it comes to toys, clothing and other role-defining children’s items, it’s okay to let kids be kids, whether or not they’re wearing or playing with something blue or pink, or something stereotypically thought to be “for a boy” or “for a girl.” I was agreeing, but I’ve never really had to give the topic much else thought beyond that.
Until we created our baby’s registry. Babies R Us doesn’t have specific boy or girl sections for their products unless it comes to their clothing, which, by the way, I’ve been known to ignore:
The strollers, for example, are in the stroller section, not the “boy” stroller section or the “girl” stroller section. Sure, the manufacturers have created their products in a variety of patterns and colors—pink, blue and everything in between, let the buyer be the judge of what they’d like to purchase for their child. But I was struck when one of the display tags said “boy teething ring,” and then another for “girl teething ring.” Hung below each were products in shades of blue and pink, respectively. Really? Do we need gendered teething rings? My baby certainly won’t care what color ring he slobbers all over. And, really, I don’t, either.
The problem is, that other people will. We all look for gender cues when meeting others’ young babies for the first time. Isn’t it sometimes so hard to tell? It’s comforting to see the blue and know it’s a boy, or the pink and be positive it’s a girl, right? Then, when our babies get older, it becomes nearly impossible to avoid the gender cues that are pushed upon us from nearly everywhere and everyone. Would my husband and I care if our son wanted a toy out of the “girl” aisle from the toy store? Nope. Would we care if he chose to wear a tutu or play dress up in Mommy’s clothes? No. Even still, most times, while registering in the store we found ourselves wanting to choose the “boy” stuff for our registry, although I did choose gender neutral items whenever possible to prove a point to myself. And yet, I wasn’t picking anything pink for our little boy. It wasn’t until we got home and looked at our registry online that we realized we had scanned the “girl” teething rings instead of the neutral green and yellow ones. And, you know what? We’re keeping them on there.
But I do worry about others’ reactions and perceptions to something as small as what color teething ring is soothing my baby boy’s gums. We, myself included, have a long way to go as a society to blur the lines between genders and let boys be boys, or boys be girls, or whateverwhoreallycares. Until then, I’ll proudly let my son chew on his pink teething ring, as long as someone else out there isn’t fazed by its presence there and chooses to buy it for us!