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From me to you, highlighting challenges faced by girls

Dear Daughters, Why It IS Sexist To Say Boys Should Never Play With Dolls

Dear Daughters,

Yesterday I came across a link on the Let Toys Be Toys Facebook page to an article entitled Why it’s not sexist to say boys should never play with dolls.

And here is my response:

Even before they were “steered towards a traditionally male profession to prove some dubious political point” girls and women have been naturally inclined to want to choose. Hayley Wickenheiser wanted to play hockey. Amelia Earhart wanted to fly planes. Jeannette Rankin wanted to work in politics. Malala Yousafzai is certainly not influenced by any of our North American/European “political correctness” campaigns. In fact, she is threatened by death and violence on a daily basis and almost lost her life fighting for what she wants. If it is her “true nature” to stay home and raise a family and she was already born naturally equipped to do so, then why is she risking her life for an education – something her culture vehemently opposes for girls and women?

Am I saying that women who desire to stay home and raise a family are any less than those women who desire a career in one of those traditionally male dominated professions? Absolutely not. You are talking to one of them right here. But do you know what I also want? Choices. Ultimately, I want to be able to choose my own path in life – not one chosen for me simply because I was born with XX chromosomes. I am a human being. Biology makes us physically different but we were all born with FREE WILL. Free will is what separates us from all other living things. Free will is what has been taken from all of us (boys too) in this patriarchial society. Free will is what these “political correctness” campaigns are fighting for.

If your theory is indeed correct, and “girl toddlers want to spend their time playing with dollies and small boys want to spend their time constructing things out of Lego” and “no matter how hard you try to bring your kids up in a gender-neutral way – even if you refuse point blank to dress them in stereotypical blue or pink romper suits – those XX and XY chromosomes will win out in the end”, then regardless of the layout of the toy stores, regardless of the advertising campaigns and regardless of people like me, Pink Stinks, Let Toys Be Toys and the many other individuals and groups fighting for the right for girls and boys alike to CHOOSE based on their individual preferences, you have nothing to worry about. We will all be proven wrong and little girls and boys will continue on in the paths “consumer research has shown to be true”: boys will remain as “the prime market for test tubes, chemicals and smelly potions”, and we will “waste time and effort trying to drag girls away from their hair and make-up sets”.

I must ask though, if it is in my true nature to only want to play with dolls and to look pretty, then where does the fight in me come from? Why would I “frustrate my natural urges”? I fight because it is the state that our society is in right now that “frustrates my natural urges”. I am very nurturing but I am also tough. I want to raise a family but I also want a writing career. I want to play hockey. I like the color pink but my favourite colour is orange. Sometimes I wear makeup but most often I do not. These are my “natural urges”. Society sends me the message that something is wrong with me and for a long time I believed that. I don’t anymore and I no longer fight who I am. Instead, I fight for every human beings’ right to be who they are too.

“Give a girl a doll and she will cuddle it and nurture it. Give a boy a doll and he will either torture and dismember it or use it as a hand grenade. If little girls didn’t have those dollyhugging instincts we would all be in a pickle because who in the future would do the mothering and who would work in all those vital caring professions from midwifery to primary school teaching and nursing? And if little boys weren’t hardwired into being obsessive, aggressive show-offs and risk-takers, who would spend hours in the lab before making great scientific breakthroughs or drilling for oil or defending the nation?” Are girls really hardwired to be nurturing and boys to be aggressive or is this merely a result of social construct, or a combination of both? We will never really know until girls and boys are given the choice. Girls and women have never been given the choice to do anything but be nurturing and boys and men have never been given the choice to be anything more than aggressive risk-takers. If human beings had been given the choice from the beginning of time, you would see, as you do more and more today, both girls and boys nurturing their children and working in teaching and nursing and “all those vital caring professions”. You would also see both girls and boys “spending hours in the lab before making great scientific breakthroughs and defending the nation”. Good thing Marie Curie didn’t deny her scientific urges.

You stated that, “Before I had children of my own I was much more open-minded on this score. I was always perfectly prepared to believe – as the “experts” tell us – that behaviour is a social construct and that boys and girls act the way they do because of the roles that we parents force upon them through unconscious gender stereotyping. Then I saw for myself at first hand what boys and girls are really like and the scales fell from my eyes. From as soon as she was able to walk my daughter seemed to like nothing better than pushing a baby dolly round in a pushchair. My son at the same age was only interested in sitting around on his fat bottom, building things with bricks and smashing them up. Almost any parent who has had both boys and girls will tell you this”. This is the joy of being a human being. Your daughter can choose to push a dolly round in a pushchair and your son can build things with bricks and smash them up if that is what they feel inclined to do. I grew up with two brothers. We had many of the same interests – some, according to society more feminine, and some, according to society, more masculine. The great thing was we also had many completely different interests that were chosen based on our individual – not gender – differences. I am now the mother of three daughters and I can assure you that none of them came out of the womb desiring to dress as a Disney princess, wear make up and do their hair. In fact, for daughters’ third and first birthdays they wanted a “train” theme. In their preschool years they all desired to have careers in traditionally male professions – one wanted to be an astronaut, one a paleontologist and one a farmer. They have always and continue today to play with both traditional “girl toys” and traditional “boy toys”. Sadly, we must venture in two segregated sections of the toy stores to find everything they are looking for.

As Marian Wright Edelman says in the powerful and educational documentary Miss Representation, “You can’t be what you can’t see”. If all our children see is the current message toy retailers and marketers are screaming at them, then that is the path that the majority of them will follow, whether that “frustrates their natural urges” or not.

It IS Sexist to Say Boys Shouldn't Play With Dolls

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