Arts & Life, Columns

Foisted gender roles and pink, plastic crap


GOTCHA! Just kidding. Enough ink has been spilled about IKEA, so I won’t contribute — although, seriously, how about the time THIS HAPPENED?:

I’ve got other consumer-related fish to fry! Or something!

The holiday spending spree was officially kicked into high gear by that atrocity known as Black Friday, and many of us have started our shopping. Some of us have shopping lists that include children. THIS IS VERY STRESSFUL, YOU GUYS. Think about it: you know those cute, dumb little toddlers in your life? You have to help them develop into PEOPLE. You are shaping their BRAINS. You are teaching them about LIFE. This is a huge responsibility, which is why I find buying gifts for kids THE ABSOLUTE WORST.

While it’s tempting to want to be all, “PUZZLES AND DICTIONARIES FOR EVERYONE! HO HO HO!” little kids just aren’t into educational shit. (Well, some are, but I’d regard them with some healthy suspicion. It’s those ones that grow up to be feminist columnists who find themselves hilarious.)

No, you have to buy TOYS for kids and toys are complicated. Have you been to a Toys R Us lately? It’s a demoralizing place full of plastic crap that is overwhelmingly, impossibly pink. Aisles upon aisles of pink. Unless it’s for boys, then it’s all SHOOTING PEOPLE IS FUN! Because if we’re going to continue to foist tired, shitty societal gender roles onto people, we might as well start early, amirite?

A cursory browse through one of these aisles reveals the following depressing options for girls: a pink, plastic purse with pink, plastic credit cards; a pink, plastic cash register; a pink plastic grocery cart. (HMM, I WONDER WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT THE EXPECTATIONS OF WOMEN?). There are lots of plastic babies with soft pink blankets that need taking care of, too. And then, of course, there’s the sparkly, mega-watt runway dedicated to Barbie, The Ultimate Woman, and her ever-impressive closet. (Honestly, the Barbie aisle looks more and more like a Victoria’s Secret all the time.)

Now, I’m not saying that these types of toys are inherently bad for children — hey, I played with Barbies and I’m TOTALLY COOL WITH MY BODY (giggle, snort) — but I don’t get why a grocery set NEEDS to be pink. Can’t boys play with shopping toys? Can’t little boys rock babies to sleep? Can’t little boys play in the kitchen? I think they can — especially since GROWN-ASS MEN are capable of doing these jobs later in life, too. Assigning this type of “play” to little girls while alienating little boys (see: the ol’ boys can’t play with dolls chestnut) not only reinforces gender stereotypes, it helps create them. Like I said, this shit starts early.

(Of course, there are some toys — such as a LAUNDRY SET or a DOLL THAT SHITS ITSELF — that I wouldn’t give to any child, boy or girl. Because why is that fun? OH WAIT. IT’S NOT.)

I actually have to give some props to IKEA on this front. They may photoshop ladies out of catalogues, but they sure have a smorgasbord (I know, I’m amazing) of gender-neutral options for little ones. Because it’s totally OK for a kitchen play set to look exactly like a grown-up kitchen set. (What is it about the Swedes? BRIO, famed for its wooden train sets, also seems to understand that colour-coding toys for kids is completely unnecessary.)

When you’re buying for the babes on your list, try buying outside the blue and pink binary. Just listen to this little lady:

Sing it, sister.


Jen Zoratti is a Spectator Tribune columnist and freelance music scribe. She has always appreciated a good colouring book and a pack of crayons. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.