Last week, we conducted a birthday party for our 4 year old daughter. I’m due to pop the second human out by the end of the year, so this was to be her big birthday bash before blossoming into a ‘matured, caring older sister’. We sent out super-hero themed party invites, gave her an Avengers themed birthday cake and stuck Iron-man stickers on all thank-you cards. Did she like it that way? She absolutely did. It is a few revelations that we experienced while planning the party, that has prompted me to write this post.
My daughter loved her Elsa, she loved her Ballerina and she loved her Beauty. But she also loved her Spiderman, Ironman and Wonder-woman. Did that happen naturally? No. Elsa and other Princesses found their way to my daughter, thanks to her friends and family. My mother was the first one to gift her a Barbie doll when she was two. Her friends introduced her to a new princess every week. All these princesses had glittering hair, shiny dresses and a Prince to marry. She was irritatingly fond of pink color and all her playtime storylines had the annoying need to be rescued by this otherwise jobless prince.
That’s when by chance she joined us in watching Avengers one night. She clapped and she whooped. We were excited enough to let her watch Spiderman and Ironman further. She was smitten with Wonder-Woman and relentlessly practiced to crouch like her. From a Princess in pink, waiting to be rescued, my daughter wanted to jump high and fight bad guys. I couldn’t be more proud of her!
During the many calls I made for cake enquiries, I was asked in surprise as to why I’m getting super heroes on my daughter’s birthday cake. The many party shops and party websites I visited all showcased Spiderman suits for Boys and Princesses dresses for Girls. Pictures of the party made couple of my friends ask if my daughter really liked the cake, because, let’s face it – girls of her age like dolls and fairies. And you won’t believe the number of dressing tables, cooking sets and Frozen branded make-up kits she was gifted with. While I’m sure they were all gifted with love and the best intentions, I can’t help but wonder if we are feeding into the minds of the children ideas on what they are “supposed to like” instead of letting their likes evolve.
The cooking set she received pictured a little girl in Chefs hat and apron. The dressing table showed a little Diva applying lipstick. Mindless generalization? Subtle sexism? Why couldn’t it have been a little boy wearing the apron? Why make the little girl feel as if she is expected to wear makeup and be pretty? It made me think about all the toys I have gifted so far and it surely will make me think a moment longer while picking up the next gift.
Once we got home after the party, we laid out all the gifts and asked her to choose one gift to open for that day. She looked around, went straight to the Spiderman (one of the few “unisex” gifts received) and hugged him. Enough said.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, maybe we should stop assuming that since the child is a girl, she needs to be a princess. That just because he is a boy, he needs to prefer cars over cooking pots. It’s a conception fed to us since forever, and it’s so inherent that it’s almost invisible in our behavior. With a market that is constantly trying to feed us with a set pattern of gender-based colors and characters, it becomes increasingly difficult a task to help our kids grow up with neutrality. But perhaps we should all put in that extra effort to expose our little ones to everything from cars to cookwares and princesses to powerpuffs. Because if my second baby turns out to be a boy, I’d like him to wear pink without being mistaken for a girl, while my daughter somersaults to the tune of “friendly neighborhood Spiderman…”.
Because really, there is nothing weird about either of those things and our kids should not grow up believing otherwise.
(Note – We are extremely grateful to everyone who showered our girl with gifts and blessings on her special day. This post is in no way to offend anyone’s gesture – but a self realization on a judgement practice we all succumb to often.)