Gender stereotyping and toys

(69 Posts)
Starling Wed 02-May-01 13:08:00

My friend has a 4 year old son who will be starting school in September. He is very keen on Barbie and has a Barbie of his own. On a recent shopping trip for trainers, he was smitten with a pair of Barbie trainers. He has also seen a Barbie lunchbow at nursery school and is desperate to have one.
his mum says that he is interested in all things pink and glittery, not just Barbie.
Her dilemma is that, being aware of how older children might react when her son starts school, she did not feel able to buy him the shoes or the lunchbox, but could not explain to him why this was.
Whilst I understand her point (and personally I cannot abide Barbie anyway) I think it's really sad that she had to make this decision. What do others think? And how have other parents dealt with similar situations?

Snowy Wed 02-May-01 13:54:07

Oh that's a toughie. I want to say buy the Barbie - if a girl wanted Bob TB you wouldn't hesitate. Couldn't he have the Barbie things at home. I really wouldn't let him take them to school.

I really don't know what I'd do.

Tigermoth Wed 02-May-01 13:59:35

Starling, what a dilemna! One idea for your friend, for now: Why not buy the trainers tomorrow. By September when school starts, the little man will have grown out of them anyway, or they will have have disintegrated, and she can do a rain check then.

Kmg Wed 02-May-01 18:38:11

My eldest boy is almost 4, and is mad keen on all things pink, glittery, and sparkly. He loves dressing up in pink negligees and fairy costumes at playgroup - he gets a bit of stick for this, but it's generally managed OK. Recently choosing candles for a cake he chose barbie pink candles. I don't have a problem with this, but I wouldn't do anything to create problems for him. I would not buy him a Barbie, (he's never asked and I can't stand them either. I try to be fairly neutral in this area, but kids can be very cruel, and you have to protect them. There are lots of 4.5 yr-old girls at nursery with him, and if he arrived one day in, say, a frilly tutu, they would tease him mercilessly.

I never say to him - this is a girl thing, and this is a boy thing. He has dolls, pushchair, dollies cot, cooker, etc. at home, and that is fine. But you have to draw the line and protect them from teasing. Maybe try and encourage them in other directions - my son loves pink, but if asked his favourite colour he will say green.

Rhiannon Wed 02-May-01 19:09:42

I know of a 5 year old that has had his passion for all things 'girly' indulged to a ridiculous point. His mother works full time and buys him whatever his heart desires when she is home. He has a whole wardrobe of girls dressing up clothes including Minnie Mouse and a full Bridal outfit, unfortunately things are getting to a serious point and I dread to think what the future holds for this young man.

Jbr Wed 02-May-01 19:42:37

How sad. She is doing the right thing but because of the prejudices other parents might have taught their kids he will get grief. People like this don't deserve children.

I had a row with my uncle once because he didn't want my male cousin to have a toy pram because it was a "girl's" toy!

Robinw Wed 02-May-01 21:21:17

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Suew Wed 02-May-01 22:47:46

My mum bought my then 6yo nephew a Barbie for Xmas when he requested it. His mum was expecting a baby and he wanted the one with ?Shelly, the baby so he could put them in the jeep with two of his Action Men and have a real family.

In my daughter's ballet class there is one boy out of about 25 students. I think it's a real shame that more fathers (and yes, having talked to the mothers it is the fathers that object) don't want their boys to learn the balance etc which can stand them in good stead in the future.

Emmam Thu 03-May-01 07:54:07

Could your friend take him for a walk 'conveniently' past the school when they are coming out so he can see what the other kids are using currently. Maybe your friend could make pointed comments such as 'that looks a good lunchbox, how about we find one like that for you?'

Kids soon work out for themselves what makes blend in with their peers. If your friend's son really is adamant about a Barbie lunchbox then I'd say let him have one, but make sure she buys a cheap one, because I'll bet that within two weeks of being at school he'll want something different. If he doesn't, then good luck to him - there's a kid that knows what he likes and likes what he knows!

Sml Thu 03-May-01 07:54:45

Suew, what a lovely story, seems like that little boy has a very mature approach!

Rhiannon Thu 03-May-01 07:55:26

I think the problem is people don't want their children to be gay. We all want our children to be happy whatever they turn out to be but we all still want our children to be 'normal'. There I said it - barrage of abuse this way please.

Most fathers want their boys to grow up to be big, strong, men, to get married and have families of their own, I suppose the natural, 'normal' way but when things start to go a wee bit pear shaped at a young age, maybe the alarm bells start to ring. I'm sure people still think that you can be 'turned' gay which as we all know is not true.

I'm quite convinced that my friend's son already has very definite 'problems' in this department. Don't want to go into too many details.

Sugar Thu 03-May-01 08:29:23


Marina Thu 03-May-01 08:37:01

Suew, that is a lovely story, it really brightened up my day.

I don't particularly want my son to be gay either: people are still very ignorant and bigoted about lifestyles different to their own, and Rhiannon is right to highlight a parent's concern that their child has an easy passage through life by not standing out in any way.

But I'd be much more anxious about my son and my relationship with him in later life if he turned out to have racist or homophobic views, or grew up to be a wife-beater, drug-dealer, loan-shark, mugger etc.

My gay friends treat their parents extremely well, that's for sure, despite all having gone through a miserable time coming out to their families. Two of them are also parents, so the old concern of "but I wanted grandchildren" can be overcome...

Janh Thu 03-May-01 09:56:54

starling, this is such a tough one; if he has a strong enough character to cope she could let him go to school in the barbie trainers with the barbie lunchbox and deal with it himself - if he can be cool about his preferences and not get upset they wouldn't tease him for long but if he reacts they will and children can be so spiteful.

how big is the school? how good is playground supervision? starting big school is quite an anxious time for a 4-yr-old and if he isn't allowed to have what he wants, it could be worse than having it... could they be confident that any bullying would be squashed? could she talk to the reception class teacher about it?

it's a dangerous road to go down, the girls things/boys things one - especially since it usually seems to be considered cute if a little girl wants eg bob the builder things...

you didn't say if is he interested in other things as well or just pink and glittery ones?

Starling Thu 03-May-01 11:58:13

Janh - he is interested in other things, but his favourite toys, clothes etc tend to be colourful ones - nothing unusual about that, I guess.
As to whether he has the strength of character to withstand the inevitable teasing he would get going to school dressed in Barbie regalia, that's difficult to say, as he hasn't been exposed to that sort of reaction before. He is what I would call a slightly eccentric child in that for the most part he makes his own mind up about what he wants to do and is not particularly interested in other people's suggestions. I think he is the type of kid who might end up being a bit of a loner by choice, if you see what I mean.
His mum is a primary school teacher and therefore has plenty of first hand experience of how mean kids can be to those who they perceive as being different. I think therefore that her priority is to protect him, although I know she does not want to enforce any stereotypes on him.

Marina, can I just say that I agree entirely with your point that there are much worse things that your child can be than gay. And I don't think that sexuality can be influenced by the sort of toys and clothes that a child has. I have a number of male gay friends and none of them spent their childhoods wearing dresses and playing with dolls.

Tigermoth Thu 03-May-01 13:02:32

Starling, been thinking. Don't like to suggest telling white lies to children as a rule, but in this case it might effect a compromise between self expression and protection against teasing:

How about suggesting to your friend: Saying Barbie trainers 'only come in girls sizes', but you can find a pair of Barbie socks that would fit. Socks would be a bit more discreet (and cheap) than trainers - and you could tuck a spare pair of ordinary socks into his school bag, so if he was teased, he could, if he wanted to, change. I used to tell my son that Mothercare had a special 'sports' section when at 5 years, he had a worrying tendency to request socks and 'T' shirts from expensive sports shops.

I think Emmams idea about a walk past the school is a very good one, too. I'd definitely do that pronto.

On the other hand, you don't want to imply it's silly to like girls things. Robinw, how sad that that the little boys your daughter knew were not allowed to play with dolls houses. Glad you found a way round it!

For a 4 year old, it's an eternity from now to September, Barbie might be usurped by Action man -who knows. I'd be inclined to go with the flow for now and buy the odd bit of Barbie, but also get him together with lots of school-aged boys and girls eg in park playgrounds,so he gets a general feel for what's in and what's out.

Jbr Thu 03-May-01 17:37:47

So gay men behave like women do they? Do people believe these ridiculous stereotypes, and why do we have this idea that women behave in a certain way in the first place and gay men take on these attributes?! I still can't believe we live in a society where we think gay men dress in women's clothes and all gay women wear denim! And we shouldn't have "men's" things and "women's" things anyway, apart from the obvious physical differences eg women having to wear a bra!

Ems Thu 03-May-01 19:29:04

Jbr, you do like to get aggressive on strong issues don't you. I always await your comments!

Rhiannon Thu 03-May-01 19:45:11

Unfortunately Jbr yes you're right people do believe these ridiculous stereotypes. Remember it wasn't very long ago that homosexuality was actually an illegal activity in England. People have to adjust their ideas and values and I'm sure by the next generation gay people will be accepted in a better way.

Just like my own generation the 30-somethings who have always accepted black and asian people as equals (but I challenge you to speak to a 70 year old on the same subject and listen to their point of view).

At 92 years old a Great Aunt of my husband's died last year, she was brought up with servants (her words) in the house and accepted this as normal. How life changes.

Some gay people do fit the stereotype which is why it sticks I suppose. Just like some people seem to think the Irish are thick, the Scots are tight the list of stereotypes is endless.

Robinw Thu 03-May-01 20:12:00

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Jbr Thu 03-May-01 21:45:23

Robin, I pity your children. I thought I had found a sensible website but it seems not. I left another site because someone said similar things. "effeminate" means behaving like a woman, as though women all behave the same. I give up!!

Emmy Thu 03-May-01 23:14:37

Well, my nearly six year old loves Barbie. When his sister got two Barbie cars for Christmas they fought over the pink one. He looks fantastic in Barbie shoes too. while I know its just something he likes and means nothing for the future, I dont care anyway. We dont encourage the girl stuff or discourage it, if he likes something he plays with it. And I really really wouldnt care if he was gay when he grows up, (as long as one of my kids produces grandchildren lol!!)- and my husband doesnt care either.

Lil Fri 04-May-01 09:23:57

Jbr what's wrong with the term effeminate. Robin's right there are loadsa gays who express themselves by being OTT camp and prancing. Not sure why they think that's how women are, but they do.

Lizzer Fri 04-May-01 10:28:52

I see the point you are trying to make, as to classify all women ( or all men ) as one all consuming term is clearly wrong. However not everyone knows the correct definition of the word 'effeminate', or has looked at it from that point of view before, therefore to criticise robinw's parenting skills because of misuse of the English language is a bit wrong too... Surely it would be better to educate rather than vilify, don't you agree? It would be a rather boring website if everyone knew everything and all had the same opinions so stay and open our minds a little...!

Tigermoth Fri 04-May-01 10:48:34

Jbr, to backtrack a little. The orginal problem posted here was as I understand it:

A mother has concerns that her son will be teased if he starts school wearing Barbie regalia. She is a primary school teacher, so knows what can go on. The boy has not been exposed to this type of reaction before. She does not want to reinforce gender stereotypes, but her priority is to protect him and help him face a specific situation, namely his first day at big school.

Lots of the following suggestions posted here - mine included -are addressing this specific issue, not giving general house rules or views on gayness or gender stereotyping.

However much we as cool, PC adults think being gay is fine and dandy, however much we give our children boys and girls things to play with at home(not calling them boys or girls things of course,) we are not going to be sitting next to this little boy, waving our liberal flags, in the classroom on his first day at school.

Tigger Fri 04-May-01 11:22:09

Well said Tigermoth, and Lil it is true what you both say, all things in life have 2 sides to it, not what we are "made" to think.

Star Fri 04-May-01 12:11:41

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Winnie Fri 04-May-01 14:13:51

Starling, I personally think the little boy should be allowed to express himself. It is indeed sad that his mother feels that she has to 'protect' him in this way. There is far to much conforming and in conforming the myth continues that all boys like x and all girls like z and never shall the two intertwine.

Children can be cruel it is a fact of life. If it is not boys liking pink, its not having the 'right' trainers, having glasses, red hair or being fat etc., etc., I wonder how many people who advocate not allowing his having Barbie things would propose that 'fat' children diet, red haired children dye their hair, spectacled children wear contact lenses etc., etc.? Being allowed to express himself the little boy will make up his own mind and grow out of it (or not) but trying to stop him may, however well intentioned, simply cause more problems.

I wonder whether the decision is as much about what other parents think as how other children will treat him(?). Maybe if little boys and little girls were able to express themselves(even when their enjoyment manifests itself in something not considered appropriate in wider society) these bizarre ideas of what is 'normal' would perhaps be broken down.

P.S I personally loathe Barbie dolls!

Tigermoth Fri 04-May-01 15:06:07

Winnie, I can see where you are coming from, but few children are perfect specimens, are they? Red hair, glasses, being fat etc are far more commonplace amongst children than boys in Barbie trainers. Also it's a one-minute decision to buy or not to buy a pair of barbie trainers. It's not half as hard as insisting that your 4-year old goes on a long term diet or gets used to inserting contact lenses, for instance. Anyway that's a bit off the point.

Protecting your child from the reaction of his classmates,to my mind at least, does not mean refusing him all barbie stuff. It means preparing him so he knows without a shadow of a doubt that on his big first day at school, other barbie-wearing classmates are likely to be girls. And he has already seen what girls and boys at his school wear. And if, say, he wears his barbie stuff to a childrens playground beforehand, he'll have some idea of other children's reaction to him. If he still then insists on barbie, fair enough, but at least if he's then teased at school, it won't come as a complete surprise. And perhaps packing a spare pair of trainers, for instance, to give him the option to change if he wants to on the day. Or giving him a bit of barbie, ie socks, to begin with and if he he's OK about the school reactions, then giving him trainers a week or so into term. That to me is what protecting him really means.

Yes, of course he should be allowed to express himself for all the reasons you mention. But I think he should be given as much knowledge as possible, too, otherwise we are trying to impose our own liberal views on a child at a very vulnerable time.

Lizzer Fri 04-May-01 18:11:34

Yeah very true Tigermoth, it's a case of liberal mindedness and shunning of stereotypes is fine, but meanwhile back in the real world....I do regret to say that but it's true.

It's such a shame in this society of ours that barbie trainers can cause such an issue, where as in certain other countries any trainers would be welcome for any child pink or not. Sorry, going off the subject AGAIN... ( but it's such a meaty issue, so much to go into...!)

Twinsmum Fri 04-May-01 18:29:02

I really hope that my sons will always feel that they can express themselves in whichever way they wish. I'm have a very wishy, washy liberal 'whatever' attitude to most things / have many gay friends and abhor prejudice of any kind BUT I was bullied at school and it was horrible and I honestly think that if my boys wanted something which might attract the attentions of bullies then I would probably persuade them against it (whether it's barbie trainers or something else.)
I'm afraid it doesn't matter how PC you might can be cruel, and the playground isn't always the nice place it should be.

Winnie Fri 04-May-01 20:12:52

Tigermoth, I do agree with you that children need to be armed with information before being let out into what is new territory for them. Yes, starting school is indeed a very vulnerable time for them (and us).You are quite right in advocating a third way. I hope I wouldn't be so naive as to think that my children never needed some protection. Children grow up so very fast in todays world. However,I then have to wonder how we change such deeply entrenched ideas if we are not prepared to allow our own children to stand out and be 'different', aren't we simply sending out extremely mixed messages and confusing things further? In my experience - limited as it may be - children handle the truth much better than a conspiracy of silence and half truths, even when the truth is not particularly pleasant. I don't advocate telling children 'everything', of course children should be allowed a childhood, but issues such as this can be explained in simple terms. I would hope that a happy, secure child would be much better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life - that hit everyone whatever their age - than a child confused by the mixed messages he/she is receiving from their guardians/parents.

Robinw Fri 04-May-01 20:29:54

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Eulalia Sat 05-May-01 09:10:02

I agree with you both Jbr and Rhiannon. It annoys me that we think there is something wrong with males wanting to like feminine things but girls can be masculine and they are labelled a "tomboy". If we want to tackle this gender stereotyping properly then the people who make these products should stop making glittery pink things for girls and khaki coloured items/guns etc for boys. However there is no incentive for this - it is all to do with money and there is big money in Barbie, Bob the Builder etc.

I hate Barbie myself and I'd not buy my child male or female it and I'd just say no because I'd tell him/her that it was too expensive. This sidesteps any issue about whether the child should have it or not because it is male or female. If the child really wanted it then he/she could save for it out of pocket money/birthday money, by then they'd have probably changed their mind. I feel too many kids get what they want on a whim these days.

Speaking of gays - I do know a few and one thing I don't like is some gay types who like to idealise women in frilly dresses, loads of make-up and high heels. I think this comes out of repression and that some males do like these things. Maybe we should return to the 18th century of dandies when men could dress up more. I just wish that the feminine side of women was emphasised more (ie the nurturing side) rather than the rather trivial aspect of what kind of clothes they wear. Also it is insulting to women that their clothes are "funny" just because a man wears them. I don't mean pantomime costumes though - they are funny on a male or female. Maybe it is just because some women's clothes are silly anyway. My husband thinks that basques/stockings etc look really stupid (on a woman that is). Perhaps it is because 'men's 'clothes are generally more functional that they can be worn by either gender.

I would applaud anyone to be different and not go down the happy little consumer track of buying what toy producers want them to, wearning sports clothes, eating microwave meals etc etc. Anyway going off the subject somewhat here ....

Winnie Sat 05-May-01 09:19:46

I have a confession to make... I would never, never allow my children to 'express themselves' with toy guns!!! I know, hypocritical after all I wrote earlier, but we are all human.

Caznay Sat 05-May-01 13:26:52

Starling, why not suggest to your friend that she buys her son a 'non-Barbie' lunchbox to start school with. Then she could tell him that she will buy him a Barbie one in a few weeks - if he still wants one after a month of being at 'big' school, good luck to him!

Twinsmum Sun 06-May-01 18:02:21 too. And after all I said earlier as well. so much for easy going.

Marina Mon 07-May-01 08:31:31

Winnie, Twinsmum, and me. Guns, urgh. Are you not relieved that there is no male equivalent of that nightmare emporium "Girl Heaven"? Can you imagine what a cynical marketing team would try and cram into an outlet called "Boy Hell"? Camouflage paint, plastic limpet mines, magnifying glasses to frizzle ants perhaps?
Eulalia, Robinw and anyone else - did you see the Rod Stewart documentary last night? Now there's a man who's been round the block several 100 times with various "living Barbies", and the amount of make-up, frilly shirts, women's knickers and gorgeous necklaces he has worn over the years was really quite staggering. DH expressed the opinion that surely Rod Stewart *must* be bisexual, purely on the basis of reviewing his 80s wardrobe from twenty years on. I on the other hand thought how refreshingly colourful and attractive, and cheerfully self-confident old Rod looked, particularly compared to latter-day lads like the Gallaghers. Let's bring back dandyism for men, why should they be stuck with boring stiff fabrics? If lots more men who wanted to, felt able to dress up like Rod or Eddie Izzard, wouldn't all our big cities look more entertaining? None of which helps Starling's young friend cope with big school and a pink lunchbox. No chance she could get him a plainish one and they could customise the inside with Barbie stickers?

Sml Tue 08-May-01 08:55:54

I think Robinw has a good point. Surely the point of all this Action Man/Barbie stuff is that girls are supposed to want to be the girliest and boys the most manly at this age. But not all children pass through the same phase at the same age. There are bound to be some precocious little boys who are attracted to feminine things from an early age simply because they are heterosexual. I can see the point about wanting little boys and little girls to have a clear idea of their gender (this is a different issue from the homosexuality question) because gender is something you can't change (without a lot of problems!) so it's best to live the best life you can with the gender you've got if at all possible. But frankly, I don't think my children need Barbie or Action Man to help them grow into good women/men.
I agree with the attitudes expressed by Tigermoth and others, but I thought the best suggestion was to buy him another lunch box and promise a Barbie one at the end of his first term - that way he'll know what the score is.

Tigermoth Tue 08-May-01 10:30:17

Good news, anti-gender-stereotyping-people! Girl Heaven (Bluewater) has closed down.

Marina, speaking as someone who has a garage stuffed full of men's (and women's) 60's 70's and 80's clothing, I have ample proof of how dandy-looking men were, back then. But some men still carry the torch. I used to run a clothes stall and oh, the times I had to help big hairly male Australians and Americans find an outfit for a 70's club night! What they were prepared to squeeze into beggers belief. You have not lived until you have helped a big 46" chest man wriggle into a size 16 womans shirt (good old stretchy nylon). I never, ever helped them into the trousers, though.
I just couldn't get enough frilly shirts, mens flares, etc to meet demand. And those men were such a soft touch, too. No haggling, they used to pay and walk away in a daze with the all the lurid stuff that none of my female shoppers would buy.

And then there were the retro clothing stallholders themselves. Dedicated followers of fashion, to a man. Some gay, some not. Together we used to drool over vintage Ozzy Clarke and Biba. None of them into barbie though!

Then, at the last company christmas party I went to, all the men were resplendent in brightly coloured shirts, ties and waistcoats, while the women sported little black dresses.

I too hate barbie and action man for the reasons Eulalia and others mention. Anyone else heard what happened in America a few years ago? A subversive group secretly swapped the voice boxes of talking barbies and action men. So action man said 'please take me shopping' while barbie said 'mobilise all units, we are on the attack'.

Bugsy Tue 08-May-01 11:48:37

This is an interesting board. Its taken me a while to think where I stand on this. I believe that men and women are different and I think as our science progresses we are becoming more aware of how profound those differences are. In the womb there are major hormonal changes going on to make your baby a boy or a girl and this doesn't just affect their physical make up it also affects their mental wiring. However, just because men and women are different does not mean that we cannot be equal in status, although anthropological studies suggest that this is rarely the case both historically and in different societies today.
As far as letting my son wear Barbie trainers is concerned I would probably discourage him. I would probably discourage him from wearing a hairband or bracelets too. My reasons would be that at the age of 4 children need guidance from their parents as to appropriate clothing. I would also discourage my 4 year old from wearing a swimsuit in winter or a thick coat in summer. I would also be reluctant to let them wear a t-shirt that said "Kick me" on the back of it etc. etc. So I would worry about my 4 year old boy in his Barbie trainers being teased mercilessly.
It would be great if we lived in a world where gender based clothing didn't exist but it does and my first concern would be to help my child make the best choice for him.

Marina Tue 08-May-01 12:29:23

Tigermoth, triple laughs all round - goodbye Girl Heaven and good riddance, I do remember that fantastic Action Man/Barbie soundtrack switch tale (and is the one about the American Tinky Winky allegedly saying, "I'm a fag" also true I wonder), and surely your boys must have the best dressing up box EVER. Wasn't fashion tactile and gorgeous 20-30 years ago?
Starling, you will have to tell us how your friend handled the issue in the end as there are a lot of mums out there worried as to whether he'll be OK in that playground. Not to mention wondering what we'd do ourselves, I still cannot make up my mind.

Tigermoth Tue 08-May-01 16:32:19

Marina, if my boys ever become interested in dressing up, yes I am a number one mum in this respect. So far, my oldest son has treated my erstwhile business and on-going hobby with great distain. The only 2 things he has ever craved from my 'collection' were 1: A tiger print vest so he could be Tarzan and 2: An old Rebok T shirt, because it had a sports logo. Men huh!

Mind you, I once had in my possession a Queen Elizabeth 1 costume, complete with ruffle, made for Peter 0'Tool. My husband tried it on for a laugh and completely fell in love with it and begged me to not to part with it. Lured him off it with promises of a vintage Levi Jacket.

Jbr Tue 08-May-01 17:49:27

Sex is the natural make up of your body and gender is the things that are imposed on you relating to your sex, eg men are providers and women don't/shouldn't work for instance. (just one example I could come up with!) That isn't natural, it is the way things are constructed. Masculine and feminine are not essential qualities to men and women, they are just the constructions which change depending on your society or country. I hope that makes some sense to someone! I know what I mean anyway.

These late nights are turning my brain to soggy cabbage!

Star Tue 08-May-01 20:12:49

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Star Tue 08-May-01 20:13:36

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Twinsmum Tue 08-May-01 20:43:30

I'm really suprised about Girl Heaven. Although there are some strong views expressed here...I think in general there are many, many mums who absolutely love all that stuff. I have a wonderful, wonderful friend (who disagrees with me on most things) who will be devastated when I tell her. Not only is her little girl dressed head to toe in pink frill....she has ditched her former fairly formal style, and now spends most of her days skipping round in a huge selection of glitzy hair slides!

Robinw Tue 08-May-01 20:52:10

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Jbr Tue 08-May-01 21:08:31

Tomboy?? Another silly label, given to girls who act like boys, whatever that means, as though there is some natural way girls and boys will act. Everyone is an individual!

Star Tue 08-May-01 21:29:30

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Batters Tue 08-May-01 21:32:34

Jbr, the thing is boys are more likely to act one way and girls another. Its been proven, pure and simple. Going back about 3 years, can anyone remember the brilliant tv programme The Human Body? It conducted loads of experiments with boys and girls, and men and women and came up with the simple fact that male and females are different, and that is all there is to it. I can't remember all the conclusions that were drawn - I know women are generally better at multi tasking and that men have a far better idea of spatial awareness for instance. One incident that did stick in my mind (and which I can now relate to) - they put groups of girls in one room and boys in another. They were all around 8 years of age I think. Each group had been given a task, for everyone to have one go of a toy and then pass it on. The groups were completely unsupervised, except for a hidden camera. The little girls did it with time to spare, each child taking a turn and then passing the toy on. The little boys lost interest almost straight away and started fighting, bickering or simply moved onto something else. Of course everyone is an individual, but gender also accounts for our behaviour. My little girl is just 3 and for the last 6 months or so has loved all things pink including Barbie. I can honestly say this is in spite of her upbringing, not because of it. Viva la difference I say!!

Jbr Tue 08-May-01 22:25:26

If you go by those stereotypes it means that anyone who doesn't fit them is "unnatural" in some way! I am crap at multi-tasking by the way!

Tom Wed 09-May-01 08:06:39

Interesting discussion - sex...gender... are differences biological or cultural.. reminds me of my college days writing endless essays on the subject for gender and anthropology. I never did reach a final conclusion... biology and culture interact from the moment a child is born to create differences - mums and dads interact with boy and girl newborns differently, and as kids grow they see endless images of men and women to inform their identity. At the end of the day, I know it is perfectly possible for women to like and do pretty much anything men can (although peeing standing up gets messy) and men can like and do pretty much anything women can (save give birth, menstuate and breastfeed). The ultimate limitations are biological, but genders have a history that affects us. It matters to me what generations of men have made "being a man" into. It matters because I've either got to continue the tradition or change it - I can't just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. I'm not into traditional ideas of 'being a man' - limited to earning money and being a tough unemotional sort of chap, but making things different means being procactive (I think when we're either very relaxed or very stressed, we fall back into behaviours learnt when very young - e.g. gender stereotypes). And some trad 'blokey' things I love - e.g. footy. Re: toys - I would relax, don't force anything on a child, let them explore what they want, but always let them know that they are OK as they are, and are capable of pretty much anything they want (and have the ability for) - whether it's being a brain surgeon or a midwife - boy or girl.

As some wise bod once said... "don't worry if your 6 year old boy is obsessed with playing with guns. Worry if he's still doing it when he's 36".

Marina Wed 09-May-01 08:37:02

Star, bang to rights on being the mum of a boy. I wasn't really a "tomboy" (excuse the offensive terminology LOL) but unlike robinw I was allowed lego, meccano (plastic version!) and other non gender-specific toys. I loved dressing up and had dolls but honestly didn't go through a really girly phase that I remember.
My thing with Girl Heaven was that I felt it was a cynical attempt to cash in on this phase and that it relied blatantly on pester power. If I had a daughter who wanted frills and things of course she could have them but I think there are plenty of other toyshops etc where there is a bigger, more balanced range of toys: Barbies, My Little Pony etc alongside less frou-frou stuff. I just felt a bit queasy looking in the window...

Lil Wed 09-May-01 09:36:04

Robinw, I've always been a tomboy too (am now an engineer), and I've never been into shopping (hate wasting so much time hooray for catalogues!). I do worry though that if I have a girl I won't know how to do pink! Do you think its hereditary!!

BTW, in my sons nursery they have a little baby doll with detailed sculpted male genitalia. Great eh?

Tigermoth Wed 09-May-01 10:01:23

Al this talk of girls and boys toys has reminded me of a mini dilemma I face. I was very much into all things dolly as a girl. My mother saved and labelled all my dolls and dolls house furniture, carefully wrapping them in tissue paper and string. I now have these boxes and suitcases im my loft. She categorised them according to size 'tiny dolls' not-so tiny dolls' 'small dolls' etc. The labels and the way they are wrapped up are as memory-jogging to me as the dolls themselves.

I'm sure my sons would love to see them and play with them. But they are not so far into dolls, much, and I don't think they would treat them with respect. They are just toys, when all is said and done. What do you think I should do?

Debsb Wed 09-May-01 10:25:32

Lil, I too was a tomboy, always played football, never played with dolls. I distinctly remember my first day at school, when I was 'made' to push a dolly in a pram up and down the room, thinking 'why'. Both my daughters are into anything pink and glittery (esp Barbie), they love playing hairdressers and moms & dads. Eldest won't play football as thats for boys. It's all been a bit of a culture shock!

Kmg Wed 09-May-01 17:20:12

Sometimes 'giving in' to an unusual request, can eliminate the problem. My son (almost 4) has been desperate for some jewellery for quite some time, but I haven't wanted him to walk about with pink barbie beads, or whatever, and get teased, and I haven't found anything suitably 'boy-ish'. Anyway at the swingpark on Sunday a friend wound some straw into a circle, and my son decided this was a bracelet, and went into raptures of gratitude to her for making him a bracelet! Anyway, I discussed with her my dilemma, and she suggested a friendship bracelet, would probably pass muster with both boys and girls at nursery. I duly spent ages making one on Sunday night - he wore it for a couple of hours on Monday, and hasn't mentioned bracelets since!

Batters Wed 09-May-01 17:32:30

Jbr - I don't go by stereotypes, and as for the idea that people who don't fit in are "un-natural" in some way, I don't think my posting even came near to suggesting that!! What I am saying, is that boys and girls, and men and women are different - not better, just different. And in order to really be able to provide equality of opportunity, be it at home in a family situation, at work, whatever, I think that we need to recognise this.

Tigermoth Thu 10-May-01 12:13:08

Kmg, my son used to love all things 'alien' including jewellery. He has a fine collection of alien and slightly heavy-metal-looking monster rings and used to wear a christmas cracker bead necklace customised with three plastic luminous skulls strung along it. What a love!

Should you be interested, 'Claire's Accessories' and similar shops have lots of this stuff, and those machines that spew out plastic capsules with a toy inside also come up with the goods.

I do like the sound of your hand made friendship bracelet though. A contemporary take on the traditional daisy chain.

Maika Thu 10-May-01 15:44:48

I remember wanting to belong so badly to the local boys gang, that they gave me three little tests to see if I could qualify, No .1 Climbing the highest tree to the top No2 See if I could chew worms! (I did pass that one actually) Yuk!No 3 To see if I could pee the highest on the wall, (I failed miserably much to my sorrow!) Have always hated men after that !!!!!!

Robinw Thu 10-May-01 19:36:55

message withdrawn

Tigermoth Tue 21-Aug-01 10:43:32

Barbie trainers or not? Starling, please can you ask your friend if she's decided - school starts in a few weeks!

Sweetie Tue 21-Aug-01 17:01:05

Hi Tigermoth - I've had a name change (problems with registration).Anyway, she didn't get the trainers, although he still asks about them - he doesn't easily forget these things. he is wearing some traditionally 'boyish' trainers at the moment.
His mum's strategy seems to be to keep the glittery stuff (of which he has quite a collection now) for 'at home', which he seems happy enough with for the moment, and has not yet thought to question why this is.

Dorisday Wed 22-Aug-01 20:51:15

swords and guns for boys?-i think i tend to be a bit too pc. if i deprive my son of these will he become obsessed and be a mass murderer when he's older?? anyone got a pyschological analysis of this??!!

Harrysmum Thu 23-Aug-01 08:11:48

We (my brother and I) were not allowed toy guns, catapults, swords etc. as children and will do the same with our own. From a v early age it was explained to us that the real things hurt people and that it wasn't good even to pretend to do so. I guess we would sometimes pretend with bits of stick or something but it just wasn't an issue - we had plenty of other things to keep us amused and haven't turned into rampantly violent people through lack of expression as children; perhaps the opposite.

Jac Thu 23-Aug-01 10:16:45

My 4 year old daughter, has asked for a pink bedroom, fine, but she wants an action man duvet cover!!! Ever since she found a miniture toy resembling action man, she's been interested. I will probably get her an action man if she's still interested at Christmas, as I think Ken is a bit naff.

With regard to depriving kids of things such as guns, I wouldn't worry about not giving them, I think psychos are born psychos!!

PS. What about these massive water gun things are they bad?

Jodee Thu 23-Aug-01 12:37:17

I remember playing with my brother's action man as a kid, I loved the tank and helicopter, but also had Sindy dolls too. My brother and myself also had great fun with those light sabres, from when Star Wars was around the first time (showing my age here), which of course are very much like swords.

I think if you are going to let your kids watch tv shows and movies that portray fighting, with guns, swords, fists or whatever, then it's a bit hypocrytical to turn around and say to them that they can't have them as toys.

Jac - I do hope you are not serious when you say psychos are born psychos????

Tigermoth Fri 24-Aug-01 12:24:30

Sweetie, thanks for replying. Just like to know these things!

Big Nose of SE London.

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