My Son Wants Barbies for Christmas

I’m curious to know how parents in NH today feel about gender-specific toys. This year, my four year old son has asked for (and will receive) the following:
  • Barbies
  • Mermaid dolls
  • Batman figure
  • Games

When I was a kid, my parents were not running out and buying Barbies and mermaids for my brothers as I found myself doing this holiday season. In fact, if my brothers asked for such toys, they were refused and told firmly that those toys were for girls, not boys. When my sister and I painted our youngest brother’s toenails pink, my dad had a few choice words for us. Many of you readers probably have similar stories to tell.

Times have changed, but still, I sense that it makes some of our friends and family uncomfortable when my son carries his favorite fairy doll around with him everywhere for a week straight. Many of the other parents we interact with discourage their little boys from playing with dolls, etc (although it is ok for girls to be tomboys). And when we pick our son up from the childcare area at the gym, the babysitter laughs nervously when she tells us, “He sure likes those Barbie dolls,” as if to warn us that he’d been playing with them.

I personally think it’s great that my son enjoys all kinds of toys. I wish I could feel as unencumbered as he does by the stereotypes and gender roles and all the other expectations subconsciously (or not) drilled into my head since I was a little girl. I also wish that the toy companies and media conglomerates didn’t reinforce outdated gender roles in their products and advertising. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and I go to the office every morning, so most of the toys and messages out there for kids are a slap in the face for both of us. I read this interesting article about a toy company in Sweden reversing all traditional gender roles in its holiday catalogue this year. I wonder if that would ever happen here in my lifetime. I just know I’m sick of having to explain to my son that the princess can rescue the prince and that real women do not look like Barbie.

If you have kids, how do you deal with gender-specific toys?