On the Bullshit of Toy Departments

I love Christmas; it is easily my favorite holiday. Even after converting to Judaism, I won’t give it up. I have a huge family and we all love it. Some of my best memories from childhood center around Christmas. We were poor growing up, but it was the one day my parents made sure was just magical and I carry a bit of that magic in my tinsel-loving heart still. I go crazy every year – I buy all of the gifts, bake all of the goodies and have all of the fun. I get giddy over surprises and can’t act like an adult when I have wrapped presents under the tree and can barely keep from telling people what I’ve gotten them. I’m the opposite of a Grinch, which is why my rage at toy departments bums me out extra this time of year.

My father remarried after I graduated from high school and they quickly started giving me more siblings. I first noticed the gendered nonsense of the toy department at Target when I started looking for gifts for the young’uns. There are pink aisles filled with Barbies and ponies and dress up sets and play kitchens. There are blue aisles with superheroes and Legos and weapons and every type of vehicle. Then there’s a green aisle with the educational gifts, which is where I did my shopping while sneering at the idiotic gendering of children’s toys.

Seriously – if you’re a girl and want a toy at Target, you are being told you must like princesses and glitter and stuffed toys and tea parties? And if you’re a boy, you like fighting and cars and videogames and fighting and fighting and fighting (the violence of toys is a whole other peeve). That’s it! Nothing else! I mean, unless you want to cross colors…like a freak. It’s just so so so incredibly enormously stupendously seriously stupid. So, yeah, I quickly avoided the toy department completely and everyone got books (which are filled with a whole other passel of gendered nonsense, but I don’t have the time or energy for that today).

Now, with boy children in my life, it’s a lot harder to turn a disgusted blind eye. We’ve had the talk about “girl” toys and “boy” toys, but I’m one voice shouting against all of the commercials on the Cartoon Network and the clearly marked aisles at the store. I’m in the blue aisles a lot now, looking for new Mario or Pokémon plushes (because girls don’t like those things so they obviously belong with the boys) and muttering about gender and how our children are given stereotypes as norms.

Cal has become obsessed with sewing. Through the magic of YouTube, he’s found an online community who make their own plush toys and he has been talking non-stop the past year about getting a sewing machine and making Mario and Luigi and all the other little videogame creatures he loves. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a child’s beginning sewing kit that doesn’t involve making purses? Or doll clothes? That isn’t covered in pink and glitter and only has smiling white girl children on the box? Which, yes, I could get him one of those, and explain to him that sewing is sewing and boys and girls like it. But I know he’d take one look at the flowers and hearts and he’d see it wasn’t meant for him. And I don’t want him to think he’s weird for wanting to sew while also having a Y chromosome, that kid has enough on his plate already.

So, I find the most gender neutral kit I can on Amazon and hope that it actually ships and arrives before the 25th. And if this sewing thing sticks, I’ll start looking for a kids’ sewing machine that isn’t pink or purple or covered in flowers and hearts and Hello Kitty. And I’ll hope that if he really enjoys it, no one discourages him from doing a “girl” activity or any other such nonsense. I want my kids, and my siblings, and my friends’ kids, to be free to follow different hobbies, to discover new passions, to experience life as a person, not as a pink or a blue. Putting kids in little, gendered pigeonholes? That, to me, is the essence of bullshit and it’s time to end it.

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