What are we teaching our girls?

Abi Bechtel, an Ohio mother, gained the attention of CNN and over 2,000 like-minded individuals on Twitter last week when she called out Target for a sign differentiating between Building Sets and Girls’ Building Sets.  It got me thinking.  What are we really teaching our children, and especially our girls about gender roles?

This is certainly not a new topic, but when I was growing up in the seventies, there were clear gender associations with toys. Dolls were for girls. Trucks were for boys. I remember being told at a very young age that I could be a teacher.  This was viewed as an appropriate career for a female who wanted to work outside the home.

One has only to scroll through the responses Ms. Bechtel received to her one line tweet to see that we have a long way to go. The message if you are to believe the mostly male trolls on Twitter is that we should keep our mouths shut.  Go about our business, and not worry about the message to our daughters.

No dice. No sale. No can do.

Tweet: As a working mom with two young girls to guide, mentor, and parent, I say to the world, We’ve gotta do better. http://ctt.ec/S7jb9+

With the advent of girl focused engineering toys like Goldiblox, I have to admit, I initially thought it was about time. But the more I think about it, and watch how my girls play, the more I wonder at the necessity. The movement to interest girls in STEM is growing, and it should. We have much to contribute, but is it necessary to create an entire subset of toys to bolster that natural curiosity?

I’m the mother of two bright, brilliant little girls, and whether they are playing with their (admittedly) pink princess legos or brightly colored building blocks, they love to see how everything pieces together and what happens when they fall apart. They have as much fun playing princess dress up as they do pretending to be doctors. There’s a natural tendency to use play to learn about the world, and I for one don’t believe that a child’s gender should place a boundary on what they are allowed or encouraged to learn.

So if I could leave you with one challenge, it’s to think about what we’re teaching our girls when we create special categories for them.

Abi Bechtel set off an unexpected firestorm over this topic with one simple plea to a retail giant. “Don’t do this.”

If more of us raise our voices together, how far will they reach?

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