Why Do We Assign Toys by Gender, Anyway?

I am a straight female but as a child, always preferred toy cars, airplanes, bow and arrow, canteens, binoculars, capes, swords, action figures and bikes. I begged for a Tonka dump truck for years. I was given the stupidest presents ever, every birthday and Christmas, because of some small body parts.

My Barbies hiked mountains and rappelled back down on scrap yarn.  I tried to get them to ride horses but they were too tall. OK, yeah, there was the occasional ball to attend in their finest dresses, but they always had an escape plan, usually involving climbing down some vine growing on the castle wall. They attempted parachuting on sandwich bags but, well, good thing they were plastic…

I had to play alone or with boys because other girls only wanted to “play house”. Which meant either pretending to be a baby or pretending to wash dishes.

Pretend to wash dishes?!?

I was Princess Leia’s little sister, sabotaging Darth Vader and shooting Stormtroopers. I rode my bike thru the Alps and across the Plains states, survived weeks in the wilderness with only a blanket and an old cough drop tin with sunflower seeds and stale Wheat Thins, flew spaceships thru enemy lines to save the Moon base from invasion.  I tried to imagine flying ON the kite.

Birthdays were still wonderful. There was cake, soda and ice cream every year.

As an adult, taking my daughter to birthday parties, I tried to find out what kinds of toys the child would like. I bought one girl child a doll and a toy car. She unwrapped the doll and dumped it straight into a giant shopping bag already full of dolls, but exclaimed over the toy car for about five minutes.  “A car!?  A car!?” I explained to the child’s mother that I had always wanted cars when I was little; she nodded with her eyes closed and quickly turned away.  The birthday girl’s brother took the car for his own when she was eating cake.

I have sewn my own capes, bought a bow and arrows, have an impressive rock collection and took hang gliding classes. And I don’t need toy cars because I have a real one, complete with a stick shift and all wheel drive.


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