Of Girls, Boys, Dolls and Trucks

I don’t think it is in my nature to be confrontational. [Do I hear a snigger?]

 

Okay, let me rephrase. Unless it is with my parents or people who I know very well, I don’t usually pick fights or arguments; even if my opinion about certain things may differ from theirs. Many people call it ‘sitting on the fence’. I don’t honestly care what it’s called, as long as I don’t have to confront anyone about things or get into a conflict. Which is where sarcasm usually helps. And like they say, everybody doesn’t get sarcasm. Β So, for me to get involved in something that doesn’t concern me or my loved one’s wellbeing, isn’t really my cup of tea. But the truth is that now and then, I do snap. Although, it’s usually in the comfort of my home or through this space on my blog, I do tend to react. And sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, I react in the moment.Β Like at the playground, a few weeks ago.

 

The regular readers of this section of the blog may be familiar with my reluctance to go to the playground with my son. While it is often a thoroughly enjoyable experience for my son, it is at times, a very traumatic experience for me. It rarely ever goes as planned, and I end up taking a lot of bruising – physically, emotionally and sometimes even to my ego. But sometimes, I have to. The reason? I call her Karma – and she’s a …well…you know the phrase.

 

Anyway, on this particular ‘playground adventure trip’, I came across a parent having a heated discussion with a bunch of kids. Well, it masqueraded as a discussion, but was more of a ‘telling-off’ session. The person was talking to two young boys (perhaps between 5-8 years old) and almost berating them for something. Naturally curious, I leaned in to find out why while pretending to fiddle with my phone. What I heard, both shocked and amused me.

 

The two little boys had been playing with a group of girls. Initially, I thought it was the ‘playing with girls’ thing that had gotten them scolded. But, soon it was evident that the reason was something else. In fact, the parent seemed to be telling them off for having played with the toys that the girls had brought – dolls and a kitchen tea set. Β From what I gathered, they were all role-playing together and having a ‘high-tea’ party. Which I suppose is a ‘fancier’ version of the game that I’ve played as a child – coincidentally titled ‘House’.

 

So, what’s the problem I hear you ask? Exactly. That’s what was going through my mind as well. I’m sure this ‘parent’ too had played ‘house’ with cousins, friends and the rest of the gang. While I was pondering over this, I heard the remaining part of the conversation. Apparently, this particular parent was bugged because the boys had continued to play ‘house’ with each other, when the girls disappeared. In fact, I heard them say to the kids : ‘Go and ride your bikes. Or bring down your trucks and cars. That’s what boys play with. Not with kitchen sets and dolls’.

 

And at that moment, I reacted. I chuckled. Not one of those dismissive, almost-quiet ones. But a guffaw of sorts, which soon turned into a snorting sound. In fact, I kept laughing for a few seconds until this particular parent turned around and saw me giggling away. As their eyes met mine, I stopped laughing and stood up. Before the parent could react, I pointed towards another end of the playground, where two girls were racing remote-controlled monster trucks with a bunch of boys.Β I mustered all the courage I could gather and look the parent straight in the eye and said:

 

 

 

Now, if this was a scene from a movie, THIS would be the point where I walked in slow motion, holding my son’s hand while a kick-ass theme song played in the background. At least, I like to picture it that way. πŸ˜› But it isn’t. What really happened was that I held on tightly to my son’s hand and walked away, pink sand pail and multicoloured platic animals in tow, completely conscious of the fact that the parent was giving me a stare that threatened to curse me back to whatever land I had come from. I’m sure if they hadn’t been shocked by the fact that some strange man gave them a mini-lesson on gender parity, they would have probably asked me to sod off and poke my chubby nose in someone else’s business.

 

Of course, if they’d known that I’m a Stay-at-home-Dad, they would have probably shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘See! This is what happens when boys play with dolls’. Agreed that I’m assuming this, but based on the general reactions that I often get when I introduce myself as a SAHD, nothing really surprises me about what people are capable of.

 

The other day, my son insisted on getting a play kitchen set. He said he wants to cook like those ‘uncles’ on TV. (For the uninitiated, he was referring to Masterchef Australia.) We went to a shop nearby to buy it, and the salesman tried his hardest to distract him from buying the set and entice him with a remote-controlled helicopter. A stare from me put him back in his place. But that’s the thing – we shouldn’t have to get into arguments for things like these in the first place.

 

Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. Women can’t be the primary wage earner in a family. Men can’t do household work. A working mother is evil for choosing career over her kids. A stay-at-home father is stigma to society. A single-parent isn’t enough. A divorced woman is a shame to the family. But a woman must want to have kids. The list just goes on and on.Β The ugly truth remains that we are still miles away from breaking these silly stereotypes and unwritten rules that our minds seem to be stuck on.Β 

 

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36 Comments

  1. You completely nailed it, Sid! Differentiation starts at home and that is where children pick up things from and then there is society, contributing to it, adding oil to the already vigorously spreading fire!
    People need to stop genderizing! It’s completely normal for boys to play with dolls and wear pink! (FYI, my room is pink and no I didn’t select the paint. it was already there when I got married and it was husband’s choice!). The moment a child is born, people go to buy gifts and ask for colours as Pink and Blue, specifically for girls and boys! I too used to do this, without realising the mistake I used to make. But now I am aware of it!

    I don’t how much will I able to fight this stereotyping when I’ll have a child, but posts like these are sure going to be my motivation for life!

    Cheers
    Geets recently put up this awesome post : Graflections- September 2016My Profile

    1. Oh wow! I’m glad that in a way my post sort of got your write this really amazing comment. And the first step to making things better is to understand when we are wrong.

      So yay you, Geets!

      Thanks for always dropping by.

  2. Glad you told them and left them to stare! Ha! No wonder such social conditioning is taking us to the dark age and everything about equality will only remain in books. Till we don’t educate ourselves and change our attitudes, nothing will happen. It’s extremely sad when educated people act in that way.

  3. I am so happy you stood up in this manner, Sid. It really is a disease. I have a similar story to tell. My elder son loved playing with kitchen sets when younger. There were a couple of neighbors whose daughters owned fancy ones. He would love to hold tea parties when playing with them. One day, the mum of one of the girls he played with reprimanded him, something similar to what you witnessed. He came home in tears. He was about 4-5. I immediately went out and bought him a fancy Barbie tea set in bright pink and asked him to play and also invite his friends over. I can’t believe how stereotypical our thinking as parents is. And to think that we take it out on young kids is deplorable. Well done.

    1. A disease is perhaps the right phrase for this.

      Did he? Awesome – my namesake after all πŸ™‚

      Good on ya, Rachna. That’s the way to go !

  4. Really, Sid, this attitude bugs me a lot too. I go to buy stuff for R and find most of them in Blue! R comes home from school and says Pink is for girls and Blue is for boys. He’s only 6. We can only point out to them the nonsensical logic behind such a thinking and be the change we wish to see.
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    1. I know, right!
      Kids as young as 4 and 5 are saying this now. I even came across some books that propagate these stereotypes.

      Be the change we wish to see, indeed. Thanks, Uma

  5. Spoke my mind. Spoke my mind:) Last year I wrote a post for Blogadda on Stereotypes where I mentioned this thing about pink and blue. It’s just very silly and so deep rooted in our society that no one can see beyond it.
    Now a few days ago, I was felicitated at a college and the teacher nudged another saying ‘give her the pink ones’. WHY ON EARTH!? Can’t I love blue?
    Thank god my niece loves cars and planes and hates barbies!
    Like you said rightly it’s a parenting thing. Mums need to make sons do their own work. Things like cooking , being independent should not be gender specific. These are life skills after all!

    1. The stereotypes are often what we grow up with. There’s not much we can do apart from try and break it as much as we can.

      I’m glad you dont differentiate on the basis of colours. Now, if only the rest of the world can catch up too.

      Life skills, indeed. Let’s do this.

      Thanks, Divsi.

  6. I’ve had the hardest time breaking stereotypes even within my own family. So much of this is just indoctrinated into their heads… Masterchef Australia should be inspiring people to let their kids become cooks! And pink and blue… gah! Faced that last month even so I guess it isn’t relegated to kids alone!!

    Up to Gen Next to break the stereotype for sure. But I worry if we can, especially after reading today’s infamous triple talaq news.
    Roshan R recently put up this awesome post : Why your astrologer is wrong about you…My Profile

    1. It often starts with our own family – as I said, much closer to home.

      Really? Even for adults?

      The irony is that I’m replying after a long gap, but the triple talaq news is new for the righ reasons.
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : I See YouMy Profile

    1. Like a Ninja, huh? I was going more ‘Dragon Warrior’ style, but hey, Ninja works too.

      Thank you for the support, Rajlakshmi. Always appreciate it.
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : I See YouMy Profile

  7. Noooo

    I love my pink shirt.. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

    Myths I tell you.. why don’t we let kids be kids.. I have played all sorts of games.. being only male child in family for a long time I use to play with my sis a lot ..

    These days gender is just an excuse I feel ..

    1. Haha! I have a pink shirt too, which I seem to wear all the time now.

      Absolutely – let kids be kids. Why must we over-complicate, I wonder.
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : I See YouMy Profile

  8. So so glad you did that. I remember when the twins were about two they had a tiny stroller with a doll strapped to it and one day they had this big fight and my maid told H – ‘Give it to N, are you a girl or what?’ I did step in then, it’s way easier to correct a maid when your kids are involved rather than strange women. But the point I’m making is there are so many influences the kids are exposed to. It’s exhausting struggling against stereotypes. But what they observe at home does count for a lot so good going.

    1. I am too, Tulika.
      Ah! Maids – I hear our one say it all the time to Rishi too. But right you are, at least I can tell her off. Doing it with ‘strangers’ makes it very difficult – esp for people run away at ‘Bolt-like’ speed from conflicts and confrontation.
      I hope so, Tulika. I really hope so.
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : Of Girls, Boys, Dolls and TrucksMy Profile

  9. Big round of applauses.
    Everyone say there are many problems in society but very few like you write such inspiring posts and being the change the society is in need of .

    Keep Doing what you do !

  10. Good point and about time too, Sid. However, though your writing is good, I feel the article was not as strong as it should be. It was a little understated and even a normally brought up person is likely to ignore the message. It doesn’t, like make a convincing case for changing the viewpoint of those ‘sitting on the fence.’

    1. Thanks for reading, Neel. And I take your feedback on board. I didn’t mean for it to be an attitude changing post. I reckon enough people have spoken about it. I just wanted to cite a couple of instances that I’d come across and how I felt about it. . Maybe someone else will be inspired by this and write a stronger case for those sitting on the fence.
      Thank you! πŸ™‚
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : Of Girls, Boys, Dolls and TrucksMy Profile

  11. I’ve never understood this need to make kids identify themselves by what they wear or what they play with. It’s a regressive mindset, to be honest. Of course, we live in an age when whatever we do is placed under the scrutiny of the social lens so there’s no escaping from that. Our best bet is to build up our kids the way we want, help them overcome these challenges and model the behavior We’d like them to emulate. And that, I think, you’re doing fine. R will be just fine.

    P. S. I want to see the kitchen set 😊
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    1. Ah, well! As I was telling Jaibala, I think a lot of it is ‘handed down’ to us by society and family. Every generation there are a few rebels who decide to go against the flow and subsequently succeed in planting those seeds of thought in their offsprings and people related to them.
      We can only try. Well, you know how social media is.
      Will DM You the pic of the kitchen set. πŸ™‚
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : Of Girls, Boys, Dolls and TrucksMy Profile

  12. Way to go Sid ! We need more parents like you, daring to tread a different path and thus giving the courage to many others to do whats right rather than being cowed down by the tenets of society. Big hug coming ur way buddy 😊

  13. You summed it up so well. All I can do is nod my head in agreement while feeling sorry for the parents who expect their kids, or even that of others, to grow up into cribby adults like them who cannot accept anything they weren’t trained to accept as kids.

    I would like to believe I’m doing my part though. In my home everyone is accountable and has to pitch in for work. Gender doesn’t matter.

  14. Really? What’s wrong with giving boys kitchen sets to play with? If they are interested in playing any kind of game or sport, parents shouldn’t really stop them. Unless, of course, there is a chance of injury or anything like that.

    I thought of Sakshi Malik’s story as I read this. What if her parents hadn’t supported her decision to become a wrestler, citing that it was a boy’s game? Gender equality starts at home. Truly!

    1. Nothing, really. In fact, imagine what the world would’ve lost if Gordon Ramsay had no affinity towards the kitchen πŸ˜›
      Knew I’d get your attention with that one πŸ™‚
      I agree – I wondered about it too. Well, more power to her parents!
      Sid recently put up this awesome post : Of Girls, Boys, Dolls and TrucksMy Profile

  15. Ah! The number of times I have heard he will do this only because he is a boy and the other extreme he is too dumb to be a boy. Stereotyping is a obsession with people and I agree the only way to end it is to engrain it at home. Gender Equality is still a long way off, but I believe if we begin at home we will eventually get there
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