Last week while eating lunch with my first grade son Benny and his school friends the girl across the table from me was eating a McDonald’s Happy Meal her mom had brought in. She was discussing, at great length, the complexities of receiving “boy or girl toys” because she does not always care for the girl toy and would prefer the boy toy and she wasn’t sure what to do. Her mom said, “Just ask for the toy you want, it doesn’t matter boy or girl.” I gave her mom a wink. But then another adult standing nearby spent the next few minutes trying to convince the little girl that she did indeed like the girl toy, despite the girl putting up a pretty good defense as to why she did not.
I was trying to behave myself so I kept my mouth shut (the child’s mother was right there and it was her place to say something) but I could see the little girl becoming frustrated. I know the girl sitting next to the Happy Meal girl and I could tell she did not agree with what this adult was doing. Benny was on my left and gave me a look that said “Oh hell no” and the boy on my right had just told my son the day before he didn’t want to play on our basketball team if there was a girl for a coach (me) because girls are stupid and dumb. And 1, 2, 3 we see how this starts, the falling into stereotypes coupled with the lack of understanding and respect between the sexes.
I was incredulous as to why the adult, an educator, would not take the girl at her word and instead ask more questions that would allow the girl to reveal the unique and special person she is……as opposed to steering the conversation to make sure the girl remain in her sparkly, pink, stereotyped box.
When the look on the girl’s face switched from frustration to sadness and resignation I could take it no longer and said, for the whole table to hear, “Friend, I think if you are eating a Happy Meal you should be free to choose whichever toy makes you happy. Boy or girl toys, that doesn’t even mean anything. You can like what you like and toys are for everyone.”
Benny gave me an approving nod and smiled at his friend. His friend, eyes shining brightly once again said, “Yeah! Toys are for everyone but NOT FOR FISH!”
And once again my fine friends, we have empirical evidence as to why the world should be left to the charge of six year olds.
Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.