“Thought of you and Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies this morning when I made a quick trip to the local public library. I was refilling my water bottle when a 2 year old girl sat down at the kids computer with her Mom. The little girl asked her Mom if she could wear the boy’s headphones (blue/red) instead of the girls (paisley pink). The mother said that anyone could use either pair! When I agreed with the mother, she replied “it’s amazing what they learn by 2″.” -Susan G
I love the mom’s response! Yes!! Colors are for everyone.
Thanks to Susan for recognizing this moment and sharing it with us.
How early do children begin to exhibit an understanding of gender roles?
How early do children learn to limit themselves according to gender?
How does this impact childhood?
When our system of binary gender is ingrained by age 2 through socialization, can you see how children learn to:
1. Play along to get along, when it comes to gender roles. Girls do this and boys do that.
2. Limit themselves based on what is “for a boy” or “for a girl” through learned gendered coding of colors.
Using the example above, let’s play a game of what if’s:
1. What if *only* the blue/red head phones had been sitting out? Could the very little girl have thought computers are for boys because she didn’t see any pink tipping her off that computer time is also for girls?
2. If she’s learned this early that pink things are for girls and non-pink things are for boys, could the color coded toys of childhood today heavily influence her toy/play choices?
If yes, what toys are typically pink and what toys are typically not pink? What cognitive skills develop from different types of play? What cognitive skills are not developed when types of play are limited or avoided?
3. Finally, if the understanding of gender is influencing her activity choices from age 2, how would we ever know what her true interests are or could have been?
Childhood is a time for great exploration that should not be impeded by the pink or blue boxes we place our sons and daughters in, sometimes as early as that 20 week ultrasound.
We don’t let our children develop as unique and complex individuals, we let them grow up as members of one gender or the other. Their childhoods shaped by the expectations of the gender society limits them to.
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.