We need to be careful when advocating for strong, empowered girls that we do not simultaneously denigrate things associated with femininity. A general example of this is distinguishing the problems with Princess Culture from little girls who like princesses, sparkles, and all things fancy. Princess Culture is the issue, NOT little girls.
A specific example of this is criticism I’ve received on my book when I talk about buying dolls for my daughter or a toy kitchen for our home. It has been suggested that I’m being hypocritical, but here’s what I’d like to counter with: We need to learn how to get out of our own way.
Dolls are a wonderful toy for *any* child for the social emotional play and role play they allow. This has nothing to do with gender or the stereotype that girls should grow up to be homemakers, rather it has everything to do with child developmental psychology.
As for toy kitchens — for young toddlers (early walkers) standing while playing builds strong leg muscles and balance. Children see their parent(s) working in the kitchen every day and a toy kitchen allows them to role play and emulate the people they love. It was suggested that by providing a kitchen for my daughter I was reinforcing the “women stay in the kitchen” stereotypes and that instead I should be encouraging my daughter to be a judge or scientist.
We bought a toy kitchen (in gender inclusive colors) for our home because young children love to role play and because we figured as our kids grew they would need to have basic food prep skills and the ability to feed themselves. Even judges, rocket scientists, and engineers need to eat.