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Feminine / Masculine

I have a feeling this might become controversial, and I'm hoping I don't upset or offend anyone cause thats not my intention.

I have a niece thats almost 3. Her parents are pretty much anti-girl and have been since she was born. Now, I'm not one who thinks all girls should wear pink or need to be "girly" but I do think its wrong to discourage anything feminine. They buy her boys toys, and she regularly wears boys clothes. This concerns my other sister in law and myself. I'm afraid if they keep doing this shes going to be confused and it could cause problems. Its not MY problem so I stay out of it and I don't say anything, however, Christmas is the one time of the year when its frustrating. They sent me her Christmas list and its basically Bob the Builder, Cars, and Dump Trucks. I have a daughter, as does my other sister in law and while they do like some boy stuff like cars, they mostly enjoy girl stuff. Maybe its not an issue and she will be just fine, but, it bugs me and I really don't want to buy the girl all boy stuff for Christmas.

So, is there anything I can get her that wouldn't offend her parents but would fall into something thats not masculine, but also not overly feminine? I found a bright pink dump truck thats pretty cute but I'm coming up empty handed besides that.

Any input/advice/ideas would be greatly appreciated, and I'm sorry if I somehow offended anyone.


( 109 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 20th, 2012 05:40 am (UTC)
Books, building blocks, Tinker Toys, bath toys, puzzles, and board games are good gender-neutral options.

For what it's worth, I'm of the mind that there are no "boy toys" and "girl toys", and that kids should be able to play with whatever interests them (provided it's safe, age appropriate, etc). While I understand the desire to rebel against the world of pink and Barbie dolls, I think saying "You can only play with cars/trucks/wear clothes from the boy's section" is just as bad as saying "You can only play with Barbies/kitchens/pink things and wear dresses."

Edited at 2012-11-20 05:42 am (UTC)
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:30 am (UTC)
I agree with this entire comment.

And to add a suggestion, how about something musical? :) An instrument of some sort.
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Nov. 20th, 2012 05:46 am (UTC)
The toy thing doesn't bother me nearly as much as dressing her in all boys outfits. Granted, I'm a huge geek so my daughter has a few star wars tops and such but she also has girl clothes. I think dressing a little girl in all boys outfits is just opening up a huge door for her to be picked on among other problems.
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Nov. 20th, 2012 05:49 am (UTC)
I guess... I just don't see why it's so hard to buy her some Bob the Builder stuff? I mean, yes, it's good to have a range of things to play with, but I think it's disrespectful of your brother or sisters' parenting to be like "Eff what you guys want, I'm going to buy her some pink stuff." I guess I'm also a little confused about why you think it would confuse her to have gender neutral toys? I mean, sure, you could do a pink dump truck, but you could also get her paint and playdoh and stuffed animals and a billion other things. Or some Bob the Builder stuff- I mean, how do you know that it's her parents that are anti-girly stuff, and not her own preferences? I have two girls- one really enjoys Thomas the Tank Engine and workbenches and art projects, and the other loves putting on pretty dresses and carrying around babies. They're only 15 months apart, but worlds apart in terms of what their interests are. So... maybe just buy some toy cars! Cars are pretty cool, you know? Get her some pink matchbox cars if you think it's going to screw her up for life to have a red car, but don't undermine her parents. It's not like they're not going to notice that you're intentionally buying things they haven't asked for, and they can probably figure out that you think you should do that because you think you know better than them what kind of toys are right for their daughter.
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:06 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to have offended you?

I feel like your response was a bit... mean. I do happen to know that their attitude is anti-girl because they are my family and I spend lots of time with them. I've heard and witnessed conversations and every goal and hope they have for her is related to the hopes they would have for the son that ended up being a daughter.

Obviously I don't want to offend my brother or his wife, and thus I made this post. If I wanted to be rude, I would totally ignore what they asked for and go get her some pink outfits, which I have never done. I'm trying to find things besides tool boxes, and such. All the toys she has are cars, and trucks and stuff like that as is, so I'm trying to find her a different avenue to explore that would NOT offend her parents, but also give her more to play with that could be neutral.

Edited at 2012-11-20 06:06 am (UTC)
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Nov. 20th, 2012 06:00 am (UTC)
This is a very sticky issue. I don't think a girl's interest in or a parents' encouragement for a girl to get traditionally masculine toys and clothes will cause self-image problems, but condemning traditionally feminine toys and clothes because they are considered feminine, and therefore bad or weak, will cause self-image problems. And by self-image problems, I mean problems with accepting oneself whether you consider yourself straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, male, female, transmale, or transfemale. I'm hoping that this is what you meant by "problems," because usually when I hear people talk about "being confused and cause problems" when it comes to children's gender and later on sexual identities, it's code for "that child better be straight and act like its gender."

I think what may be the best solution for you is to avoid toys that are gendered. So maybe go for puzzles with big pieces, picture books (I always rec I Want My Hat Back), or some sort of craft kit a 3 year old can do, like paste-on animals.

However, I wouldn't rule out Bob the Builder, Cars, and dump trucks either. I'd call and ask her myself, and if she says any one of those things, you can get it and show that you care about what she thinks.
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:08 am (UTC)
Thank you for the suggestions. I struggle because almost all her toys are cars and dump trucks and she has a tool set so that makes anything Bob the Builder just seem like more of what she already has. So I'm trying to find other stuff that might be similar, but different enough to provide new options for her.
(no subject) - azure_dragon - Nov. 20th, 2012 12:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC)
So...my approach to parenting gender is that it's not mine to parent. My kids will be who they will be. However, there are cultural norms that I don't care enough to buck; so I default to assuming my children will fall roughly into stereotypical roles. In other words, I'm fine with dolls and pink for girls, trucks and bold primaries for boys. But I also keep my language neutral so everyone can keep their options open -- I don't let my kids fall into the assumption that only girls can wear long hair, for example (even though I explain that in OUR family WE find short hair to be a neat and tidy look on boys.)

But. At almost 3 (Christmas last year)? My daughter LOVED Bob the Builder, Cars movie, and trains/trucks/scooping/building toys. What can I say, she had a big brother and a lazy/nerdy mother who kind of loved that stuff too and didn't want to go to the trouble of cultivating all new interests when we already had ALL THE THOMAS. So...if that were her wish list, as a parent I'd find it frustrating if she was instead given Disney Princess memorabilia or something. Because that's not what she's in to, and it's not because I'm dictating -- 2.5-year-olds have their own strong preferences!

In fact, she got a marble maze and a really sturdy plastic tea set (http://www.greentoys.com/tea.html) and a friction-powered camper van (http://www.amazon.com/WOW-Katie-Campers-Holiday-Friends/dp/B00009YOTE). Oh, and a pink Bilibo (http://www.bilibo.com/en/enter/default.aspx)! (Though her favorite color is red.) She was a happy little girl that year. :) And mama was happy not to be inundated with trendy dolls and what-not.
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
Yeah I get what you're saying. I don't want to buy her something that would offend her parents or that she wouldn't like, I was just trying to find stuff that she doesn't already have. She has tons of cars, and trucks and tool sets and the such so I was trying to find something similar so that she'd have some variety, but something that she'd also like.
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)
What would she be confused about?

If you don't want to get her a "boy" toy and her parents don't want "girl" toys, I'd go with something any kid would like. Blocks, stuffed animals, books, art supplies, puppets, musical instruments, play food, a soccer ball?
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
I would get her art supplies. Crayons, paper, markers, glue sticks, kid scissors? These are all things my three year old (boy) appreciates.
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Nov. 20th, 2012 06:41 am (UTC)
You're right, and maybe I'm making too big of a deal of worrying too much about her, but I don't want her to be picked on or feel out of place in daycare. I know how mean kids can be. I read online that a girl got made fun of because she had on a Star Wars top. My biggest concern is that her parents seem to discourage anything girly. If she was being herself and was totally into those things, I would have no issues with it whatsoever but its almost like they both really wanted a boy, and she wasn't so they are pretending that she is in basically every way. She has two cousins around the same age and they all play together a lot and when she plays with the dolls they have she seems to enjoy them but her parents don't want to get her anything girly. IE: One day she was playing and I overheard her say that she wanted to be a ballerina and her mom literally groaned and went "No honey, you want to play hockey"
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
Peg dolls, maybe? I've seen a bunch of cute ones on etsy. They might be a different enough gift, and can stay gender neutral. Obviously they have some really girly ones that you can get (fairies, princesses, etc), but a lot of good gender neutral (I love the Peter Pan ones I've seen!). Or, if you don't feel like dealing with etsy, I think the Plan dollhouse family sets are really cute. I've always been tempted by the Melissa and Doug fold and go play sets, too.

I also like the idea of giving her games or art supplies. We really liked the Alex art sets we got last Christmas! My son and daughter just rediscovered the cutting one and had a lot of fun making finger puppets and masks together.
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
My 2.5 year-old daughter loves dump trucks and baby dolls and Duplos and puzzles and tulle ballet skirts and a book about a construction site. However, none of that says anything about her gender preferences (still unknown), her sexuality (undeveloped), or her sex (female). That's just shit she likes. Some of it she likes because we like and encourage it, some of it is her modeling behavior, and some things are just so cool, how could she not like them?

Heaven help the person who tells my daughter in my presence that she shouldn't have something because it's not made for people like her.

It's a Christmas present. You're the giver, buy what you like. No gift given at age 3 is going to help this child navigate the sticky world of gender and sex roles. This baby has precious little time left in this world during which she doesn't care what people think about her identity. Just buy her something she'll enjoy.

As to the parents and clothes, that's definitely MYOB territory.
Nov. 20th, 2012 06:46 am (UTC)
Again, maybe I didn't explain myself very well. As I said to someone else, its not that I think theres something wrong with a little girl liking boys toys. My issue is that her parents won't let her play with or indulge in anything thats for girls. Everytime she does something thats the least bit girly, she is known to complain about it on facebook, thus making it peoples business. I do think that having a mother who tells you not to be a girl could be damaging, no matter the age but I'm not a psychologist.

But yes, I do want to get her a toy that she would enjoy but she has tons of the kind of stuff they are asking for already so I was trying to find a new idea that wouldn't offend anyone.
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Nov. 20th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
nacho nacho kid.

that said, i second/third/nth the suggestion for puzzles/blocks/tile games.
Nov. 20th, 2012 07:23 am (UTC)
I can understand your frustrations if they're denying her any right to embrace her femininity. That is just wrong on so many levels. I respect you for wanting to help and let her explore that side of herself, she needs more relatives like you.
Nov. 20th, 2012 08:46 am (UTC)
The kid has the rest of society throwing gender-specific girly girl stuff at her 24/7. I personally like more of a balance in my own home, but I can't fault parents finding balance their own way. And given how much pink crap invades my home, they might have a better plan than I do. You've been given a list, so I can't really help much more than that. Good luck though. I know this is a hard issue, but I really think you have nothing to worry about unless the kid comes to you upset because she's been forbidden from expressing the gender that she's chosen.
Nov. 20th, 2012 09:05 am (UTC)
Reading some of your other comments, I just wanted to add another thought. By all means, advocate for the child and be supportive if she comes to you about it. But don't try to buy pink toys or other things on the disapproved list because you think they're parenting her the wrong way (especially when there are plenty of toys that are approved by everyone, regardless of stereotypes). That's just not going to lead anywhere good, and I imagine that you wouldn't appreciate it in return.

Plus, she's three. You can always be the cool one she turns to when she's older if she ends up needing that kind of safe space later. :P But I'm also hoping that you would fight for her just as much if she does end up preferring "boy clothes."
Nov. 20th, 2012 09:59 am (UTC)
If you see her often, you could ask her herself exactly what she wants, and just get that?

But mainly, I just wanted to say that I read your comment above about being worried that she'll be teased at preschool, and I wanted to offer this reassuring anecdote. My friend has twin boys - when they were three, one loved green, and the other loved pink. He had pink clothes, and pink shoes, and pink everything (maybe it was extra important for them because they were twins that one was The Pink One and the other was The Green One? I don't know). Anyway, honestly, nobody teased him at all. And not because he would have thumped anybody who tried, or anything like that - I use really don't remember it ever being an issue.

My feeling is that you might irritate your niece's parents if you interfere with their parenting philosophy, so just get a present the child will like, and leave the overall strategy to the parents.
Nov. 20th, 2012 10:50 am (UTC)
If you want to buy her something traditionally feminine, buy it and stop overthinking! Don't buy it because it's 'girly', though, buy it because you think it's a nice gift that she will enjoy.

Nov. 20th, 2012 10:53 am (UTC)
How about art supplies or building sets (marble mazes or Legos/Duplos or gears) or puzzles...?
Nov. 20th, 2012 11:44 am (UTC)
Does she show a preference for certain toys at all? Have you taken her before, you know like an aunt/niece day or just to babysit or something, and been around toys and she seemed interested in stuff, either gender or nuetral? I would go with everyone elses idea of things like puzzles/games/etc unless u know she like loses her mind with excitement over bob the builder. I agree that it's not good to be "you can only have boy toys" "you can only have girl toys" but the fact of the matter is that all the parents could possibly do there is maybe cause problems with their relationship with their daughter if they get in her face if she starts making "girly" choices later. You buying her girlier versions of boy toys, though I know is your way of offering her other options besides straight up "boy toys", could be seen by not only her parents, but also by her that something is wrong with "boy toys" and make her feel like she has to do more girly things.

I have a son, actually 4 sons, and everything we've gotten has pretty much been "boy toys" until they got a chance to choose. My 5 year old son, he wants Dora stuff, he likes Strawberry Shortcake stickers, he draws pictures of butterflies...he also loves trains and sports and fixing stuff. We didn't encourage any of it. It developed on it's own. Or maybe he started seeing kids at school liking this stuff and decided to like it too. So don't worry too much about it. Their daughter will find her own way.

I'm also curious, and not trying to get in your face or be a jerk, but if they had a son and were only offering him boy options, would you be trying to integrate pink trucks and stuff like that? Sometimes we have the best intentions and don't realize how what we do is ACTUALLY perceived.
Nov. 20th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
Your last paragraph? Spot on, sorry to say. I do agree that making the feminine overtly negative is problematic, but I feel like there's no way this would have been brought here if it was role reversed.
(no subject) - sayga - Nov. 20th, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 20th, 2012 12:15 pm (UTC)
Eh. My daughter loves to wear dresses and we dress her pretty girly...funky girly, not ruffle girly. But she also wears a lot of boy clothes since the only sell the character clothing she likes in the boy department. She also pretty much only has boy toys (and a twin brother) and if she could tell you what she wanted for Christmas it would be Thomas the Train, Thomas the Train, Thomas the Train. My kids are train-aholics and that's all them. Does your neice like Bob the Builder and trucks and stuff? If so, then I'd just buy what they're asking you to get. If you're crafty....one of the things I got my kids for Christmas were new fleece blankets for their bed. I bought Thomas the Train fleece fabric and then co-ordinating colored fabric (green for my son and purple for daughter) and made them giant blankets...Thomas made her happy and purple made the blanket sort of feminine.
Nov. 20th, 2012 12:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you've mentioned worry about her being teased, and DON'T worry about that. If her parents say really sexist stuff all the time, unlike some others, I do think that is worth worrying about. Although you haven't really clarified if they've just said stuff like, "Too much pink...ugh" or truly cringe-worthy stuff.
Again, some of it may be her. My daughter is the same age and is actually really girly, but at the top of her list this year is matchbox cars, a toolset--those two are great choices--and she kind of wants more army men (but sadly, she does notice that those are sexist "Why aren't there any army ladies in here?"). I think those things match the make-believe thing so many are into at that age. She is also asking for doll clothes and a jewelry box. Usually she prefers to wear girly clothes, but she is really into dinosaurs and outer space and many of those have a boyish vibe (we sorta wish there were more that were girly--I know threadless has a few).
I like the ideas of craft and sports stuff which are gender neutral, and books might be a good place to push the boundaries. Get a few picture ones that have female protagonists, and make sure they are strong ones, and neutrally presented (some media that show "strong" women seem to be sending the message that you have to be overtly masculine to be strong, which is problematic).
Good luck and I hope you have a great holiday no matter what!
Nov. 20th, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
This is the most awesomely gender neutral kids' thing I've seen in a while. I'm considering buying it for my kids.
Nov. 20th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
That is amazing. Thanks for sharing it!
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Nov. 20th, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
why are the parents like that? has anything ever been said, like.. gee I guess you guys really wanted a boy? or something? if she preferred to play with something more gender specific, like a doll, and they are saying, "no, no, take this construction set instead..." wtf? I think that's nuts. I think people are giving you too hard a time here. If you know the child and the parents and the situation and that the girl LIKES to play with things that aren't always geared more toward boys, then there is something wrong.
I would get lots of different toys including dolls, dump trucks, blocks, dress up, etc and babysit her! My 3 year old loved to dress up in heels and necklaces and then a minute later she's pretending to be a ninja turtle. It's cool. we go by the 'there are no boy or girl toys, there are just toys' here.
Nov. 20th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
I agree.
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Nov. 20th, 2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
Art supplies, simple toddler games, or, if you really wanted to avoid any issues but not contribute to gender-identifying presents, a gift certificate . Also, this won't be out for this X-mas, but toys like this are pretty awesome and would likely satisfy you and your family.
Nov. 20th, 2012 01:12 pm (UTC)
Grr they should be happy with what they have either way. :(
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Nov. 20th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
This exactly. My daughter's nine now and is finally starting to enjoy things that aren't pink, but this idea that everything had to be pink confused me for a long time. When she was small I could dress her in red, purple, blue, green, yellow, and occasionally pink, but as soon as she was old enough to express a preference? Oh my, Barbies and hair accessories all the way. I was a tomboy growing up, assumed my kid would be the same, bought all the gender neutral toys I could find, and voila. Little Miss Pink.

Really, more power to anybody who tried to buy her anything that wasn't pink--goodness knows I tried--but non-pink toys were ignored and never played with. Perhaps at not quite three the kid's still pandering to her parents' preferences, but I'm pretty sure my daughter was very firm about what she wanted and what she didn't at that age.
Nov. 20th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
As for a gift, trains are fun and gender neutral. Can get pricey.

Maybe craft kits, or a science kit. mastermind toys has some great science kits.
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