Saturday, December 31, 2005

Auld Lang Syne in shades of Pink and Blue

When Haverchuk showed me these toys from Pottery Barn kids, my first response was "that's cute." This is mostly because I would still rather use a tiny toy pink vacuum than the real thing, NOT because I think that ONLY little girls should be playing with a toy vacuum (which is undoubtedly the message encoded in the PB pink kitchen set).

That said, I'm all for the recent trend of making stuff for grown-ups look like toys. Unlike some of my fellow feminists, I do not consider the pinkification of otherwise ugly and utilitarian tools entirely offensive. I'll take my aesthetic pleasures wherever I can get them. I own several kitchen appliances made by Sanrio, and I nod in approval when Lorelei covers Rory's hammer with feathers on episode of the Gilmore Girls.

But this does not mean that I don't find the constant color-coding / gendering of children's toys troubling. I'm willing to admit that my attraction to things that are pink and fluffy likely has something to do with an early inoculation as a female consumer with a desire for all things pink. But the thing is, boys like pink too. And boys also like to vacuum and sweep and wash dishes. And girls like hammers. I like hammers. I still do.

A little boy I used to babysit had both a play kitchen and a play toolbench. Both were hand-me-downs, and the family kept the toys side by side in the basement. Interestingly, the toy kitchen and the toy bench seemed exactly the same; they developed the same types of motor skills and invited a similar type of play. And of course the kid mixed them up. Spoons hung from the workbench and there were hammers in the sink. The point is that both were fun to play with. Toys do not need to be gendered, they just need to be fun.

This is rather an obvious point, I suppose, and perhaps one not nearly exciting enough for new year's eve. That said, I hope you all have a very happy new year, and that your 2006 will be filled with lots of good, loving, non-gendered play.

What's your take on pink hammers and baby-blue mixers?


porkmuffin said...

happy new year! when i taught pre-school the "kitchen" with little plastic foodstuffs and plates and spoons, etc. was one of the most popular toys. for girls and for boys.

Barbara Fisher said...

I am a woman who abhors pink--not because of my feminist tendencies, but because I look icky in pink. My skin is already pink, and it doesn't need help.

So, while I love the PB kids super expensive kitchen toys--I hate the pink. I'd probably go with the blue "Metro" set, though in truth--I like the shapes of the "Retro" set better.

As for genderized toys--I played with both "boy" and "girl" toys as a kid. My favorite, however, was a toy sword I got at the circus. I enjoyed pretending to be Errol Flynn when I was small...and for a few years, thought I might even grow up to be him.

Then the breasts sprouted and I had to grudgingly admit that I wasn't going to ever look like my hero. ;-)

Crystal said...

I adored my Barbies growing up, and I had the easy-bake oven and some plastic kitchen toys too. I'm not sure that genderized toys harm kids in the long-run, or determine what type of adults they grow up to be.