Friday, 11 May 2012

Fairies are a Feminist Issue

This is not a craft post, just a general rant about stupid gender stereotyping of preschoolers... Look away now if you were expecting something about 101 clever ways with bias binding.

Let me start with a little story. I recently took my children to the dentist. Prior to the event I had been doing the usual whooping up to encourage co-operation. Oldest is very good about opening his mouth for inspection, but youngest (who is only three) has so far clamped her mouth firmly shut and refused all pleadings.

The dental nurse knew how to deal with this of course, and held out the promise of a sticker for good behaviour. Anyone who has had any experience with the under-fives will know that stickers are practically currency, and my children are no exception. Wonderfully, both children opened wide, teeth were counted, all was well. So on to the stickers...

Now this is the bit that gets my goat - my son was presented with a Spiderman sticker, all good, happy child. Then the nurse turned to my daughter and offered her a sparkly fairy sticker, because 'all little girls like fairies'. Really?

Now don't get me wrong, my daughter was happy with the sticker, despite a general indifference to fairies as a whole. And of course I shouldn't get my knickers in a twist over such trivialities should I?

Except I do... because the fairy sticker thing is a symptom of this whole crappy categorising of things for boys and things for girls. Which is the start of telling our children what stereotypes we expect them to play along with purely due to their gender. It's the reason people make comments about my daughter liking 'boys toys' when she plays with toy cars. Because of course little girls don't grow up into women who drive vehicles do they?

Now I grew up in the shadow of 70s right-on parenting, where there was a strict list of banned toys: Barbie (too sexist) Action Man (too violent), any kind of film/tv tie-in merchandising (too commercial - although I was allowed a Muppets lunchbox, wonder how that slipped through...). My mother considered that there were no such things as boys or girls toys, just toys with good play value. I think I agree with her on that one...

And people love to tell me that my daughter only plays with cars and lego because she has a older brother. There may be some truth in that, but I have to say that I played with cars and lego and I am the oldest (have 2 younger brothers). Of course she plays with lots of things, including plenty of stuff for role play, but I really believe children need a whole range of play options open to them rather than the girls = fairies/princesses and boys = everything else (but categorically not fairies/princesses).

So I'll finish with another story. The photo shows my daughter's wings, they were a present and she loves them, often accessorising them with her wellies, style queen that she is. Her recent game with them is to play 'Tooth Fairy', apparently the Tooth Fairy 'fixes things, and then gets the money'.

Make of that what you will...


  1. Yay!! Rant away, I get SO cross about this! Toys are toys, children are children, could everyone just leave gender out of it please? Recently I noticed a couple of blogger/designers that I normally adore talking about designing things for boys or girls, and I just felt despair - why can't a boy like flowers, butterflies or APPLES for f***s sake?! I am happy to say that my dentist just hands the box of stickers to Max and lets him choose, and yes he does choose spiderman or Mr Strong, but if he chose Tinkerbell I wouldn't care, in fact I would feel proud that he wasn't conforming to those awful stereotypes. In terms of toys, I think along with cars and lego (which was my favourite when I was little), the thing that gets played with most by my 2 boys is the toy food and the babies - cafes and shops and mums and dads are classic games for any child to enjoy. Unfortunately the rise of rampant consumerism has encouraged toy manufacturers to sell the lie that children of different sexes need different toys, so that families with girls & boys feel they have to buy twice as much plastic crap. Ok I'm going to stop now, between us that's probably enough feminist ranting for now! Rachel x

  2. Thanks for the comment Rachel, Jo and I have hashed this out many times and I know her boy was very attached to his princess dress... :)