A week or so ago in my local “everything” shop as I was walking down the first isle, I noticed they kids toys at the perfect eye view for the people buying them, ie mainly the parents. I got to one and it was the usual pushchair / pram with a little girl attending to it with a doll in the seat and it got me thinking. The current trend is to de-gender the toys that kids nowadays play with, so a shop selling a toy pram or supermarket till is still fine, but they shouldn’t say it’s only for girls. Likewise, toys that have traditionally being aimed towards boys, shouldn’t say they’re just for boys and it got me thinking how would they go about this. At first I thought they could have a girl on one side of the packaging and a boy on the other side, but quickly decided against that when I realised that most shops would simply put the girl facing front, again implying that that toy was just for girls. Then I thought, well how about they have a boy and a girl on the packaging. Girls would see another girl with a pushchair / pram and boys would see a boy with a pushchair / pram, and neither would feel pressured to conform to gender stereotypes or not. Kids might not call it gender stereotypes, but if a boy is seen playing with a pram or pushchair, he’s going to be singled out for abuse, bullying, name-calling. A girl might suffer the same treatment, but we’re used to seeing little girls playing with these toys, so we tend to not even think about it.
Writing this, after commentating on a radfem’s blog and having abuse hurled my way which is the norm it seems, even my idea of having the boy and girl in the picture of the pram wouldn’t be good enough for these people. “Forced heterosexuality” they’d call it, or words to that effect, you seriously can’t win with some people.
So what to do for the best. I know Toys R Us are removing the signs that say boys and girls toys / sections, and that’s a small first step, but also a big first step. We need to let kids know that it’s alright to be kids, and to explore, and we need to tell adults to let kids be kids. It’s no secret on my blog that I’m trans, so I grew up as a boy, and when I was old enough to do something about it, I transitioned to female, so my toys growing up we’re typical boys toys. I had teddy bears, model trains, matchbox cars, lego, an Action Man with the moving eyes, I collected Star Wars figures and toys, and then got heavily into computers. I played with the toys I had and was a happy kid. When I started questioning my gender at about 8-10 years old, I still played with the toys I had, because I liked the toys I had. I’d have been happy enough to play with Barbies or similar (well, I actually prefered Cindy, but that’s not important right now), but growing up in the 1980’s, had someone found that out, then I would have been bullied even more than I was. The simple fact is, that because of the time and place I grew up, I knew that I couldn’t risk talking to anyone about my gender issues. The internet was still a good 15-20 years ago, so I was alone with my secret for 10-15 years. No one worried that I was moody or that everything was boring, because I was a teenager, and teenagers are moody. We need our kids to be able to talk to use about anything that’s bothering them, anything that’s affecting them, and we need them to know that they won’t be in trouble for simply being themselves.
Now as an adult, I still have my toys (those kind too), but they’re bigger and more expensive things like games consoles, radio controlled model cars, and since my heart attack last year, I’ve started modelling n gauge trains (they’re called n gauge as there’s only 9mm between the rails so they’re pretty small). When they cost that much and you’re my age though, they go from being toys to models. When I tell people that I race rc cars, they seem surprised that a woman would, and they shouldn’t be. I race rc cars because I’ve always liked cars, and it’s fun. It’s something sporty that I’m actually able to do competitively. Yes I’m in the minority, as I know of only 2 others at my club that race, but only know of 3-4 others in the entire country. I’m not saying that you should all go racing rc cars (although why aren’t you? It’s fun!), but the perception is that they’re just toys, or they’re just toys for boys. These are scale models normally round the 1/10th scale, and go at upwards of 30mph (that’s a scale speed of 300mph!). You have to be driver, engineer, marshal, etc. It’s viewed as a male only sport, but it shouldn’t be. You stand on a stage or rostrum for 5-8 minutes with a stick controller or a pistol style trigger controller, and you’re size, strength, physical stature, sex, colour, sexuality, etc makes no difference. It’s all down to your skill at setting up the car and then getting it round the track as quickly and as many times you can in the time allowed. That’s a true genderless toy err I mean model, definitely a model.