Sunday, April 21, 2013

The trouble with buying things for a girl

The Kid alternates between being keenly interested in "girl things" like My Petite Pony and "boy things" like Pokem.on. That's totally cool with us adults, since we encourage her to be interested in whatever she's interested in, no matter what other people think about it.

Recently in a fit of girl things interest, she demanded new underwear since the very first set she got is too small now, and she wanted the Ponies. I figured that since it's one of the better examples of friendship out there, and even though all the main characters are female, they're pretty varied. Two are stereotypically girly (one designs fashion stuff and one mostly flits about being rather ditzy and having parties) but the rest veer off from the "traditional girl" mold. My favorites are the one who is a researcher and the one who's shy but great with animals (yeah, that's pretty stereotypically girly, but it also shows that being shy isn't an insurmountable obstacle). I was glad to see that the set of little kid underwear had six pairs and there are six main ponies. One pair for each, I imagined.

But no. There are two pairs for the jock pony and two for the super girly, giggly pony. No researcher pony. No shy pony.

Boo on the designers who felt it wasn't important to include all the ponies. I get that the realm of what characters are on my kid's underwear is probably not a huge deal, and yet... And yet, it's the small things that contribute to kids' understanding of what matters. The researcher pony isn't even important enough to be printed on little girl underwear. What message does that send? That researcher isn't something my kid should aspire to, at least in a small part. That same small message, that it's better to be athletic than smart, gets repeated lots of times. It sinks in. Girls get told so much that they are pretty and so little that they are capable and that it's cool to know things.

Maybe it's just a little thing, but at the same time, every morning my kid announces which pony will be on today's underwear (and is upset if it's not available). She thinks about those ponies once a day when she gets dressed, at a minimum. And now she thinks about the researcher and the shy pony that much less often, sees fewer examples of being successful and having friends even while not being stereotypically ideal versions of female.

It's a sea of little things that shape the big things. Isn't it always?

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