Follow up on feminist mothering

One thing that I mentioned in my (already too long) response to Blue Milk’s 10 Questions on Feminist Mothering was that I have been surprised by biology. Let me explain…

I was pretty determined to not push masculinity or boyhood on my son from before day one. I bought pastel diapers & sort of gender-neutral clothes (gender-neutral clothes can actually be quite expensive, whereas Target onesies — announcing my boy to be a “future quarterback” — are much more affordable, so we did what we could at the time considering I was going deeper into educational debt by the minute…). Family & friends mostly knew what we were trying to do, but occasionally someone passed along a t-shirt or onesie that we simply refused to put on T out of principle.

Toys & books… Now there was an area in which I felt we could exert some control of this whole “problem” of pushing boys into stereotypically “male” interests. No TV & hence no commercials was a way to start. A good collection of dolls, animal toys, plain blocks, and other toys that would interest both boys & girls. Books on all sorts of subjects. Again, friends & family have mostly obliged (though I’m sure there have been eye-rolls…).

But then, he saw them… His cousin had trucks, trucks I tell you! Oh, they’re soooo cool… They have big wheels & tracks & they dig in the dirt & they carry rocks. Wow!

And life was never the same again.

Now, it doesn’t help that his mother actually likes machines generally & has (in a previous life) owned a ton (literally) of obsolete printing machinery. Nor does it help that his grandfather loves gadgets & trucks himself (& actually drove the forklift to move said obsolete printing machinery). No, these things don’t help at all.

So, we did what any sensible parents would do… we gave into T’s sudden interest in trucks, specifically construction vehicles. We kept introducing other toys, of course, but we gladly accepted gifts of trucks & books about trucks & clothes with trucks & we took walks to local construction sites.

He is such a boy when it comes to this stuff, it seems. Was he programmed to like this stuff? Did we somehow send him subliminal messages that this was what he was supposed to like? Of course, we’re not extreme, unlike the family who is absolutely determined to raise a “genderless” child. And my friends with boys (equally concerned with gender issues) have had similar experiences, so we’re not alone.

But I have my limits! And my limit happens to be this book:

I don’t mind being introduced to Dump Truck Dan, Payloader Pete, or even Monster Truck Max (though I hate monster trucks). No, I don’t mind them at all. I’m even willing to overlook the fact that all the trucks in Trucktown seem to be male… Oh, wait! No, I’m wrong! There’s … Garbage Truck Gabriella! Well, that’s nice… so gender-inclusive… even if she is the last truck to be introduced… Except… She’s pink… with a teddy bear tied to her bumper… & then the text tells us she’s “chatty,” a “motormouth” even… ugh… Well, I can tell you where this book is going (though I doubt my garbage collectors will show up in anything resembling Gabriella’s pink rig…).

The Trucktown website actually introduces visitors to many other female trucks, none of which are pink. But while the male trucks are described as liking dumping & puzzles & speed & jokes & dirt & being a bully (!) & noise & messes & playing (things you’d expect trucks — & boys? — to like doing), the female trucks like art & being good & ice cream & rescuing … Except Wrecker Rosie who loves wrecking & dislikes “having nothing to wreck”… Hmm… Rosie sounds like she might be a home-wrecker, too! (OK, that’s a stretch… but, come on! … men are never called “wreckers!”).

I have yet to see a positive association between girls & trucks in kids toys or books. Which is too bad, because — at least in this household — trucks rock!

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6 Comments

Filed under Feminism, Parenting

6 responses to “Follow up on feminist mothering

  1. On a slightly esoteric note, one should wonder why we feel the need to anthopomorphize trucks at all. T never seemed to care whether trucks had eyes, faces, or names — and in fact, he seemed pretty concerned about the aberrations when he did start to notice the human features. Maybe one reason toddlers are drawn to machines is because they are so alien, so other, so inhuman — they help us get in touch with that noisy, brute, nonverbal side of us.

  2. jane

    My daughter loves trucks too. I don’t think your son liking trucks is problematic. It would only be betraying the feminist cause if 1) you didn’t expose him to feminine toys; or 2) you wouldn’t let your daughter play with trucks.

    • Yes, I totally agree. My son is definitely exposed to plenty of feminine toys… At least we try… There’s not much competition with trucks these days! But he’s also exposed to awesome girls (two of whom dragged him through a whirlwind of a game of pirates this afternoon, during which I was forced to walk the plank, naturally!). Thanks for chiming in!

  3. Oh, Buddy is all about trucks and cars and trains and sports… it is funny how these things develop without any noticable external prompting (we’ve kept TV under close limits and tried to watch the books/clothes/toys we get him as well). By now we mostly follow his lead on what he likes.

    But the external gender stuff is beginning to creep in as well… he goes to a wonderful daycare that I would have said is mostly open around gender expression – but then this week when he was playing with putting a hair clip on me and I began to put it on him as well (which he used to love), he pulled away and said that was for girls. Sigh. I was too surprised (and tired that day) to really respond but now I know I need to be on the lookout.

    • Wow, it’s like these little doors start to close. Eventually they close, but it’s still must have been a bit unsettling to hear that response to something he normally likes. Sorry!

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