Oh, for pity’s sake.
Yesterday my younger daughter–the 10-year-old–brought home an excellent report card and then endured a DPT booster shot without even a wince. We celebrated with her choice of fast food: McDonald’s. Of course she wanted a Happy Meal (we speculated during the drive about what might be included in an Unhappy Meal. Lima beans? Liver?). And when I ordered the Happy Meal at the drive-through window, they asked, “Boy or girl?”
When I was even younger than she is now, my grade school separated girls and boys in the lunchroom. I’m not sure why. Fear of cootie contagion? We were segregated on the playground too. The boys’ side had basketball hoops and monkey bars. The girls’ side had jump ropes. I used to sneak onto the boys’ side and, as a 1st grader, was andorgynous-looking enough to get away with it for a short time. When I was in 4th grade the school built a large new play structure and, unsure how to divvy that up and unable to afford two build two of the things, they gave up on segregation.
This was back in the mid 70s. I’d like to think we’ve made significant progress now that we’re well into a new millenium. Yet still fast food franchises make kids choose what someone has decided is a gender-appropriate toy. Here’s what my daughter ended up with yesterday:
Apparently girls want sparkly purple plastic tiaras (Barbie branded, no less). I think the boy toy was a plastic bug thing.
As a child, I would have had no interest in a purple tiara. You can see that my daughter hasn’t yet bothered to take it out of the plastic wrap, even though she is a big fan of purple. And I suppose Mayor McCheese wouldn’t have thrown us in jail with the Hamburglar if we’d ordered the boy toy instead. But that means that a girl who’d prefer a plastic bug–or a boy who’d prefer a tiara–would have to consciously reject gender norms and purposely identify with the opposite gender, just to get a toy she or he is interested in. That’s idiotic.
It’s not just McDonald’s. Walk to the toy section of Target an witness the pink-and-purple-sparkles-and-dolls aisle and the orange-green-red-black-action-figures-and-vehicles aisle.
Haven’t we reached a place as a society where we can reject ridiculous notions of what girls and boys “ought” to like? Where a boy can play with a doll or a tiara and a girl can play with a race car or a plastic bug without being made to feel as if there’s something wrong with them? Couldn’t the fast food restaurant just ask, “Tiara or bug?”