It seems to me that there are two issues with toys for boys, in opposite directions. The overly militarised aggressive toys – I’ll leave them for another post – and the strong societal disapprobation for boys having girls’ toys. That’s the one I have the most trouble with.
Both Chatterboy and Hungryboy, in their preschool years, went through a phase of loving the colour pink. Hungry Boy went to his first dress up party with fairy wings (and a santa hat). Chatterboy’s first chapter books were the potboiler Rainbow Magic series. Hungryboy, with great excitement has just been permitted to buy one of them for his very own, after he proved to me he could read the first page. He’s also been campaigning for his very own Barbie, although he thinks that Barbie is a synonym for a doll (which, like all the junky toys he wants, I’ve told him he can have if he uses his own pocket money – so far he doesn’t want it that much).
But we struggle, as parents, with how much to let them reveal this preference to the outside world. We’ve seen, in action, parents of their friends (boys and girls) casually comment about how girly fairies, and the colour pink, and dolls are, and how inconceivable it might be that our boys might actually want toys like that. That means their children will have imbibed that attitude. Both of us, at different times of our education, were the subject of some degree of bullying, and we’d really rather our boys got through their schooling without being bullied.
So we subtly discourage them from taking too much fairy stuff into school for show and tell, and the only item of clothing that’s pink that they own is Chatterboy’s swimming goggles (which we bought after Chatterboy nearly had a tantrum at the thought of blue).
But if people like us keep our boys’ feminine side hidden from the world, it sends them a message about society’s expectations nearly as strong as the one they’ll get from the bullies at school. And the world will change much more slowly so that the next generation of boys will still be keeping their fairies at home.