Pip is quite ambitious for a four year old. Although the first time I asked what she might like to be when she’s a grown up, she answered, ‘A giraffe, Mummy’. Since then, she has wanted to be a chef with her own restaurant so that she could serve food that she’d invented, a paleontologist so that she could discover a new kind of dinosaur and an actress so that she could be on in a play on stage like Daddy – he’s done a bit of amateur dramatics including a pantomime she saw a DVD of (not the one where he played a singing German penis, as mentioned in his guest post, in case you were worried).
I like that she has big dreams. I also like that she seems almost unaware of any gender stereotypes surrounding career choice. But how can that be, I hear you ask, when her room is filled with Lego and Princess costumes and Disney dolls? Perhaps because children learn far more from their parents and the other people surrounding them than by what toys they’re given. Lego has recently come under criticism, most wonderfully, from a 7 year old little girl who wants more female figures who go on adventures and have fun. Although I would point out that Pip’s Lego safari set does have a female figure, surely it shows that this little girl has not developed her perception of girls can do from her toys? Pip also received a ‘cops and robbers’ Lego set for her last birthday. Yes, the officer’s body did come as a male figure but the beauty of Lego is that she can pop a female head on instead. The Police officer can be either gender, as can the criminal. Because surely it would just as damaging to put a man exclusively in the role of a criminal?
Which really brings me on to another point. I know a family with a little boy and a little girl. The little boy was so regularly playing with his big sister’s dolls that his Mum bought him his own, complete with it’s own pushchair. He was thrilled. His father was not. He felt that boys shouldn’t play with dolls because they’re ‘girls’ toys’. Did a toy manufacturer say that this boy shouldn’t have a doll? No, his father did.
We, as parents, have the opportunity to teach our children what boys and girls can do. You don’t like Barbie Dolls? Neither do I. They present a ridiculously distorted view of what women look like. But there are other options, such as the range of Lottie Dolls. These are girls (notice I said girls, with a girl’s proportions not an unrealistic woman’s) who stomp about in leaves, do karate and build robots.
I know a lot of parents, to an extent myself included, are concerned about the characters in some Disney films, where the Princess is helpless and needs rescuing by a handsome prince who she then marries despite barely knowing him and they live happily ever after. But Pip’s favourite Disney character, and doll, is Merida, a girl who rides a horse while shooting arrows with astounding precision and chooses not to get married out of obligation, as I might add, did Princess Jasmine in Aladdin. The world is not quite as full of female characters who think about looking pretty and nothing more as we sometimes imagine.
So let’s widen our children’s view of what they can do with their lives. We have the power to do that!