Merry Christmas
A Christmas Message

By Jorge Figueiredo - December 25th, 2013

Not the worst thing in the world.

First of all, Merry Christmas! I know that this is not everyone’s holiday, but it is the one I subscribe to – regardless of what it might mean to everyone. So just consider this as my wish for you all to have a great holiday! I wrestled with the idea of today’s post – but watching some pretty ridiculous nonsense on Facebook got me riled up enough to write this.

The Holiday season is a time of giving, they say. What should be a fun and peaceful time of the year is, from my observations of those around me, filled with stress and frustration. One of the major contributors to this negativity is the gift-buying process – especially when choosing gifts for children. Usually, people fall into the trap of shopping for kids based on marketing that facilitates “easy” decision-making. Of course, the other word for this is “laziness”, and I’d like to tell you why.

We live in a society where genders seem to matter. That sounds like an obvious statement, because, on an elementary level they do – somewhat. I, however, am referring to marketing of children’s stuff. If you’re not sure of what I mean, I’m referring to the “pink for girls” and “blue for boys” bullshit that has existed for a long time, giving rise to the mentality that girls really shouldn’t play with dinky cars and boys shouldn’t play with Barbie dolls.

Your kid can play with this…

This year, more than any other year, I have been somewhat sensitive to gender-based marketing; the reason for this being the GoldieBlox toy line. Like most people, I initially thought that it was a neat idea: a building toy for girls. I even considered getting some – until I took a step back and examined the marketing behind the toy. First of all, everything is in a palette that is traditionally “for girls”. Secondly, the animated spokesperson is a white, skinny, blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl. So…we’re fighting stereotypes by using other stereotypes? Meanwhile, friends were proclaiming how awesome these toys were, due to the fact that they were “empowering” young girls. Um. How? I can guarantee you that some of the people that espoused the virtues of GoldiBlox were the same people that were, just a short while ago, condemning LEGO’s Friends line of toys for being too “girly” (when in fact, they are one of my favourite sets1).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that, in essence, GoldiBlox are an interesting idea. What bothers me is the fact that there have to be toys “for girls” and “for boys”. Why can’t there just be toys? The reason is because we buy into this crap. I hear a lot of people throw their hands up in the air and buy into the marketing. Even worse, I hear other people complaining about the marketing and then giving into the hype anyway. We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. If we took a step back and just examined what it is that we value about the toys that we buy, it would be a lot easier. I’m not saying that we have to deny our children of whatever it is that their little hearts desire. I’m just saying that we have to temper that “need” with some common sense.

…and this – at the same time! Yes!

The first step towards following through with this plan is to find out why your kids like the toys that they do and point out similarities with other toys. Seriously, how far away is an “action figure” from a “doll”? They are pretty much the same thing, when you get down to brass tacks. Does your daughter like Friends LEGO? Why not toss in a small Lord of the Rings LEGO kit as a supplement? Does your son like cars? Why not throw in a cool miniature sports car that might not be a “masculine” colour? I bet that you would be surprised at how flexible our kids are at accepting things that are outside of our comfort zone. Yeah. You read that correctly.

When Mrs. Thumbs and I were having a kiddo, we painted the room a neutral colour. We also didn’t tell anyone that we knew the gender of our soon-to-be-born baby during the baby shower. Why? Well, we didn’t want the influx of pink, pink, pink that we knew we would eventually have to deal with. Frankly, we also liked the colour, so our strategy worked out well for us. Since then, we have always made sure to keep something of a balance in our home, so that there are both “kinds” of toys around the house to play with. So far, I think it’s working out quite well. Sure, she’s all about princesses and pink at the moment – but it doesn’t take much for Superman, Gandalf, or Madara Uchiha to join the fray.

One of the regular cast members in our games.

There is always a risk of coming across as a know-it-all jackass when writing an article like this2. It’s not supposed to be a cure-all for what ails society; nor is it supposed to be some kind of preachy parenting guide. It’s supposed to get you, the reader, to think. I certainly don’t imagine myself to be a perfect person or parent; nor do I know how my kid is going to turn out in the end. I can only do my best. I just think that if we did what I indicated above, things might be a little different around the schoolyard. And kids who decide to be different because of what they play with, might not have to feel so awkward about it if we support them. Merry Christmas!

1 – Seriously. This set has toilet bowls and big-screen TVs in it. Who says this is for girls?
2 – I could seriously write for pages and pages about this.

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