chapter  7
30 Pages

Barbies and Monster Trucks: Socialization and “Doing Gender”

Do kids naturally gravitate towards certain toys? Is it inevitable that boys play with trucks and toy guns, while girls dress like princesses and set up plastic tea sets to serve snacks to their dolls? Consider the following blog post by a White undergraduate, Amy. Here, she reflects on a shopping trip with her friend and her friend’s infant daughter, Zoe:

At two months, the three of us were shopping through the baby department of a Sears, when I saw this adorable stuffed hippo . . . I immediately picked up the hippo and displayed it to Zoe through her stroller, playfully rubbing its nose on her cheeks. She began to smile and blink with each little nuzzle of the hippo’s soft face. “Aww,” I proclaimed, “I’m going to buy it for her.” To which her mother replied, “But it’s blue. You should get her the pink elephant, instead.” I could not help but laugh as I asked her whether she actually believed her two-month-old had developed such a color preference. Not sensing my sarcastic tone, she announced, very proudly, that she knew without doubt that her daughter was a “girly girl”. “At two months?” I gasped. “How can you know at two months?” “A mother just knows,” she replied. Not a mother myself and therefore nowhere near an expert on rearing children, and very aware of how sensitive parents are to questions/criticism of their parenting methods, I refrained from pointing out how flawed I found her pre - conceived beliefs of her daughter to be, and how potentially hindering they could be as well. I simply said, “Well, I think Zoe likes the little blue hippo, I want to get it for her,” and off to the checkout counter I went . . . Zoe, now a little over three, is the quintessential “girly girl”. My friend was right. Her daughter would grow up to prefer dolls to trucks and pink frills to denim overalls.