December 10, 2015
Last week was the first time my daughter’s new Cars Busy Dress went through the wash. I was in my sons’ room putting their laundry away. The Busy Dress was near the bottom of the basket underneath their clothes. I was about to walk out of their room to go to hers when my eye caught sight of the car. Instinctively, I reached in the basket and pulled the dress out, all ready to put it away in my sons’ dresser - because it was blue and had a car on it.
What the...what?? What just happened? I helped MAKE that dress, and I made the mistake of assuming that because it was blue with cars, it belonged in my sons’ room.
I have many friends who are now professors of psychology. Several of them work in areas that explore “programming” - how people are trained to react a certain way when they experience X. I had just revealed to myself how fully programmed I am to see blue and cars as “for boys” - even though I know, and understand, that neither blue nor cars have gender.
Why does this matter? Well, it matters for moments like the following:
Two days after the laundry incident, I was at Costco buying Pull-Ups for my daughter, who is about to start toilet training (thank goodness, because after 10 years of changing diapers, I’m done). Pull-Ups come in either a blue box with Cars and Jake and the Neverland Pirates, or in a pink box with Cinderella and Doc McStuffins.
Something deep down inside me instantly rebelled at having to make this (dumb, totally arbitrary) choice. Should I buy the pink box and declare to everyone, including myself, that my child is a girl? Or should I buy the blue box and defy gender stereotypes? My child does not care about any of the four depicted character franchises, so which franchise most reflects the values that I wish to instill in her?
My mental debate was interrupted by my two small children, both of whom were climbing up to the top of the Kleenex boxes pallet and about to tumble headfirst onto the hard concrete Costco warehouse floor. I heroically saved the kids, then turned and grabbed the pink box. After three boys who liked Cars, a different color would be nice, I reasoned.
But I couldn’t help wonder - did I just make this snap decision based on my (confirmed) programming?
How many other decisions do I make every day - what I buy, what they wear, how I raise my children - that are similarly affected?
It's a just a start, but de-genderfying vehicles, dinosaurs, and pirates can help to de-program all of us from assuming that blue things with cars are for boys. I might not be able to de-program myself completely, but I can help make sure my daughter and other little girls are never programmed in the first place.