Edit ModuleShow Tags

Parental Indiscretion: Everyday Equality


Published:

Illustration by Kristina Micotti

I remember my first Barbie doll. My parents had successfully fended off the ultimate “girly” toy’s arrival until I was about 7. We had bikes, Lincoln Logs, keyboards, a Merlin, and a Simon. But Barbie and her pink convertible weren’t welcome in our 1970s feminist Dream House, where you and me were Free to Be You and Me—unless one of us was a flaxen-haired layabout with a penchant for short skirts and stilettos.

Barbie wasn’t officially banned from our home. But something on the Santa list had to give, and poor Barbie never made the cut—until a relative who didn’t think anything of it gave me the doll for my birthday. I spent weeks braiding her hair and cutting up my own clothes to make dresses for her before trying my hand at hairdressing and turning Barbie punk rock.

Avoiding the typical gender-oriented toys was one of the many ways my parents tried to liberate my sisters and me from the mold girls get stuffed into. It was good for my sisters, one of whom was obsessed with Star Wars and the other with riding dirt bikes. But all I wanted was to dress up in my mom’s heels and pretend to be one of Charlie’s Angels.

How toys will shape our kids’ gender perceptions is something that seems constantly on parents’ minds. What message does Barbie’s unrealistic body shape send to girls? Why do boys get Legos to build with, while girls get dolls to nurture? Why do most stores segregate boys’ and girls’ toys in separate aisles?

Barbie and her pink convertible weren’t welcome in our 1970s feminist Dream House, where you and me were Free to Be You and Me—unless one of us was a flaxen-haired layabout with a penchant for short skirts and stilettos.

But I submit that no matter how many new body types Barbie gets or how long poor Aunt Mildred is forced to wander the “pink aisle,” playthings will have little impact on kids’ ultimate gender impressions compared with the stuff of daily life.

I used to attribute my feminist ideals to my mom’s work on discrimination lawsuits that secured equal pay and treatment for women in factories and coal mines. But it was just as attributable to my father’s willingness to clear the path for her career pursuits. We never got the sense that his career was more important than hers, or that she should shoulder more of the burden of caring for the kids and the home than my dad because she happened to be the mom.

So instead of policing the toybox, we make imparting gender equality a habit. Greg and I split housework and parenting duties evenly and pick up the slack for each other. There’s no “honey do” list; I can hang a towel rack and check the oil. We expect the same commitment from both kids in their academics, sports, and other activities. The kids understand that my job is as important as Greg’s, because they see our mutual respect for the other’s work demands.

I’m convinced that our daily habits are ultimately what will win the day, and I see it paying off in interesting ways. Last year, I asked Ben about a girl I saw him speaking to at an event, and teased him that she “sure is pretty...” His response? “She’s really smart and athletic and speaks another language fluently.”

I think he fancies her. Lucky girl.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Nnedi Okorafor on Her Newfound ‘Black Panther’ Fame

The Marvel Comics author brings a sci-fi perspective to Point Loma Nazarene University's Writer's Symposium by the Sea

On the Job: The Gondolier

Sean Jamieson balances it all at Coronado's The Gondola Company

Letter from the Editor: It’s a Date!

Editor in Chief Erin Meanley Glenny dishes on the February issue of San Diego Magazine
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. San Diego Magazine's Travel Awards 2019
    Cast your vote now for your favorite hotels, travel companies, and attractions
  2. Best Restaurants in San Diego: 2018
    San Diego's top restaurant owners, chefs, and bartenders name their favorite San Diego restaurants of 2018.
  3. The Best Soup Dumplings in San Diego
    My hunt for the best xiao long bao in the city unearthed two surprising winners
  4. Puesto's Next Top Taco
    Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize
  5. Behind the Brands 2019
  6. First Look: Realm of 52 Remedies
    Wildly imaginative speakeasy cements the arrival of design to San Diego’s Asian food haven
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Puesto's Next Top Taco

Submit your best taco recipe for the chance to win a grand prize

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Sony Consumer Electronics Innovator Builds a Future Where Robotics and Connected Devices Prevail

Robust music and pictures ecosystem bring bespoke experience to TV and audio

Live the Dream with the Dream House Raffle

A multimillion-dollar dream home, fabulous trips, luxury cars, and more could be yours
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags