Twenty-three of you (a record I think) have sent in this clip of a little girl in a toy store critiquing the way the store is divided into pink princesses for girls and superheros for boys. It’s heartwarming and inspiring to see a child offer a critical analysis of the world she lives in, something that most commentators have observed.
What I, and some of you, noticed was that her own analysis and that of the adult taking the video (presumably her Dad) differ. And, believe it or not, her analysis is more correct than his.
Rightfully identifying what sociologists call “androcentrism,” she notes that girls like both girl and boy toys, but boys only like boy toys. She says:
…because girls want superheros and the boys want superheros and the girls want pink stuff and the girls… and the boys want… and the boys don’t want pink stuff… (gently shaking her head back and forth)
Her Dad corrects her, saying “Boys, well, boys want both…”
But her Dad is wrong. Boys in the U.S. are taught from a very early age to avoid everything associated with girls. Being called a “girl” is, in itself, an insult to boys. And the slurs “sissy” and “fag” are reserved for men who act feminine. So, no, boys (who have learned the rules of how to be a boy) generally reject anything girly. (Indeed, this was one of the themes of Jimmy Kimmel “bad present” prank played by parents on their kids.)
The girl’s Dad, however, articulates a symmetrical analysis. The idea is that there are gender stereotypes — ones that apply to boys and ones that apply to girls — and that both are inaccurate, unfair, and constraining. His mistake is in missing the asymmetrical value placed on masculinity and femininity. Boys and girls are simply not positioned equally in relationship to stereotypes of femininity and masculinity.
I have to admit, it’s pretty neat that she has picked up on this nuance so early. I wish most adults had her insight… and her passion:
Thanks to James, Julie G., Carly M., Brooklin N., BogganStoryTeller, Denise, Allie H., Yvonne R., Mark L., Karim S., Ann K., Lenny M., Isabeau P.-S., Daniel K., Marsha, Jay L., Shayna A.-S., Josh W., Kimberly L., Melissa, Colleen W., Simon G., and Brad for sending in the link!Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.