At bedtime recently, my four-year-old son Kipton chose the book Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat. In the story, Pinkalicious, as the hero Pinkagirl, saves Halloween for all of Pinkville.
Before I started the book, I took a quick second to congratulate myself: Halloween was three months ago and this book is definitely aimed at six-year-old girls, but hey, I’m progressive. I’m supportive. Actually, I’m just an all-around great dad.
In the middle of the book, there’s a sticker page. Which is great, because there’s still a few things in our house without stickers on them. Kip stopped the story to ask if he could add another sticker to the back of his door.
“Oh, you don’t want to waste one of your sister’s stickers.”
“But this is my book, Daddy.”
Oops. So much for progressive, supportive, and great. I had just assumed it was my daughter’s book. Of course I had — it’s a story about Pinkalicious, aka Pinkagirl, going pink-or-treating in Pinkville. Pink, as you know, is for girls.
Once I thought about it, I could even remember when he had brought the book home and I smiled and shook my head: Sure, it’s fine — but it is kind of an unusual choice.
The problem with this kind of thinking is examined by Cali Owings’ excellent piece “Boxed in” in this issue. It details the damage that can be done when we put our children in confining gender boxes.
There’s not much time left before Kip is fully immersed in a culture where kids will “gender police” one another — and he’ll learn that Pinkalicious is not acceptable for him. He will also get the message that he shouldn’t be nurturing, caring, or sensitive.
We owe it to our children to be aware of the kind of gender expectations that are created for them. And we owe it to them to counter those pressures. Because even if we know that our daughters can one day be firefighters and our sons stay-at-home dads, that’s not always the message we send.
My wife and I are fortunate to have kids close in age and of different genders. It means that our house is filled with toys, costumes and media of all types.
If my son usually sticks to trucks and my daughter to dolls, that’s just fine. But if I see Kip running with a pink cape, I’m going to get one too and we’ll try to save the day. For the good of Pinkville.
Dana Croatt, Interim Editor