Every year, the Tarot Guild I belong to buys Christmas presents for a few children in the Guardian Ad Litem program here in Alachua County. It's a lot of fun, because we get to buy presents for kids using guild money. I'm generally considered to be the resident expert, seeing as how I spend a significant chunk of my time playing with toys. Toys are awesome.
The Guardian Ad Litem program doesn't tell us very much about the children we're shopping for, though. We know race, sex and age and that is all. Which puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to reinforce gender stereotypes. Boys are easy. There are tons of amazingly cool toys marketed towards little boys out there. However if I want a random girl to like the toys she is getting for Christmas, strictly speaking in terms of probability, I should purchase the toys that are marketed to her gender. And I hate it. I hate passing up the erector sets and model-building kits and transformers in favor of dolls and jewelry and purses. Girly toys suck.
Don't get me wrong, I veto anything ridiculously girly that we some across while shopping. I have never purchased a Bratz Doll or Suzy Homemaker playset or makeup kit for any of our anonymous girls. I try to steer towards dinosaurs or gender-neutral toys like games, arts and crafts or scientific playsets. But that doesn't always work, especially when shopping for teenagers.
See, when I was a kid I absolutely hated being told that 'this toy isn't for you' because I was a girl. I hated that girl's Happy Meals came with stupid Barbie's and Hello Kitty's while the boys got Transformers and racecars. I hated that my brother got all of the cool toys that I wanted, while people kept buying me diaries and purses and pink plastic castles. The thought that I might be doing that to another little Me out there makes me sad.
But I have no way of knowing! Practically speaking, most little girls want stereotypical little girl things. Whether that is because they are told that is what they should want or because girls genuinely like girly things is another debate. So I have to do my best to work within the stereotypes. I try to find things that girls would like, but that aren't completely pink and glittery and useless. But it is hard to walk past all of the neat toys that are designed for boys when I'm shopping for the little girls on our list, knowing that no one will ever think to buy those toys for them even if that was what they really wanted.