I watched as the little girl picked her brother’s toy car and played with it. She had his toy gun on one hand and his toy truck on the other.
Her mum was busy, she wasn’t looking.
Soon enough the mother gave them her undivided attention, she was furious at the sight of her daughter. She grabbed the toys off her, threw them at her brother and gave her a good spanking.
“I have told you many times that girls play with dolls not guns and cars. Can you not see your sister? She is braiding her dolls hair but as little as you are, you want to play with guns and trains.”
She was three years old.
She folded her arms across her face and she cried. She followed her brother and he held her hand.
I could not just watch and do nothing.
“She loves playing with toys designated to boys huh?”
“You have no idea, it annoys me. I try to explain to her that those toys are for boys and that she is a girl but she wouldn’t stop.”
“Why do you want her to stop?”
She looked at me like she had just seen a yellow elephant.
“Did your mother allow you play with boys’ toys?”
“No, but that was because I didn’t want to.”
“Yes, because as a girl you should play with dolls, that is why” she said almost sounding satisfied with her answers even though she hadn’t really answered my question.
“Let me explain something to you” I said.
“If she wants to play with trains and cars and guns, you let her. She is so little and innocent, her mind does not yet know why she is restricted to playing with just dolls, even though they don’t intrigue her as much as the fast cars and trains and the adrenaline rush of holding a gun. You see ma’am, you and I as kids, we were taught how to think, speak and comport ourselves in public which is all good until we start living a lie. Start ‘settling’ and being who we are not. We were taught that pink is for a girl and blue is for a boy with no explanation. So what if I hate pink and love blue? Where does that leave me? Our parents went with the flow, just like their parents before them.
They tell us to play with dolls, and then grow up, birth our babies and play with real life dolls. We are taught that we are pretty damsels in distress waiting to be rescued, we are princesses waiting for our prince charming, that he is coming on a white horse with his shinning armour to rescue us so they call us ‘little princess’. It is all cute to call your little girl ‘princess’ until she spends her whole life waiting for a prince to complete her kingdom. But our generation can change that. We can set our paths straight, we’ll call our little girls ‘heroines’ and ‘angels’, we’ll let them have the toy they choose. If they love car races, we’ll support them. We’ll let them know that it is okay to be a pilot, an engineer, a carpenter, an architect, a painter; that there is no such thing as a man’s job. That if she loves it, she should go for it. That she can work and save up and buy the Prado jeep she wants, that it is not the responsibility of her knight in shinning armour.
We can let our kids choose the colours they love and not relate it to gender. That colour is just what it is: COLOUR! That when we feel uncomfortable we’ll rather choose neutral colours: yellow, purple, grey, pastels, white or black.
So, when she plays with her brother’s gun, let her know that you will be just proud should she decide to fight for the freedom of her country in the military. Let her know that it is okay to express herself even if it does not go with the norms of society because quite honestly, society has lied to us for so long. You are lucky you have such a resilient girl, she knows what she wants and is bent on getting it.
So many things society expects us to swallow hook line and sinker, and ask no questions at all. Teach her to question the ideals she does not understand, it is okay to do that; and for the questions without an answer or at least a tangible one, she should be free to make her own choices.
Teach her all this, so that you can save her from the cinderella complex, a situation most find themselves in: seeking a man’s approval. The cinderella complex, when after playing with dolls, marrying our knights and birthing real life dolls, we begin to seek a man’s approval to complete us. We seek to please him and do his bidding. Teach her that her approval is more important.
Lastly, understand that she and her sister are two different individuals, even though made of same genetic composition, their likes and dislikes, hopes and aspirations, their interests and lack thereof, may be opposite. Show her that she can be unapologetically herself. That the original version is always better than the counterfeit.”
She looks at me, teary eyed and she nods… silence
“Why are girls pink and boys blue?”
“I don’t know!”