Friday, November 27, 2015

Why Gender-Stereotyped Toys Are Bad

Hey, happy Black Friday! If you're out and about looking for great deals today, may the odds be ever in your favor.

I forgot to share the following post during the Internet blitzkrieg over Target's decision to remove gender-specific decor from their toy section. It comes from research I completed for a gargantuan college essay on gender stereotypes a few years ago. Keep it in mind as you start (or finish) your Christmas shopping this year. :)


Gender-stereotyped children's toys are more prevalent today than they have ever been before. The primary reason for this is money (because it's always about the money). You can't just buy toys; you have to buy a Barbie for Sally and an action figure for Bobby. Twice the shopping, twice the cash, and there's still a 99.9 percent chance they'll end up playing with fighting over the boxes the toys came in.

The reason this is a problem (besides the fact it lines the already-overflowing pocketbooks of corrupt corporations) is NOT because of the only thing anyone ever seems to think about these days (hint: it starts with an 's' and ends with 'x'). It's NOT about transgenderism or inclusiveness or the "gay agenda" or the breakdown of America's values. There are NO studies linking the types of toys children play with to their sexuality choices later in life, and people who say so (on both sides) are not only drinking the Koolaid of their media outlet of choice, they're injecting something as innocent as child's play with scuzzy undertones.

The reason splitting children's toys up according to traditional gender roles is bullshit is two-fold. First, society has changed dramatically over the past few decades. There are now stay-at-home dads and engineer moms and this is a good thing. Teaching and reinforcing 'traditional' gender roles with toys because we're trying to control our child's future is futile and irresponsible. We are supposed to be preparing them for the world they'll be living in, not clinging to the past because we're afraid or unfairly biased.

Second, children learn primarily through play. Cutting out half of the "tools" of their trade does nothing but destroy learning opportunities and stunt development. Art, science, dramatic play/dress up stuff, sports equipment - these things are all marketed to specific genders and there is no good reason for it.

Do you want your son to be a good dad? Let him play with dolls. Does your daughter love to build? By all means, get her some Legos (not just the pink and purple ones).

Let your sons make friendship bracelets. Let your daughters blow stuff up with chemistry sets. Let your kids be kids. It's not going to hurt them. In fact, they'll probably thank you for it.


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Saturday, November 21, 2015

I can't do life today but I still win.

PMDD has officially made its postnatal appearance. How can I tell? I've been crying for two days. The house is a disaster. Three of my children are currently naked, one is poopy, and all of them are hungry. They've been running around like banshees (further) destroying the house and watching a ton of TV while I sink into the black hole of the Internet. I'm not being a good mom. If I didn't feel numb, I would feel guilty. And tired. So tired. Tired of crying. Tired of trying to keep it all together. Tired of questioning my worth. Tired of being terrified (and terrifying.)

It's tough to distinguish the line where normal mom exhaustion ends and The Other starts because momming is freaking HARD and often just plain shitty. The only reason I know my life meter is still hovering around "okay" is because I'm not tired of living. I'm still doing this life thing, even if I'm doing it rather poorly and even if I can't seem to find my ability to care right now.

My spirit animal
In the fight against depression, if you're breathing, you're winning.

Inhale, exhale
Win, win, win!
Something, something
Safety pin!

Holy shitskies, do depressed people make awful cheerleaders.

The point: you got this. Even if you do nothing but sit on your butt and binge watch Netflix or read 27,452 tweets today, you're still winning.

Keep winning, peeps. And, as always, if you ever feel like you don't want to do it anymore, please say something. No fear. No shame.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Do the Mashed Potato

My mom took me to see Mean Girls in theaters when it came out in 2004. "This, THIS," she said, "is what high school is really like." As a 13 year old homeschooler, I believed her, but I didn't really believe her, you know? (It would be the first of many life lessons on the topic of "Your Mother Was Right & You Should Have Listened, You Buffoon!")

Hence, it took quite a while for me to find out "Plastics" are a real phenomenon. I didn't meet one in real life until I was almost 16. I remember taking it all in - perfect hair, trendy clothes (spaghetti straps! the HORROR!), massive amounts of glittery sparkly makeup - and being struck with the overwhelming feeling that I was somehow less than her. I felt like I had missed out on something realllllly important somewhere - some sort of magical "done girl" knowledge my strict Christian upbringing had omitted in favor of memorizing Bible verses and obsessing over modesty.

Seriously, though, HOW?

I couldn't understand it. And truthfully, I still don't really get it. I do know it requires a ton of energy (seriously, huge kudos to ladies who have the patience to apply false eyelashes every damn day), lots of money, lots of narcissism, and LOTS of Instagram filters.

Unfortunately, it took me almost five years to realize just how much of a process it is, which means I wasted almost five years of my life being a horrible narcissistic obsessive idiot, filled to the brim with self hate and on a desperate crusade to "level up" my appearance. (Sans money. And surgeons.)

If I could go back in time, I'd slap myself.

I might have never figured it out if not for motherhood, that beautiful, amazing stage of life when you only have time to shower once every three days (maybe), your makeup goes unused for so long it turns the wrong color, and heels are a terrible idea because you can't catch a fleeing toddler without breaking an ankle. Thankfully, kids don't give a shit how you look as long as you feed them regularly.

It was one of the best things about becoming a mom - finally being forced to give up my impossible, stupid (SO. STUPID.) obsession with appearance. Unfortunately, the self esteem problem at the center of the mess didn't magically disappear along with it. Boo.

I'm working on it, and I know there's a balance between looking like I'm a zombie extra for the Walking Dead (#currentlifegoal) and spending three hours on my hair every day. There's just a lot more bumps on the road to self acceptance than I anticipated. I thought once I realized perfection was A) impossible and B) a giant scam perpetuated by the multi-billion dollar media/cosmetics/plastic surgery industries, I'd magically feel all better. But every time someone tells me I look OMGsoexhausted! or starts talking about how kids "ruined their bodies" and all the work they've had done to "fix it", I feel exactly like the sad little 15-year-old kid who bought into the lie in the first place.

Luckily, I have an excellent reason to figure it out because I am determined not to pass this mindset along to the littles. I don't want them to think appearance is THE THING. I want them to know that taking care of yourself is important, but also that devoting massive amounts of time, money and energy to your external appearance is pointless. Being able to accept yourself, however, is priceless. Maybe in my quest to teach them, I'll finally be able to learn it, too. 

So I've made a resolution. The next time a perfectly coiffed, tarantula eyelashed, perky boobed, fit-to-impress-the-hell-out-of-some-lettuce Plastic tottles by me at the grocery store and remarks about my overly full hands or the spit up in my hair, I'm just going to think of her as a reminder. 

A very heavily perfumed reminder.

She's beautiful, and so am I, and so are you.

Just ignore the mashed potato toddler hand prints on my butt, mmkay?

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