As my faithful readers know, I have a real issue with gender pigeon-holing. A few weeks ago, I took my toddler daughters to the museum. They had a blast, running from exhibit to exhibit, peering up at their favorite animals and dinosaurs in awe. It was one of my favorite days as a parent thus far: I loved their enthusiasm so much as their exclamations echoed through the vast halls: “Oh my gosh, look at that Polar Bear!” “It’s a Walrus!” “Hello baby squirrel!” After a long and wonderful day, as we were exiting through the gift shop (always a mistake, but that’s how they get you), I saw this single bank of shelves:
Now, look, I’ve never been on safari, but in all my travels I’ve never seen or heard of a pink zebra. They must be super-rare. If you look closely at these rows of toys, it is not easy to even identify what some of them are supposed to be. Sure, there’s a zebra, a dinosaur, a hippo (I think). Only when you read the tag do you know that the puffy pink (?) shelf inhabitants are foxes. But the bottom shelf – what are those? Leopard spots, monkey face, enormous anime eyes and eyelashes (eyelashes! Why? To make this animal appear sexier?). What the fuck species is this supposed to be? The makers must think girls don’t care, and their parents will buy this mystery animal regardless.
These are clearly Animals For Girls because it says so right on the tag. Well, kind of. These animals are for “Girlz.” (So the makers think girls can’t spell either.)
I stood there pondering whose hooves are the glitteriest of the animal kingdom, and thinking of where pink occurs naturally (flamingos, pigs, some exotic fish and birds). The Pink Panther wasn’t just for girls, but if it were made today, it would be. Boys’ toys don’t get this treatment. They’re not all blue or neon, nor are animals made less real in strange ways just to appeal to them.
Just then my older daughter approached with a pink animal from a different part of the store, in her arms.
“Can I get this?” she asked.
I knelt down. “What is it?”
“It’s a seal,” she said.
“A pink seal?” I asked gently. “Are seals pink?”
“No, they’re gray!” my daughter said, as if I were crazy for suggesting such a notion. She put the pink one back and grabbed a grey seal. I bought that one for her.