This is a bit off the beaten path of what I usually post here. I thought it might be interesting to add perspective to a recent blog post by Jason Thibeault.
I was shopping waiting in line at the checkout cashier of Toys R Us. This was many years ago, so I do not even know whether that particular store (in Melrose Park, IL) still exists.
Not far from the cashier lines, there was a large basket of balloons. And, at that basket there was a boy at around 4 years of age with a young woman whom I presumed to be his mother. I probably would not have noticed, except that the boy was beginning a tantrum. He pointed to a balloon.
“I want that one,” he yelled.
“You can’t have that one,” said his mother. “You can have this one (and she pointed to a different balloon).”
“No, I want that one,” yelled the boy.
“Pink balloons are for girls,” said the mother. “I’ll buy you a blue balloon.”
The boy’s tantrum got worse, as he continued to insist that he wanted the pink balloon.
“You can have a blue balloon. You can have a green balloon. You can have a red balloon. You cannot have a pink balloon,” said the mother.
Fortunately, our waiting line reached the cashier where I could pay for the items I was purchasing, and leave the store. So I don’t know how that eventually turned out. But I doubt that it turned out well.
I would never have considered insisting on balloon colors for my children. The mother’s reaction seemed way over the top.
I guess training for gender roles begins early, and parents are some of those who promote such roles.
Note: according to some linguists, I should have titled this post “sex roles.” They tell me that “gender” is a grammatical classification. But then other linguists tell me that words get their meaning from the way we use them, in which case my title seems correct.