Editor’s Note: Lauren Harris is an industrial-organizational psychologist who consults in Atlanta, Georgia. She also writes the blog My Little Foodies, which documents foodie-related activities and dining spots for kids, with her two young children in tow. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
As the mother of a tomboyish 5-year-old, I am constantly declining offers on her behalf for the princess toothbrush at the dentist office after a cleaning or the generosity of friends to purchase a baby doll or princess costume for her birthday. Time spent outdoors spinning Beyblades or on the soccer field is where I see my spunky little girl smile the brightest.
I was shocked then when I saw the report that Hasbro had announced plans on Monday to unveil a black and silver Easy-Bake Oven. Thirteen-year-old McKenna Pope of New Jersey launched a Change.org petition on behalf of her 4-year-old brother to change the gender-typed pink and purple color of the Easy-Bake Oven to “non-gender specific” colors. With more than 40,000 signatures and the backing of celebrity chefs including Bobby Flay and Kevin Gillespie, Hasbro conceded. Welcome to 2012 -- or almost 2013 -- where we’re experiencing a welcome reversal of an age-old story.
Expecting a girl? Friends and family shower you with everything pink and purple they can find. Boy? Blues and greens of course. From the day your precious child pops out of the womb, they are socialized by their parents, peers, teachers, corporations and the media, among others, to act like their sex. Traditionally, girls are expected to be more nurturing. Boys, athletic and more domineering.
For better or worse, gender typing has implications throughout one’s life. Pay discrepancies in the workplace often exist because men are more likely to negotiate salary in their first job as they are often the ones socialized to deal with money.
The reality is that all of us, from the second we are born, psychologically learn to identify ourselves and others as male or female. It is our gender that plays a large part of our self-concept and how we operate in the world. And while sex and gender are highly correlated, researchers have well proven that masculinity and femininity lie on a continuum. We all have characteristics that are stereotypically opposite of our assigned sex at birth.
I am certainly grateful for this as I relish in the fact that I have such a nurturing and communicative husband. It is all extremely evident as I learn about my children’s own preferences and behaviors.
Certainly, if there is anything that transcends gender roles, it's food. I am pretty sure everyone eats. I am pretty sure most enjoy the delicious offerings that typically emerge from Easy-Bake Ovens. Cookies? Cakes? This has been well-validated by my 20-month-son who just this week uttered his first imperative: “Eat cake!”
I was surprised when a friend confided her husband’s reservation that she buy a play kitchen for her son for Christmas. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, some of the best chefs in the world are men.
One of the most important things we can do as families is bring our children, both girls AND boys, into the kitchen. Not only is it a fantastic and fun time, but it teaches them lifelong skills that everyone should foster in their children: communication, collaboration, persistence and dealing with a little failure when the cake comes out burnt.