The Impulse Buy and the Gender Gap

The other day I took the kids into a kid's consignment store, and there was a HUGE dollhouse for sale. As soon as we walked in the door, India spottted this thing and ran straight for it. She was in heaven! She loved it, and started playing with it immediately. It was priced really well, and to be honest, I was kind of excited too. So I pointed it out to Jafta, who took one look and said, "no thanks". He paid it no attention and started playing with a train set display.

But I felt like I just had to get this dollhouse. It was so cheap, furniture included, and I've been wanting to get one for a while but the consignment shopped claimed that dollhouses went fast. I knew it would be a hard sell with Mark, but I also knew that if I didn't buy it now, it would be gone when I came back. So I followed my impulse and got it.

When we got it home, both kids started playing with it, but I just had to laugh at their different scripts. Jafta immediately ran to his room and brought out Shrek, Superman, and Batman. They were involved in some sort of covert operation in the house. It was like the plot of a Harrison Ford movie. (not that he has ever seen a Harrison Ford movie). There were goood guys, cops, and superheroes. There was a fire, and a rescue, and some explosions, and lots and lots of sound effects.

India, on the other hand, got busy with some domestic duties. She put the baby to bed. She changed the baby's diaper. She made the baby go potty, and gave it a bath. She took that baby for a walk in the stroller. And then she put the baby back to bed.

I have tried so hard not to indoctrinate my kids with gender roles. They have always had equal toys and equal treatment. I gave Jafta dolls and strollers as a baby, but he ignored them. I gave India cars and trucks - equally neglected. But if this dollhouse scene wasn't the clearest example of gender roles . . . WOW! So much for my post-modern, gender-neutral parenting approach.


  1. I've also tried to be careful re: the gender branding. Have you ever noticed that whenever you look in catalogs and whatnot, the girl stuff is so, well, "girly"?
    I was utterly saddened on the day that my daughter told me that she wanted a princess dress. Up until then she was reliably tomboyish, with dinosaurs, basketballs, trains and blocks making up the bulk of her go-to toys.
    Meanwhile, my son - though he is just 16 months old, is completely uninterested in anything that doesn't make a satisfying thunk when thrown across the room. *sigh*

  2. I've tried really hard to let my children choose what they want to play with. Deklan, my oldest has no qualms playing BRATZ with Piper, and well, the neighbor girl seems to have caught his interest lately so perhaps thats why...
    Piper has the luxury of being the only girl sandwiched between two boys. She tries really hard to play with them and I think the funniest thing I ever heard them play was when Piper came dancing down the stairs.
    "Deklan, do you want to play soldier and ballerina?" She asked sweetly.
    "Sure!" Deklan was quick to agree.
    Apparently, this was a game to which they were both familiar.
    I'm not sure how the game actually worked. It was a lot of Piper dancing around in what appeared to be a war zone with Kai and Deklan shooting at each other across the living room. (Not that I condone guns, my sons were using Lego, and fingers... as artillery)

  3. It really blows my mind how much of this is innate. Miles starting shooting and killing and fighting the bad guys without ever being exposed to these ideas. I was a bit shocked. Because I was pretty sure he would be the only boy to ever just never ever pretend to kill anything or anyone. Yeah right. I've learned to relax about it a bit and keep an open dialogue about the reality of this kind of play. I don't know if that makes sense. I'm rambling again...

  4. I've never really believed that we force gender roles on our kids. Like Heather said, so much of it is inate. I watched my daughter carry around a shampoo bottle as her baby for a week, when we were away from home without a doll. And every time someone adds a baby to the family, you cannot pry all my nieces away from the new baby... my nephews couldn't care less!
    My son so far likes to throw things and bang on them!

  5. The giraffe, dinosaur, and some man from a happy meal keep kicking my daughter's Barbie out of her house!

    I guess that is how it goes!

  6. My friend had her daughter say about a broken item, "I'll wait until daddy can fix it". She was inwardly furious. She is a very capable home remodeler. She immediately went and bought an assortment of sport balls then insisted on throwing around the football w/her daughter. When the phone rang, she went in for a minute, then returned to find that her daughter had swaddled the football and was pushing it in the stroller!

  7. I think it's important to let our children choose their interests for themselves rather than forcing based on gender.

    But those gender stereotypes didn't appear out of the air exactly. Each gender does have its tendencies, methinks.

  8. I wrote my BSc (Hons) dissertation on gender inequalities in IT. So, I could rant on and on, but its good that some of us moms don't discriminate and if our boy wants a pink teddy, let him. Believe it or not, a lot of people are clueless.

    My interest is - how much was the doll house then? - I love to hear about bargains.


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