Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Isn't That Sexist?

Dear Delilah,

Yesterday when your Grandmother (my mother) came over to spend the afternoon with you while I went to work, I told her about the play kitchen that your father and I are giving you for your upcoming birthday. (Side note: slow it down with the growing up, would ya?) I was taken aback when she asked "Isn't that sexist?"

It's no secret that I'm a feminist. I was recently talking to a friend about how becoming the mother of a daughter has made me "an even more hardcore feminist". She looked surprised, and we both had a laugh when she said she couldn't imagine me being a more hardcore feminist than I already was. We talked about the messages that women and girls are bombarded with all day, every day about what it means to be female. We talked about the very specific ways girls are marketed to. I can hardly sit and enjoy a 30 minute long TV program anymore, because I can't help but to point out all of the sexist remarks, sexualization and objectification of women, and misogyny; and that's just during the commercial breaks!

That said, when your grandma asked me that (valid, I realize) question, I was a little offended at first. How could she accuse me of such hypocrisy? The thing is, the nuances of sexism and feminism are complicated. It's a challenge to step out of the box of either-or thinking and work to get into the nitty-gritty. Either giving a girl a kitchen is sexist or it's not, right?

I say: Wrong. Giving a child a play kitchen is not, in and of itself, a sexist act. Giving a child a kitchen because the child has a vagina (alternately, denying a child a play kitchen because the child has a penis) is sexist. Giving children messages that kitchens and cooking are for girls only is sexist. Referring to a play kitchen as a "girl's toy" is sexist.

Our rationale for giving you a play kitchen is not "Well, she's a girl, she had better get used to cooking!" Rather, we feel it's important for children to be in touch with where their food comes from. As you grow, you will become more involved in helping both your mother and your father in the kitchen, not because you're a girl, but because one day, chances are you'll need to know how to prepare meals. Not for a man, but for yourself.

At the Farmer's Market
Ready to work in the garden!
We are very conscious of where our food comes from, and part of the process of getting food from the farm into our bellies is cooking it. This is why we not only include you in the kitchen, but we take you to the farmer's market to meet the people who grow the food we eat, and we include you as much as possible in our own garden. Apart from that, you have fun in the kitchen! You love taking food out of the cupboard, pouring, stirring, and playing with measuring cups and dishes. A play kitchen will allow you a safe space to be as creative with food as you like!

Grandma seemed doubtful when I said that we'd give a boy a play kitchen, just as we are giving you one. She said "No, you'd probably get him a play mechanic shop." When I was recounting the conversation with your father later, not only did he agree that we'd give a boy a kitchen, but in regards to the play mechanic shop, he (who is far more useful in the kitchen than under a hood himself) said "Do they make those? We should get one for Delilah!" Indeed, we should. Maybe then you could teach your father a thing or two about being car-savvy!

In the end, I know that your Grandma was neither trying to offend me nor accuse me of hypocrisy. She prompted me to think a bit more deeply about my feelings on giving you "girl toys". (Simply put, I don't view a kitchen as a "girl toy"!) Her question was valid. Just as valid as a feminist giving her daughter a play kitchen. Just don't beat it up too badly, it needs to withstand the test of time, just in case you have a brother some day!



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  1. You can make a kitchen yourself for a fraction of the cost!!!


    And I had all the same feminist reservations. :)

  2. C has a play kitchen and he loves it :P He has a toolbench next to Daddy's in the garage, and loves that too.


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