Toying with Social Conditionings

When you walk into a toy store to buy toys for the cute little monster in your house, the first thing you ask the shopkeeper is to show you toys according to the gender of the child you’re buying them for. For a girl, they usually show you Barbie sets where the Barbie is either standing next to a washing machine, or next to a fancy overpriced kitchen set, or maybe a huge iron, or a fake hair curler, or even a plastic baby. You might also be shown a jewelry-making box but maybe, the shopkeeper might show you a car. It’s a Barbie car, obviously, pink and glittery complete with a conventionally-beautiful Barbie attached in a way that makes it look like her hair is flying and she is having fun. However, it is a car and many of us would not choose it for a girl.

For a boy, they usually present you with sports equipment, complex board games or cars. Lots of cars. They are the male equivalent of Barbie dolls, after all. (Hot Wheels?)

Do you see a pattern here? The kind of gifts we give children? You are a very progressive parent who wants your baby to become a hard-working, well-earning individual of the society. You are providing her with the best education the city has to offer. You are taking her to different coaching and sports classes. Putting in that extra hour of work you hope that next year you can buy that bigger house. Then, she would have her own study. You would take her to a little more expensive vacation destination because she just finished her boards. What better way to reward her than with this relaxing trip? Great, you are a wonderful parent! You are the kind of person we need in every region because you, as a parent, have the power to mould the future of this country.

A lot of readers here might have sent their children to study outside the city. You have sent your son outside of the city and now he has to do his own laundry, make food or make sure he has a cook, clean his apartment/PG/Hostel or make sure it is cleaned. Did it come easily to them? Did they have homemade food every day? Did they get their room cleaned every day? Did he know how to handle the ‘Bai’ problems? I am sure he went out and enjoyed himself, I am sure he knew how to take his car around but did he stumble a few times while buying grocery because he just didn’t know what to buy?

Did your daughter require more than the average period to learn to drive if she did indeed decide to learn how to drive? Did travelling alone come as easy to her as it did to your son or was she a little more worried and hesitant? She took care of herself well though, didn’t she? The food, the cleaning, the living condition, you didn’t have to worry much about those, did you?

My dear parents, we are living in a time when all genders have to take care of themselves, both inside and outside their homes. No work is gendered anymore simply because this economy cannot afford to live on gendered institutions. Neither can the social condition of this country.

When we buy gendered toys for girls we are conditioning them to accept domestic work as their area of life and expertise. If your daughter decides to learn driving and she takes more time than her brother, there might be merciless teasing. Boys are conditioned to learn about and appreciate cars since they are toddlers. Friends, relatives and even you gift them these and shove the idea into their brain that a car is for boys. Therefore, a boy likes the car. So, for him, most of the time automobile is a thing they have been playing with for more than a decade but for your girl, it’s something that was never hers, to begin with. She is stepping out of the social conditioning of years and trying something that the world told it was never hers, to begin with. You son is struggling to take care of his house because even he is stepping away from the social conditioning he has been trained into to do a humane thing like taking care of himself.

Girls are not born loving Barbie and boys are not born loving cars. This love is shoved inside them by the toys we buy or the disdain we show when they chose toys that are for the other genders. How many of you had a mini heart attack when your son chose the Barbie instead of the shiny blue car?

And here I make a plea which has already been made to you by countless movies, books, and articles- Give them a choice. Don’t force the idea of what they should have because we already have the society for that. Allow your little boy on an aisle with decorated pink washing machines and iron boxes and your daughter on a blue aisle with cars of all shapes and size. Being able to take care of oneself is as important as being able to drive and do work outside the house. None of the toys is demeaning but if you are conditioning your children to love only one type of toy then in a way, you are ensuring their success in only one sphere of life and failures in other. Let’s not only overturn the economy but the entire nation. Let’s let them choose.

Edited by Rangoli Gupta

All images have been curated by Viraj Malani