Sweeping aside stereotypes
From guest writer, Zemama. See her last article here.
If I wanted to impress people, I could tell them I decided to buy my son a toy broom to help develop his proprioceptive system, which as we all know (cough, cough) is critical for the ability to memorize abstract shapes required to learn to write.
But that would be a big, fat lie. I decided to buy my son his own broom when he picked up the kitchen brush and swung it round above his head so it nearly plopped into the dinner I was cooking on the stove. My little darling is a one-boy demolition crew and thought it was hilarious to stick the broom in the bin and then swing it up to the counters and table. Bonus points for anything knocked off either surface! So out I set on what seemed like a perfectly simply errand to purchase a toy broom and minimise the damage while encouraging a healthy interest in cleaning. (I am pretending that encouraging his toddler love of cleaning will pay off when he is older.)
Who knew that in this medium-sized provincial town, home to several shops selling toys, my quest for a toddler-sized broom would be so frustrating? I visited shop after shop, trawled through miles of toys, but never saw a single broom. Heaven help the junior-infants class of 2013 and their precious little proprioceptive systems. Finally, I stumbled into the news agent/ grocery/ toy shop that time forgot. If it were not for the signs advertising mobile credit, it could be 1980. And they had a broom…. a lone broom … a pink and purple broom. I saw red.
In this day and age, how can society still be so backward as to colour/ gender code toys? This was not my first brush with the insidious sexism of the world of toys. Before my son arrived, I had decided that no way would I bring my child to a toy store that labelled the aisles by gender. Yes, literally. Big signs specifying ‘boy’s toys’ and ‘girl’s toys’. Just typing that makes me want to lie down in a dark room. I huffed out of the shop determined not to participate in such idiotic gender indoctrination.
Further searches confirmed that this pink and purple specimen was, in fact, the only toy broom in town. Meanwhile, I was running out of places to hide the broom at home. I debated. I fumed. Then it dawned on me. I have a son. A boy. Getting a daughter this broom would be teaching her that cleaning was feminine, reinforcing ideas that would stunt her self-esteem. But I wasn’t getting it for a daughter. Heh, heh, heh.
My son is delighted with his pink broom. He proudly pounds it on the floor next to me when I sweep. He screams ‘no, no, no’ if the cat dares touch it. I am quietly hoping that pushing his little pink broom will develop his ability to see through plain old sexism as much as it helps him develop his ability to follow and track abstract shapes, helping him to write and eventually become a renowned brain surgeon, and maybe even an anti-sexist daddy. Today sweeping, tomorrow the laundry!
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