Barbie vs Spiderman or I Hate Gender Stereotyping

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We see it everywhere in various forms, so much so that I have got rather immune to it. I am generally very thick-skinned, so it has been very easy for me to brush away such stuff as mere annoyances…and that is because I am now old enough, and confident enough to know that there are a lot of so-called “boy” traits and “girl” traits within me, and they all co-exist together quite happily…thank you.

But for young people, such stuff can be genuinely puzzling and sometimes pretty hurtful.

Like most girls, the snubnose does like her Barbie, but she also likes Spiderman…and when she saw a pair of Spiderman crocs in Sapphire – a famous toy store in Bangalore, of course she wanted a pair. And since she’s running out of shoes her size, we got her what she wanted.

Imagine the snubnose’s puzzlement when her friends at the playground taunted her for wearing boy’s shoes. Now, let’s get this straight. These are not your regular shoes, they are “crocs”, which are essentially unisex. Sure, the colors on the shoes were red and black…but should that mean anything other than that she likes Spiderman and thinks he’s cool? She tried to make a point that both boys and girls can wear these shoes, but struggled to get the logic right, and ended up feeling very hurt.

Here is a shot of her shoes. Would you really label them boy shoes?

Her controversial new shoes

Her controversial new shoes

This is a very minor incident. But our childhoods are shaped by such minor incidents. I was reminded of my childhood when I was laughed at by other girls because I had short hair – a “boy” cut. When they refused to play with me, I ended up making friends with the boys, who were somewhat more welcoming…probably because of my willingness to be a fielder during cricket matches :). The momentary hurt over the girls’ rejection was soon forgotten when I realized I much preferred playing outdoors (frisbee, shuttle, football, cricket), than playing with dolls, kitchen cutlery, and such. Maybe that group of girls recognized something within me that I did not realize at the time…I wanted to be with them and like them, but the reality (that I did not acknowledge then) was that I was interested in other stuff and just did not have much in common with them. Kids seem to have an instinct for these kind of things.

Of course later, when I joined an all-girl’s school,this issue went out of the window. There were all kinds of girls there – girly, sporty, boyish, badass, and soon I found my little group of girl friends and things went well…or at least till puberty, when a whole other related set of issues cropped up. But that’s another blog post or two.

Anyway, back to the snubnose’s current predicament. I wanted to see how she would react to the issue. I was pleasantly surprised when next day she again decided to wear the Spiderman crocs to school. I asked her if she was sure, and reminded her of what had happened the previous day. She replied, “Mama, they don’t know. This is for both boys and girls”.

It took all my will power not to applaud!

  • She is a smart girl and learning the ways of this cruel world, how to make her own. I am glad she said others don’t know, she does. I admire her self confidence πŸ™‚
    Don’t even get me on gender stereotyping, it gets on my nerves when I go buying shoes for the little one. I don’t even like branded ones like superman, ben10, barbie, etc. But to my dismay I could not find a single set of shoes which did not have any character on it. I ended up buying a SpiderMan one which had the most subtle branding.

  • Shruti

    I am happy India won World Cup 2011 but…..

    Gender bias comes in such heinous and underrated forms that you cant even protest against it at times!

    Eg: A quiz in on cricket at a University cultural event.
    Though apparantly it shows no gender bias, but if one scrutinizes it, in India, girls dont generally play or keep tabs on cricket, therefore such a quiz meant for the entire university population renders it an all-male affair! How do you protest against that without being called a spoilsport or a crazy nut?!

    Sucks! πŸ™

  • Ava

    My heart goes out to her. Childhood can be so cruel at times. One moment we are in the warm embrace of our home, and other we are amongst other children, who will judge and speak and be mean.

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  • Prema

    Those spiderman shoes look amazing and she’s absolute right when she says that they are meant for both boys and girls. Bravo, Snubnose go on wear them and to hell with the world!

  • Snubnose is a very smart girl! See, she is already figuring it out… and I am sure she will embrace her individuality and take after you πŸ™‚

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  • Good for the snubnose! And yeah, I wouldn’t call those boy shoes at all. I’m glad she’s still enjoying wearing them–you’re right, minor incidents like that can make a big difference when you’re that age. :/

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