Your Feminist Wallet

 The same issue arises any time there is gift giving event: gender stereotypes reek from presents for young kids.

While I realize there a million websites out there, I took the most popular site I could find when I googled, "Top gifts for boys," and "Top gifts for girls."  Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, there are no relevent hits for "gifts for transgendered youth," or similar phrase when trying to buy either one of two things: 1) a non-gender biased gift for youth (someone you don't know personally and want to give in a blind gift exchange) or 2) a non-gender biased gift for a transgendered youth.

For girls, some of the top ten included pink items that promote cooking (a nice toy kitchen), jewelry to adorn themselves, a text sender, and even a clickable magic jewelry box to hold all of her precious e-gems.

For boys,we have robots, martian makers, and the Nintendo Wii.  All in nice rustic colors, too.

Now, there's nothing wrong with kids enjoying their toys, but after extensive online (and window) shopping, I can't help but wonder about the "normal" gifts we give that solidify the pink girl and blue boy.  What are the alternatives?  Any suggestions for a feminist shopper who wants to disengage from mainstream gift giving and find gifts for children that do not reinforce any color coding and just appeal to the wonderful imagination and wild energy of all children?

And if you feel like scaring yourself, as I just did, take a look at these numbers that show how much money is spent on marketing toys (from McDonald's to Disney) to children which, undoubtedly, affects their perspective on gender and development.

by Lisa Factora-Borchers
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Lisa Factora-Borchers is the formal editorial director at Bitch Media. Her work is widely published and she is the editor of the anthology, Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence.



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13 Comments Have Been Posted


I struggle with this all the time with my niece and nephew. She tends to be overly feminine - loves all things pink, joined cheerleading this year - she's only seven! When I was her age I was rolling around in the dirt with my brothers still. My nephew plays football and loves all things Steelers - I don't have too much of a problem with athleticism but they are very "manly" things as well. I have tried my hardest to get them gifts each year that are more gender neutral, and things they can both play with. Games worked really well for a while. I try to get educational games or classic ones too (Chess, Othello, etc.) and made sure they were age appropriate. Card games worked great. Now last year my sister told me not to buy them games anymore because they don't really play them - which made me really sad. I played games with my grandma as a child because SHE played WITH me. So I was back to square one. I ended up finding an interesting gift for either of them at Thinkgeek, which I will give to my nephew because I think it's more age appropriate. It's a wand that emits static electricity that you use to float this light mylar shapes around. I found out really entertaining (had to try it myself of course) so I figure they will both get use out of it. Then my sister told me my niece had taken an arts class after school this year and loved it, which made me so very happy. I bought her some really nice color pencils and some professional art paper and some other art items.

So I had to stretch this year but my old standbys for kids are always games. After that, just google search for "educational toys" - and don't worry about them seeming lame. And after that, try to find a hobby that they enjoy that you can encourage them to think, or be creative. Books are nice too. What kid doesn't like Shel Silverstein poems?

my niece is six months old.

my niece is six months old. I plan on spending the next ten+ years fighting the color specific gender stereotyping. it'll be fun especially since my sister doesn't see the issue with the girl=pink, boys=blue idea. And by fun I mean ridiculously frustrating. she will probably get mostly books from me.

Non-gendered gifts

Musical instruments, Art & craft supplies, BOOKS, those cool science lab sets and microscopes, Bikes/trikes/trampolines... HEAPS of things! Anything that promotes exploration, curiosity, constructiveness, physical activity etc.

yeah i agree with this. if

yeah i agree with this. if they're real little, building blocks. think about the kinds of things you want and adjust it for a kid.

my nephews have all had their own play kitchens and loved them, also. but their parents bought them. but neutral colored little furniture (two of my nibblings got tiny recliners from my parents this year) works too. and clothes. obviously a lot of clothes are gendered, but tshirts with cute animals on them are pretty universal. oh, and if they're old enough, legos. but i guess that is basically building blocks.

I have two adorable nieces

I have two adorable nieces that are raised VERY pink and ruffly, so I try to always give non-gendered gifts. I usually stick to the above suggestions -- anything that can be MADE (arts and crafts, science experiments, etc.), experienced, or loved (like stuffed animals, particularly uncoventional ones like the ugly dolls or stuffed microbes), books, etc. I go for non-gendered colors and will re-wrap a gift if the packaging is gendered but the product itself is fairly neutral. I also handknit many gifts and go for fun, bold colors.

What can you do?

I am a knitter, and I pretty much knit all my gifts. So... I was going to knit a baby sweater for my boyfriend's niece. And we both strive to break our gender rolls and hate the fact you would separate babies into gender before they even know they're alive, BUT when I was looking for yarn, I found one that I loved, but they only had it in colors brown, beige... and pink. Also, the baby's mother and grandmother dresses her in pink all the time, doesn't put anything on the poor girl that isn't pink, and even tells me all the time when we visit "oh, I just want to dress her like a little princess, I only want her to wear pink". OK, maybe it's a little exaggerated, but that's what it sounded like to me. So... I was torn between making her something that would never get put on her, or just making her something that would. So I chose would. I knitted something in pink! I'm so embarrassed, I didn't show it to anyone. So the sweater was a huge success, but I should have just chosen another yarn and another color. Cause it's gnawing on me every day.

I'm thinking, when you do give gifts to someone small, it feels like you're tricking them into using games, toys and clothes that are not gender specific. I always catch myself thinking "what is not gender specific, but still a little gender specific so that I can trick them into using it". Is it more counter productive than anything?

Think Educational

Whenever I'm buying a gift for a child (I have none of my own), here's what I do: I keep things educational. I know, I know... maybe it's not exactly what a kid would choose for themselves, but keeping their gifts educational usually means they won't be gender-specific (though this isn't always the case, of course). I feel better buying them a book that either sex could relate to, than buying race cars or barbie dolls. Also, there are alot of cool science experiment toys that are great for boys or girls and have nothing to do with forcing them into a specific gender role. And I feel like kids have so many toys anyway, so something to help them learn seems like a better idea than cluttering up the house with more toys.

The "pink and blue issue"

The "pink and blue issue" doesn't bother me. The trivial emphasis on color detracts from the more relevant issue of what these colors, indeed, coat. Cooking sets? Jewelry kits? Make-up? These items aren't always color coded and its very gendered nature doesn't rise or fall with color applied or removed.

The concept of a toy (cars for boys, cooking sets for girls) encourages a gender divide. Parents and society at large imply a child's role in life based on sex; color is just...colorful.

I'm also a knitter. When friends have baby's I always knit a pink or blue outfit. Though, the pattern always remains the same despite the child being a boy or girl.

Fabulous X

Since Mahlena-Rae just mentioned this a couple days ago, I thought I'd leave a link:

She pointed me to a story I'd never read before, but I'd love to implement some of the points, should I ever have my own fabulous child. (

Having been name unofficial godmother to two beautiful and brilliant baby girls this year, I'm totally fighting the pink ruffles. Not because there's anything wrong with pink ruffles - just cuz there's WAY too many of them. I've actually tended toward more green and purple, and my gifts this year have been socks and books. As they grow, they'll continue to get books, blocks, tool sets, cars, stuffed animals, and art sets from Auntie Jen*. With the occasional chemistry set/lesson thrown in.

If they get Barbie, it won't be from me.

Thanks for the shout out, molecular!


I have a 5 year old daughter

I have a 5 year old daughter who is probably the girliest little girl.... ever. She is very "maternal" and likes to take care of her younger cousins and older brother. This year I decided to buy her an art easel to encourage her love of drawing, coloring, and painting. I also bought her an art book among other things. But, lets also take into consideration what my mother bought her: a pink table and chairs with Disney Princess' on each. The same goes for her father and other family members.
No matter how many androgenous items and toys I might buy her, other people will still foster her "girlie" tendencies. I don't really mind so as long as the said toys do not promote women stereotypes.

I always struggle with this

I always struggle with this in regards to my friend's little girl. I absolutley REFUSE to buy her anything pink. I always strive to give her a book, a toy, and clothes. She loves animals though, so anything with wildlife and she and I are both totally thrilled. I know its going to be a fight when I have my own little girl, because I want to print NO PINK PLEASE on the baby shower invitations. Is that totally obnoxious?

i don't think that's

i don't think that's obnoxious. though you might want to pick some colors and be like, 'please stick to my color pallete'. so people don't go 'well, i got pink anyway because i had no idea what you could have wanted.'

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