Last Christmas was the first time ever I was involved in choosing presents for children. To be precise: presents for my partner‚Äôs godchildren, a one-year-old boy, and his four-year-old sister. The children‚Äôs mother had been asked for a guide of suitable gifts, which included instructions on a noisy, colourful truck for the boy, and ‘anything Barbie or glittery’ for the girl. While my significant other was happy to have the brain work off his hands and simply have the truck and ‚Äòsomething Barbie or glittery‚Äô delivered to our doorstep, my inner feminist stayed quiet for only twenty seconds. Or maybe thirty.
I tried to find presents that might be a bit outside the stereotypical gift list, but to no avail. How could child appropriate gender equality be wrapped in paper and decorated with a bow? As it was nearly Christmas and we were running out of time, my efforts got lost in the shuffle. It might seem like unnecessary hassle, but choosing girly or boyish toys becomes a much more important part of girlhood (and childhood in general) when we step back and see the bigger picture.
In Germany, my country of origin, a new right-wing party is taking the nation and its voters by storm. One of their campus organisations very recently tried to host a guest lecture on how the male and female brain were biologically different ‚Äì and therefore men and women not alike. While scientifically this is true to a certain extent, these results serve as an excuse to deny women the same level of intelligence, purposefulness and by that their rightful place in society. Such theories are not new. And they are not exclusive to the right wing. But what is new is the speed and worldwide spread of these theories, especially via the Internet. Even in some of the most developed countries, the gender ratio becomes lopsided at some point during school or university. Look at Japan or Germany. Girls start out as the biggest group, but when it comes to women taking leading positions or earning above average wages, suddenly the guys make the cut. In many more countries, the situation is far more dire, as in girls being the losers in a social¬†monopoly the moment they are born.
Now, more than ever, we have to focus on education worldwide. Teach girls that they can become whatever they wish, and provide them with support to fulfill that promise. And it‚Äôs not about banning Barbies or forcing girls into computer coding classes. It‚Äôs about giving them a choice, as we give boys a choice. Because education works in both directions and carries on like ripples on the water’s surface.
I pondered over all these things on the way to post-Christmas dinner, the children‚Äôs presents on my lap. Not very surprisingly, the glittering Disney Barbie made the little girl jump up and down, giddy with pleasure. It was just the one she had been wishing for. Her mother sighed and kneeled down on the floor with us to assemble the dozens of tiny pieces belonging to another, rather neglected of her daughter‚Äôs presents ‚Äì a truck. This year, we will be prepared and have two gifts. One Barbie, or whatever her desire then is, and a children‚Äôs book encouraging her to cut her own path. Because I certainly know one thing‚Äîas long as she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, this young lady will lead¬†her life.
PS: If you are still looking for kid appropriate feminist gifts, we have you covered. One of this issue‚Äôs news sources provides you with a list of wonderful books every girl should read.
Girl News International