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Childhood Ungendered

How I grew up without a gendered childhood

By Erin O'NeilPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Via Freepik

I was born in 1994, decades past the point where all things for children were gendered. Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. That binary idea that permeates everything parents buy for their children. What colour is the bedroom? Dolls or trucks? Dresses or pants? The list of seemingly either or choices is endless.

I grew up without this. I am a female, I have always identified as a girl, but not because of imposed gender norms.

Growing up, my bedroom was white, yellow and red. I did go through a ‘girly’ phase from about nine to twelve, where my room was purple and pink. Then it changed to green and blue. These changes were based on what I wanted. Not what my parents thought I should like. I tried being more girly, so was my room. I grew out of that phase, my room changed with me.

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I played with a variety of toys as a child. Yes, there were Barbies, dolls, and Easy Bake ovens. There were also Hot Wheels, which I had a garage for, and a carpet that looked like roads to play on. I also had Thomas the Tank Engine, some of his friends, and a full track for them to go around. I even had a few Tonka Trucks as a toddler. A lego table, and none of the pieces or characters were pink or purple.

For Halloween, I dressed up as a variety of different things: Big Bird, a Dalmatian, Peter Pan, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. But I don’t recall, nor have I ever seen pictures of me dressed up as a Disney Princess (unless you count the year I went as Pocahontas). I had princess dresses and tiaras for playing dress up; but I never dressed up as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, or any other traditional Disney Princess.

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I also enjoyed a wide variety of children’s movies. Yes, I saw all the Disney classics, but my favourite Princesses were always Mulan, Pocahontas, and Ariel (I really wanted to be a mermaid when I was little). I also loved 101 Dalmatians, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. A series I loved was a bunch of Munsch, Robert Munsch stories brought to life as a series of cartoons. Of those, my favourites had to be The Fire Station (continuing my love of trucks as a child), and The Paper Bag Princess. If you never got to see these growing up, or don’t remember the books, I highly recommend looking them up on YouTube.

Kids cartoons also included everything from Dora the Explorer and Sailor Moon, to Scooby Doo and Rescue Heroes. For every girl focused show I watched, generally there was also a boy focused one I enjoyed. Or at the very least, the show was gender balanced enough that it could go either way.

I was never pushed one way or the other by my parents. They never insisted that I like certain things, or got upset if I liked something more boyish than girlish. I tried a number of activities as a child. One year it was soccer, another year it was ballet. All they did was give me choices. Toys, games, activities, movies, tv shows, it didn’t matter. Whatever it was, I could choose what I did or didn’t like. So my childhood was largely a mix of both. Things that were definitely marketed more to girls (Barbie, Ariel), and things that were geared more towards boys (Hot Wheels, Tarzan).

I feel like even twenty plus years later, this is still a prevalent issue. What with gender reveal parties, and items being gendered for no real reason. Forcing kids into a box, telling them, “It’s okay to like this, but you can’t like that.” Children should be allowed to choose what they do and don’t like, even if it goes against societal norms/expectations of gender roles.

Via The Society Pages


About the Creator

Erin O'Neil

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