If you spend any time, at all, around Little Man these days, you're sure to hear about two things: Paw Patrol and Pete the Cat (and his four groovy buttons).
Maybe someday, I'll talk about Pete the Cat (who is awesome, by the way!), but today, I want to talk about Paw Patrol.
Paw Patrol is a show on Nickelodeon that centers around a team of six (or seven, depending on the episode) dogs and one boy who work together to perform tasks to save, serve, and protect the citizens and the community of Adventure Bay, the city where they are located. It is more than just his favorite tv show at the moment, it's also a great vehicle for us as parents to have positive conversations with Little Man about teamwork, helping, kindness, courage, and problem solving.
As a mom of a little boy, one of the things that I greatly appreciate about Paw Patrol is that it is one of the few shows out there that is designed to appeal mutually to boys and girls, without a strong "girl" theme or "boy" theme. This is something that's important to me, as we as parents are trying to raise our Little Man without the confines of societal gender norms so that he doesn't think that different things, activities, or whatever are "boy things" or "girl things". We are wanting to raise a boy who is comfortable playing with a train or a truck or a baby doll or a dollhouse or whatever he wants to play with. We are wanting to raise a boy who enjoys playing dressup in a police uniform or a tutu. We are wanting to raise a boy who is comfortable expressing what he likes and dislikes based on his own taste, rather than what culture or society tells him that he should. As he grows, we hope that this also will expand to other areas of his life, beyond gender roles, so that he is comfortable....I don't know...maybe being the kid who listens to jazz when all his classmates are listening to pop, or maybe being the kid who enjoys playing football and being in the drama club, etc. etc.
Basically, we want him to be who he is, enjoy what he enjoys, and express that comfortably and openly. We want him to have a healthy sense of self.
But...often it's hard because what we are trying to do as a family is, quite frankly, counter cultural, and it is often hard to find things that aren't "gendered". Shows are marketed to either boys or girls. Clothes are marketed to either boys or girls; This winter, we wanted to buy an Olaf hat (similar to this one), but had a difficult time finding it in the store because it was tucked away on a display in the girls' clothing section. Even bottles and cups are labeled as "girl" cups or "boy" cups.
So, you can imagine that we were quite thrilled with the Paw Patrol toys that we found that gave Skye the same treatment as Chase (the police dog) or Zuma (the water rescue dog). The only thing? Skye wears pink...which, I believe, directly impacted what we discovered this Easter.
We try to do a fairly simply Easter for Little Man. The main emphasis is on church, and the lessons there, but we also enjoy having the "Easter Bunny come" to the house. The Easter basket that we put together is a pretty simple one: A bit of candy, a toy, and another little something like a coloring book and crayons or a bit of playdoh or a special t-shirt.
This year, the toy that accompanied the basket was the coveted and long searched for Skye Action Pack Pup that we felt lucky enough to find at a local store (there was a run on these toys, and we spent many, many trips to a number of different stores trying to find all the different dogs). The other little something was a Paw Patrol t-shirt for him to wear that we found in the boys' clothing section at the store.
Easter Morning, Little Man was thrilled to walk into the living room and find that the Easter Bunny had dropped off his basket, complete with his new Skye toy. He was so excited about finally having Skye in his set that he had to take her with him that day to show to all of his friends at church.
Following church, we got ready to head to his Grandparents' house, and so he put on his new Paw Patrol shirt, still clutching onto his new favorite toy.
It was then that I noticed...the dog that he was holding onto so lovingly, that he was playing with, zooming her around the house, was not anywhere on his shirt. The sixth spot was taken up by the little boy who leads the Paw Patrol. Skye was no where to be found.
The message is clear. This is a boy's shirt. A girl dog, dressed in pink, does not belong.
As if it is incomprehensible that there might be a little bit of pink on a boy's t-shirt.
As if a little boy would not think of wearing a shirt with a little bit of pink on it.
As if it would somehow damage his sense of what being a boy means to have a little bit of pink on his shirt.
As if it's a bad thing for a boy to wear pink.
But it's not. Pink is not a color that denotes gender or sexuality in any way other than what we as a society allow it to. And, even if it is determined to be a more "feminine color" (whatever that means), allowing boys to choose to wear pink, allowing boys to choose to have pink, allows them to embrace and have a healthy understanding of what masculinity and femininity means. Allowing little boys to like pink allows them to grow into men who are not afraid of expressing their feelings and emotions, their likes and their dislikes, because someone might call it "girly." Allowing little boys to do things like like or wear pink allows them to grow into men who are comfortable with themselves, their identity...their whole selves, no matter what that looks like.
So, I beg you, marketers and the design folks and the promotion folks who made this decision, and so many others like it...I beg you to allow my Little Man the option of wearing a little bit of pink, or a lot of pink if he wants to. Don't take Skye off of a t-shirt just because it's being sold in the boys' section. Leave her on the shirt, and open up the world to little boys. Let them like pink, and let them grow into secure, confident, happy men who aren't afraid to be who they are in the world.