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BY STEVE WATKINS
Our youngest daughter, who is 8, likes "boy stuff."
She hasn't worn a dress in three years, and then only under duress--and the promise that she could change into cargo shorts and a T-shirt at a cousin's wedding as soon as her flower-girl duties were over.
When she was ring-bearer at another wedding two years ago, she wore a little suit and clip-on tie. She liked it so much, she planned to wear it again the first day of second grade.
What our youngest daughter doesn't like is being asked--all too often--if she's a boy or a girl. And if she's a girl, how come she dresses like a boy? And how come she wants to play football or basketball with the boys at recess?
Sometimes the questions get her down. She pulls her baseball cap low on her forehead and pretends she doesn't hear them rather than explain: yes, I'm a girl, I just like "boy" stuff.
But the questions don't stop her from liking what she likes. When my wife took her and her older sister shopping for Halloween costumes, she blazed past everything pink and grabbed up a black and blue ninja outfit.
Her sister, who is usually all about fancy dresses and painted nails and silver jewelry, decided to be a vampire princess--although she's been climbing a lot of trees lately, so who knows what's next with her?
No one would claim that gender stereotypes aren't still strongly entrenched in society, but things do seem to be more fluid these days. And not a minute too soon for our kids--and a lot of others who don't want to be so rigidly "genderfied," as one local parent put it.
Just recently, Harrods, the English department store, made news when it got rid of its traditional gender-based toy sections and reorganized everything in non-gender-specific theme areas.
The trend seems to have carried over to the U.S. as well. You'll still find "Girls' Toys" and "Boys' Toys" sections at Toys R Us, but Target, Walmart and Kmart now organize their toys by gender-neutral categories such as "Learning Toys," "Dress Up & Pretend Play," "Action Figures" and "Dolls & Dollhouses."