The Spirit of Giving

This post by geekanacronism, mirroring as it does my own experience with family deliberately choosing gifts for my children that enable the gift-giver to smirk at me and my principles as my child unwraps them (see this post), got me thinking about the whole issue again; for one, because I’m so used to my family fucking with me misunderstanding me, that I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I would never reciprocate.  As geekanacronism says, ‘No matter how much I may disagree with someone’s politics or views, or methods, I do not buy a gift in order to either poke fun at those views, or undermine those principles.‘  And let’s just say that there’s plen-ty disagreement between me and certain family members (they read the Daily Male, remember.  And not for the jokes.) over, oh, just about any issue you care to mention.  But still, every Christmas and birthday, I actually do try to find gifts that will be appreciated by the recipient.  Even if that means sometimes buying something I’d rather vomit over (but then wouldn’t actually bury in a satanic ritualised ceremony – I don’t go that far).  This, of course, is the problem with feminists.  Oh, OK, with this feminist.  Since my feminist salvation my empathic abilities have gone stellar (god, all that oppression intersectionality!) and I’m just  Too.  Fucking.  Nice.

However, what I have found is that if you don’t really know the recipient in any real way, things get a lot easier.  Eventually.  Or when you take your head out of your backside.

I am talking, of course, about the kids in Boogie’s class who, invariably, I wouldn’t be able to separate from the herd if my life depended on it, who have parties.  A present is obligatory, which I don’t have a problem with.  But I did have a problem with the fact that I knew that my present choices were – bugger! bugger! bugger! – being hugely influenced by gender mores.  Not knowing the kids, I protested to myself in Argos’s shop window, how can I transcend these mores for this particular kid??  Who knows if the particular kid in question is just massively genderised or drenched-in-the-Patriarchy-monsoon genderised?  I mean, I don’t want to frighten a five year old unless I mean to.  But things came to a head when I found myself buying a particular toy – I won’t say what it was because it may force me to run screaming to the kid’s house to decapitate it with a spoon.  In my defence, I did actually know this kid and bought the present in response to a specific request from the mother, but still…after I’d appeased the feminist goddesses with an offer to give my own kids to a radical feminist collective to raise, I decided I was done.  So I looked for a non-gender specific toy.

They don’t exist.  Or maybe they don’t exist for me because I’m just too entrenched in the issue of gender to view any toy in an unbiased fashion.  All toys are genderised.  I know, I should know this right?  It’s so fucking obvious.  When the whole world is like a cosmic battle between Mars and Venus (filmed as a dramatic comedy where it’s all just a result of a misunderstanding, ho ho!), why would toys – especially why would toys – escape the war?  They’re gender gound zero.  But looking around and seeing nothing that would be considered these days as entirely neutral really quite severely depressed me.  As did the thought that I’m sure it wasn’t this bad when I was a kid.  Even where manufacturers, in a cynical ploy to maximise their market, aim a boy’s toy at girls, they make it in sweetie shades and stick it in a pink box (hey, Lego!  lowest common denominator, much?).  And it goes without saying that the only toys considered for such cross-gendered marketing are boys’ toys aiming at girls.  Because girls suck, stoopid!  There is no amount of manly blue or dinosaur accessories that could turn Strawberry Shortcake into the next Buzz Lightyear.  Because girls suck and boys know it.  Just like they know that a penis is something to be proud of rather than a badly-designed appendage to be mildly bemused by.

Eventually, I came up with a yo-yo.  That’s pretty gender-neutral, right?  Or is the flicking of the wrist considered to be too redolent of masturbation these days and thus considered unfeminine (because girls don’t mastubate, right?  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!)?  Still, in any event, a yo-yo would be considered a bit of a shit present, wouldn’t it?

Back on track a little now, I did finally identify something that did seem to me to be pretty gender neutral.  Buckaroo.

By this time next year, every kid in Boogie’s class will be replete with Buckaroo.  Hey, it’s allowed me to sleep nights and before you pull me up on my earlier statement that non-gendered toys don’t exist, I assert that Buckaroo is in fact a game rather than a toy per se.  So there.


About MistressofBoogie

Feminist. Loud-mouth. Sometimes those two are linked. Sometimes not. View all posts by MistressofBoogie

4 responses to “The Spirit of Giving

  • geekanachronism

    I’ve resorted to Ye Old Ikea – they’ve got gendered stuff but a decent range of toddler toys that are developmentally appropriate AND not hypergendered.

    Mind you, I have to find a present for a four year old girl today – both her and her mother tend towards the hyperpink theme of childhood. I hate compromising my ideals. I think I’ll buy her a book.

    I’m okay being the boring aunt.

  • mistressofboogie

    Ah, if only I could enter Ikea without immediately wanting to run to the spoons section to find a blunt one to gouge my eyes out with. But you’re right – I guess there are places you can find this stuff if you make the effort. Must try harder! But when you’re down a present and it’s 10am on a Saturday morning and the party starts at 10.30am and the only place within walking distance is the local genderama that is Argos…

  • Emma

    I totally agree. The main place I like for toys is myriad online (hippy toys) – but pricey. The other option is a book – but even books can be fraught.

    • mistressofboogie

      Yeah, like so many things, it’s much easier to be ethical if you have the cash! I think books can actually be the worst: if they have a shit message, it’s there in black and white, laid out for even the most unaware child to lap up. If you’ve got younger children, you even read it to them, so it’s like a ready-made endorsement from you! I chose books veeeery carefully these days.

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