Don’t hand out guidelines for childhood

Last year, a video posted on Youtube went viral with a little girl named Riley who seems to see through the absurdity of trying to fit children into gender boxes.

The spunky little girl stands in the middle of a toy store as she turns to the camera. Frustration is written in the adorable little creases on her face and she sort of even stamps her foot as she exclaims, “Why do the little girls have to buy princesses?”

“Some girls like superheroes,” she says. “Some boys like superheroes. Some boys like princesses. Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff? And why do all the boys have to buy different colored stuff?”

And the argument, the spectacle made over the gender neutral toy ads in Sweden seems so small when seen through a child’s eyes.

We encourage our kids. We tell them that they can be whatever they want to be, but deliberately and immediately turn our backs on that mantra by trying to fit them into boxes and forcing them to adhere to labels.

“You’re a girl,” we say as we hand them a dream house and a Barbie.

“You’re a boy,” we tell them and hand them Hot Wheels and toy guns.

Childhood is a wonderful, imaginative time. Why must we hand out specifics and guidelines?

Many of us look at younger generations, kids and maybe even teenagers alike, and want to tell them to take things slower and remember not to grow up too fast. It’s a time to be whatever it is you want to be and play with whatever doll or Nerf gun you want.

Childhood is once in a lifetime, we all have the rest of our lives to be adults. Leave the labels —- and the boxes —- for later.

In this day and age, most people are familiar with issues of sexuality, be it lesbian, transgender, gay, bisexual, or anything else. So we acknowledge that we all come in different shapes or forms but our publicity, our culture, even the way we go about buying and selling is still not a reflection of this.

Last year, the organization Millions of Moms sparked uproar when it protested against JCPenney after the department store included an ad featuring two moms for Mother’s Day. How did the store react after this?

They released an ad featuring two dads the following month for Father’s Day.

How many of us have played with jeeps or cars or guns as young children? How many boys maybe decided to color outside of the lines so to speak, and dared play house with the girls or were curious about those giant kitchen sets?

The point is that childhood is exactly that, a time to let your imagination run wild and to color outside of the lines.

Our ads should be a reflection of this, a way to encourage our children to be what they want to be right here, right now.

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Don’t hand out guidelines for childhood