oh boy, oh boyBy Michelle | February 8th, 2011 | Category: Mothering | No Comments »
I debated whether I was going to post this – mainly because doing so requires me to admit that I occasionally pick up a drive-through lunch at McDonald’s with Tom after school. But there, I’ve admitted and we can move on.
For the uninitiated, when ordering a “Happy Meal”, the cashier will ask you if it is for a boy or a girl – which determines what kind of toy you’re getting. Presently around here the boy toys are:
and the girl toys are:
Now, I admit that Tom actually already has several of the Tonka trucks (ok, lately, it may be more than a rare occasion). So, today, as we drove up, the conversation went like this:
Me: Ok, so a hamburger with french fries and apple juice?
Tom: Yup, and can I have a pony toy?
Tom: But, ok Mama – don’t tell them it’s for me? Ok?
It didn’t occur to me at that moment why he didn’t want it to be for him. Because how could he be so ashamed at loving the crappy little ponies that he didn’t even want to let the McDonald’s people know. Then, I ordered a Happy Meal and when asked “Boy or girl?”, I said “Girl” and realized just what he meant.
The controversy over Dr. Phil’s advice last week to a mother to keep her son from playing with “girl things” sprang suddenly to mind. Obviously, Dr. Phil has no business telling anyone how to raise children – and he was dead wrong in his response to the mother of this 5 year old boy. I think the responses were largely not nuanced enough – because a parent could be in a position where the best thing to do was to help their child conform in the immediate moment for their safety or well-being. Dr. Phil’s response tells you just how widespread and unquestioned the need to conform to gender roles is in many communities. Wrong as it is, I can understand why a parent would want to protect their child from the ridicule that might come of it – and that’s not what this mother is saying anyway. Regardless, the long-term answer for this family is that you cannot, as Dr. Phil suggests, “support him…but not in the girl things”.
Back to my little dilemma, I’m fairly sure that asking McDonald’s to change their menu categorization is a battle I don’t want to wage: not going there at all would have benefits beyond avoiding the gender stereotyping of their menu options. And since Tom followed up with the pony’s battle with his monster truck by neatly rearranging her hair, I think he’s ok where he is right now too.