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Let's Be Real, Not Everything Needs to be Unisex

Photograph by Twenty20

It happened the other night: I unintentionally waded into arguably hot water with a group of colleagues and friends over gender roles and cookies.

The whole thing started as an innocent chat—about our daughters' upcoming seasonal duties to sell Thin Mints and Samoas for the Girls Scouts. Enter a very smart and enlightened man, an acquaintance who's a genuine champion of women. "Why do the girls have to sell cookies?" he questioned. "It just furthers so many stereotypes, so many gender boundaries." I totally got where he was going and absolutely respected it. Part of me agreed.

But another part of me—the small-town part who finds innocent comfort and irreplaceable value in longtime American traditions—turned sad and simultaneously fumed red on the inside. I decided to play.

"I like that our girls sell cookies! What's wrong with that?" The conversation briefly continued with some mentions of "Why cookies for girls ... Boys don't have to sell cookies ... Maybe the girls should ditch cookies and sell other things like pocket knives ..." (Which could be kinda cool if you think about it: "Hello, ma'am, we've got Tag-a-longs for $6 a box and if you buy four boxes you get a free knife to cut ‘em all in half!") Yet the tradition remains: Girls sell cookies, boys don’t.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with it.

It doesn't infuriate or worry me, nor do I think Boy Scouts should get in on the game (because that would take away from our girls). Since when do cookies possess such powerful political messaging?

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I made the unconventional choice (by today’s obsessive standards) to NOT find out the sex of my baby before delivery. (Spoiler alert: She was a girl!) A year later, I also made the same unfathomable choice to let my second baby's gender be a revealed on her the day of her birth. (Another girl!)

I've always felt that gender doesn't really matter as much as baby registries want us to believe when it comes to caring for a newborn, so I took that unnecessary drama out of my motherhood experience years ago. Girl or boy, it was going to be a BABY. Pink or blue nursery-decorating expectations, begone! So, yeah, I'm not totally blind when it comes to this push for a genderless childhood.

Inclusion for all does not mean stripping away something harmless if many are happy with it.

But not everything needs to be unisex! Today’s trend to remove all separation between boys and girls, particularly with kids’ toys and clothes, is ridiculous. I respect the philosophy behind it, but turning childhood into a unisex experience isn't going to solve the issues that so many folks think it will solve. It's a muted assault against any girl who finds power in dressing baby dolls, and moms who want our daughters to learn and discover satisfaction in domestic activities alongside career-driven ones.

I understand the risk of endorsing antiquated stereotypes in today’s world of dads doing pigtails and moms bringing home the bacon. I'm raising my girls to know how to bake and build Legos and figure out how to climb that tree to get their own lemons so they can make lemonade in the kitchen. (Whether or not they choose to make their future spouses sandwiches is up to them.)

If your daughter hates dolls or your boy doesn't vibe with monsters, it's ALL GOOD. Let them do whatever they like and be happy without throwing a fit if what they like is located in another aisle of the store.

Please don't tell the rest of us that we are harming society by existing and enjoying what you might see as "dangerous retail gender separation." I mean, the very thought of shopping in a mad hodgepodge mess of "unisex" clothes and toys makes my head spin. (As though getting in and out of a trip to Target isn't already challenging enough.)

Inclusion for all does not mean stripping away something harmless if many are happy with it. Inclusion does not mean disrupting and restructuring for the sake of disruption and restructure. Inclusion means we can all do what we want, when we want, how we want—even if that means crossing the toy aisle to grab a race car track for our little girl or a purple hoodie for our little boy.

In our quest for rightful inclusion and equality, we're also unintentionally suppressing and losing some of the things that lots of us also like to celebrate. We're losing perspective that it takes all kinds to make a world go 'round—even if some of us innocently enjoy something that falls within a "gender stereotype" without conflict.

This includes girls selling cookies. Hit me up if you want some Thin Mints.

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