I have a young niece that I'm buying gifts for. Every time I purchase gifts for her, I have to weigh a bunch of conflicting issues. How cool do I think the toy is? How much does it oppose or reinforce traditional gender stereotypes? How likely are her parents to object to the gift? How much is she going to like it? How quickly will it break or will she get tired of it? How much does it cost?
Ideally, I want to be able to supply her with toys that her mother won't just throw away, that she'll find interesting and fun, that won't break right away, and that subvert (or at least don't reinforce) what I think are harmful gender stereotypes. I refuse to buy things like fake kitchen stuff, or toy vaccuum cleaners, etc. I refuse to buy princess themed stuff.
Instead of buying her traditionally "girl" things, I try to find toys that are as gender-neutral as possible, or that are traditionally "boy" toys. It can be surprisingly difficult to find gender-neutral toys, though. It used to be that most Lego sets were fairly neutral, but looking through the toy aisle recently, I was struck by how completely gendered they've become. Gone are most of the city themed sets that included both male and female figures. Instead, there are dozens of sets featuring huge robots and skeletons fighting dragons and Star Wars stuff. Almost every figure in the sets are men. Weird. Still, she's a little young for Lego right now, so that's not a problem yet.
Right now, she's on a kick where she loves robots. As a big robot fan myself, I'm okay with that. I think I did okay last year- I got her a log cabin building kit (Lincoln logs, basically) that came with a little train and some farm animals. I got her a Mr. Potatohead with extra themed pieces... a princess, a mermaid, and a fashion model (gender bending potatohead was a big hit), and a bunch of Winnie the Pooh figures, among other things.
Still, she's getting older and she's eventually going to start being interested in things like Bratz dolls and Barbie and pink stuff. So, here's where you, gentle reader, come in. What can I do when that happens? What kinds of things do other people get for their children, or their nieces/nephews, etc? What kinds of gifts do you give to the young people in your life? What kinds of positive role-models are there for young girls?
As it stands, I'm going to go look for some awesome robots for