I am quite grateful that when I was a toddler, my parents did not insist on trying to turn me into a Pink Princess.
Observe the following photo (which I recently found in a giant box of old family pictures that I am in the process of attempting to organize):
It also occurs to me that, in looking at the toys I apparently had back circa 1981, they were toys that did stuff. Or that one could do stuff with. I liked parts, and moving parts, and things with levers and switches and strings to pull. And I don't know if this was a mark of the era or what, but it kind of actually amazes me that there's no pink to be seen here.
Not that there's anything inherently wrong with pink. In some contexts it's a perfectly serviceable color, and I don't think liking pink says anything bad about a person. But ye gads. I did a Google Image Search for "little girl's room" and got the following:
Of course if someone actually wants a Princess Room far be it from me to suggest their preference is somehow in error. But seriously, it irritates me a lot that so much "geared toward girls" (toys, decor, clothing, etc.) is all so similar and so focused on Prettification.
I got to escape SOME of this growing up. I had a few subversively excellent relatives, like my Grandma June, who loved science and animals and the outdoors and shared these things with me. She also got me camouflage gear:
But of course it wasn't all idyllic all the time. I was extremely lucky compared to girls growing up in previous generations, or in households less geekishly oriented, but the relatively small amount of "you must conform to this stereotype OR ELSE YOU ARE BAD!" I experienced nonetheless had a negative impact on me.
E.g., sometimes I ran into being called "spoiled" or accused of "trying to be special" or "causing a ruckus" for merely preferring the non-girly option in a given situation. I once got sent out into the hall for indicating a preference for the star stickers being given out by my Spanish teacher to the boys over the heart stickers the girls were getting. But I was not trying to be special; I simply didn't realize that I was obligated to only choose the Girly Option in such cases.
I didn't realize until much later that some choices weren't real choices but tests. And I kept failing those tests. And I dearly want to live in a world where young girls never, ever get in trouble for failing to silently acquiesce to the demands of stereotype.
Fast forward some years. I've managed to get through college (many, many thanks to my parents for helping me figure out registration, class schedules, etc.). I go to work as an electrical engineer. It's difficult but rewarding. For the most part I don't have a sense of being overtly subject to sexism or discrimination on the gender front. But is it really such a meritocracy?
I'm riding in a car with a co-worker. We're going to an offsite meeting. Co-worker admits he doesn't exactly know how to get to the destination. I pull out a map, read it, and inform him which way to go.
"Wow! I'm impressed! I didn't think women were supposed to have the spatial ability to use maps!"
At the time, I am flattered. Later, I am annoyed. The same goes for many other similar situations, wherein I'm told things like "You think like a man! And that's good!"
And I still don't know what to do about all this. Aside from, you know, continuing to follow my technical inclinations and avoid getting into too many flamewars about Why There Aren't More Female Engineers. Because honestly I'd rather be DOING engineering than arguing about it.
But at the same time, I know that I can't just completely dismiss "gender stuff". I can't go around acting like just because I "broke into the field" that everything is fine and dandy and that only a troublemaker would bring up the mere possibility of sexism still being real.
Believe me, I'd LIKE to ignore gender issues. Flamewars and endless bicker-fests including copious Caveman Hunter-Gatherer Ev-Psych Stories bore me practically to tears. I just don't think we're there yet as a culture or a species. And we aren't going to get there, in my estimation, until those of us who do end up in engineering and other math and hard-science-heavy fields are acknowledged as actually existing as women, not just as shocking "exceptions" to the Princess Majority.