I am concerned that a lovely Christmas gifting idea, organized by Project HOPE and promoted by the National Bank of Middlebury, has a damaging though easily correctable serious flaw. I am referring to the drive for community members to donate Christmas gifts to be distributed to children and teenagers from low-income homes.
When I was at the main branch of the bank yesterday, I saw the attractive display and appeal for people to “choose a tree” with gift ideas, and then buy and drop off the new unwrapped gift. My appreciation and idea of participating was dashed — to say the least — when I actually looked at the gift suggestions.
Actual example: middle school boys gift ideas: Science kit; gift cards to Marquis Theater and Subway; insulated water bottle; board game In a Pickle; book — “Besties Find Their Groove.”
Sounds nice, right? Where’s the problem?
Now: “middle school girls gift ideas: Hair iron and styling lotion; set of hair scrunchies; fleece blanket; gift card to TJ Maxx; book — Remarkably Ruby.
Saddened and puzzled by the apparent obsession with dividing kids relentlessly by gender — separate quite often is not equal — I have been trying to figure out what is going on. Is there some class prejudice here – as in, girls from lower income families aren’t going to be interested in science? What’s the message here to girls getting presents of personal grooming items while they see their brothers getting science kits, water bottles or board games?
I know that gift-giving choices are often fraught, and many well-intentioned gifts miss their mark. But for next year, why not avoid this minefield of gender stereotyping — which limits everyone, but traditionally girls more than boys — and give suggestions that would have a broader appeal to all? (water bottle, gift cards, board games, soccer ball, science kit etc.)