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Keep your princess costume off my daughter

David Castillo Dominici

Can you imagine the insolence of someone throwing a gift back at you? Social niceties dictate that when a gift (even if not quite the one you hoped for) is presented, you smile and graciously thank the giver. How disrespectful to state clearly that this is not the desired object and that no attention will be paid to the gift until the correct one is substituted.

Yet, this is exactly what I did when as a child, my father gifted me a nurse’s kit, complete with a pink hat. I reminded him that I had asked for a doctor’s kit, to which he smiled and answered, “girls are nurses and boys are doctors.” I found the explanation ridiculous and never touched the thing.
This past holiday season, as well as all the ones before it, found me in the aisles of stores, stating almost verbatim, but with more anger, the words of this little girl. It remains astounding to me that so much marketing is aimed at informing us of what we are supposed to like and want based on gender. I guess we cannot be trusted to have our own opinions.
But more insidious is the pervasive insistence that society puts forth: the notion that males and females must all like certain things or behave in certain ways simply because of their sex. This foolish and limiting attitude is detrimental to all involved. What rational person would seek to limit the potential of another by delineating a box into which individuals must fit to be in accordance with some randomly defined “norm”?

Photo Stuart Miles

From a sociological stand point, gender stereotyping has been useful for constraining women to roles that are not threatening to the patriarchical view of what is “suitable” for women. And the training starts early. Pink because you are a girl? Blue for boys? This arbitrary color assignation has not always been so. This is an example of a purely societal construct that may seem insignificant, but in reality, this random color dichotomy can be the first step in a path that seeks to keep the sexes confined to certain paths and mired in a limiting, often self-negating life role. How can it possibly be healthy to tell boys that they are not supposed to cry or express their feelings? How can anyone justify pushing toys on young girls that may later lead to actual health problems?

Yet, this push to “genderize” everything is enormously beneficial not only to those who want to keep “men men and women women” but also for those who profit from the stereotyping. The Evil Empire of Disney, as I like to call it, has benefited astoundingly with its suffocating “princess” trend that has engulfed so many little girls. As a Latina mother, myself the product of a very gender stereotyped upbringing, I am analytical, cautious about the toys I purchase for my children. Machismo in all its forms is banned from my house. Do we not owe all children the same?

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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