Phoebe got a cool toy as a gift for Christmas. (Actually, she got lots of cool toys, but I’ll spare you the details. For now, at least.) The toy I’m talking about is actually more of a set of toys: it’s the Fisher-Price airplane with Little People.
The set came with 3 people: the pilot and 2 passengers. You have no idea how thrilled I was to see that the pilot is a woman. How cool is that? I mean, seriously. The small step of representing a woman as a pilot in a miniature toy represents a giant symbol: a woman is shown matter-of-factly in a prestigious and traditionally male-dominated job, and this mass-produced representation is being sold as part of a mainstream popular toy. This is huge. (I once wanted to be a pilot, by the way, but that is a story for another day.)
So there we were, Christmas morning, looking at Phoebe’s new toys (once we finished wrestling to free the toys from their elaborate packaging). And I saw the pilot, and felt my thrill. And when I looked at the other two little people figures, I said to John “hey, the passengers are women, too. They must be a newlywed lesbian couple heading off for a tropical honeymoon.” I was joking when I said it, but honeymoon was what came to mind when I saw the two passengers all decked out in their Polynesian-inspired garb. I live in Massachusetts, one of only a few US states to have legally recognized same-sex unions, and apparently the only US state to recognized such unions as marriage. (By the way, when working on my wedding anniversary post, I discovered that the definition of marriage was under dispute on Wikipedia. That in itself tells quite a story. But I see now that the flags announcing the dispute have been taken down. I’d be curious what the changes made were…I found one older version in Google cache but haven’t had a chance to look.)
So here’s the thing. I’d like Phoebe to grow up accepting diversity in people: diversity in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Ideally, she would get to know people of such diverse backgrounds and beliefs in person. And hopefully she will. But the reality is that we live in fairly rural Massachusetts. In a town where there is not a whole lot of diversity. It struck me that toys and playing games offer opportunities to supplement the exposure to diversity she might get through school and the media. We don’t actually particularly know any married same-sex couples. But we can matter-of-factly say that the two women figures in the play set are married. Just as the set matter-of-factly depicts a pilot who is a woman.
Of course, John now has me half-convinced that one of the passengers in the set is actually supposed to be male. I still think of her as female. Just possibly a less girly female than the long-haired lei-wearing obviously female passenger. She, who is wearing shorts and purple sandals, and has a moderately short haircut, is at the very least of somewhat ambiguous gender. We have agreed to call her Pat.