Ugh! I hate this pigeonholing so much. It makes me furious- probably more than it should, but I can't help thinking about the longterm effects. I have a hard time explaining calmly why it's important, when it comes up.
I see it especially with ds, and especially with DP's family. It's OK with everybody that my dd loves Mythbusters, hiking, bugs... and also fairies and princesses, pink and girly stuff. But from birth, ds was supposed to fit into the Boy Mold. As soon as he was born and they heard he was a boy, here came a big box of clothes from Puerto Rico. Onesies with basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs... 'MVP' and 'Lil Slugger', stripes. It was easy then because they never saw that he didn't wear those clothes, that I donated them straight to Goodwill.
But now they've all moved over here to be near us. MIL tries but she just doesn't get it! I know it's not an issue she has EVER encountered. She's just never even heard of 'forcing gender roles' on children. He's a boy, so he will have boy things and like it! Of course!
The latest was on Christmas. MIL mentioned that she almost bought ds a big plastic Thomas the Tank Engine-shaped box for him to carry around the trains that he is recently obsessed with. (Hey! The first 3 that he played with belonged to my daughter when she was his age! A novel concept)
I thought it was nice of her to think of that for him, and I said so. Until... she said the reason that she thought of it: "The other day I saw him putting them into Lula's pink backpack, and I knew that he needed something for a boy instead!"
I replied entirely too loudly, "SEE, I AM SO NOT INTO THAT WHOLE BOY/GIRL THING! HE LIKES THE PINK BACKPACK, AND THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!!!"
She just stood there smiling uncertainly and looking confused.
I felt kind of bad, because I know she didn't mean anything by it, but this is so important to me! He's only 2 years old, and if they have their way he will soon be the one saying "I can't play with that, it's for girls." That would just break my heart.