Give the gift of gender neutrality

There are real consequences to gender stereotypes.

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson

Dear Parents, and Aunts, and Uncles, and Grandparents, and All Good Gift Givers,

This season, I’d like to challenge you to go gender-neutral with your gifts — or as gender-neutral as possible, given that everything from underwear to rock climbing gear seems to have some sort of option to make sure you know who should be wearing it.

If you think I’m overreacting, consider that a recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that there are real consequences to gender stereotypes, and they are serious no matter where in the world you live.

For girls, conforming to the gender stereotypes can result in depression, dropping out of school and suicide. For boys, the results are greater physical violence, substance abuse, and a shorter life expectancy than women.

Modifying your holiday gift list so that it’s not gender- or color-coded may not solve this world-wide problem; however, taking even a small action, if we all do it, can start to make a difference. It matters where we spend our dollars.

If you need some ideas to get started:

For babies and toddlers (or their parents)

• Hand or footprint kit

• Pacifier clips

• Hooded blankets

• Baby memory book

• White noise machine

Preschool through younger elementary school

• Blocks

• Puzzles

• Books that challenge traditional gender roles, such as “The Paper Bag Princess,” “Pink is for Boys,” “My Princess Boy,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Is that for a Boy or a Girl?”

• Games that focus on matching colors or shapes (such as Shape’s Up or Snail’s Pace Race)


• Marble run construction kits

• Games like chess and checkers

• Puzzles

• Arts and crafts supplies

• Check out this booklist for books that defy gender stereotypes:

Teens and young adults

• A date with them to a favorite restaurant, play, movie or activity

• Gift card to a favorite restaurant, the movies, music or a play

• Board games or card games

• Scratch-off posters (for books, movies, travel)

• Portable power bank for phone

• Magazine subscription

• Tool set


• A date to do something together

• Food or wine they love

• Music they enjoy

• Tickets to a play, sporting event, movie or concert

• Food/wine/fruit/tea of the month club

Many of the books on these lists can be found at our local Barnes and Noble. For arts and crafts and games, you can hit up Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Target and more. There are oodles of choices at Total Wine. Poverty Bay offers gift cards, as do many more local businesses.

For this year’s shopping, be intentional. Help your gifts do double duty: giving pleasure — and taking away some of the dangerous consequences of gender stereotypes.

Happy holidays!

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of three books and facilitates classes and workshops in the Puget Sound area. Amy specializes in sexuality education and in promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture in faith communities. All opinions are her own. Contact

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