My brother and I are not terribly close. I mean, there isn't too much animosity between us, but had you asked me when I was a kid if I wanted a brother, the answer would have been "NOOOO!" as an adult, however, there is one thing that came from having a brother almost my own age that I'm glad for. Exposure to boy toys.
Now, as a kid, I loved my Barbies and My Little Ponies and Polly Pocket (did anyone else have those magnetic sets?) but I also loved my Pokemon toys, and dinosaurs and animals and robots and my brother's hot wheels. I love my Mother, but she subscribes to traditional gender rolls pretty strongly, and had I not had a brother, I don't think I would have grown up watching X-Men and Dragon Ball Z and many other nerdy properties that, if I'm honest with myself, shapes the fiction I write to this day a lot more than Jem and the Holograms* ever has. I wouldn't have grown up with a Super Nintendo (and later N64) in the house because, officially, those were my brothers. I think I would have been at least partially exposed to these things, but I don't think I'd have been as exposed if I didn't have a brother, and I would have faced a lot more resistance for wanting to play video games. I don't think the long lasting love affair the N64 and I have going on would have happened at all. So I'm glad I had a brother, even if he beat me up and called me names and was, generally, as unpleasant as you'd expect a big brother who is only barely bigger to be.
I am now reaching an age where people around me are having kids, on purpose. I have two cousins who gave birth within 48 hours. I have other family members with more babies on the way. So far they've almost all been boys, but lately, a few girls have been trickling in, which has gotten me to reflect on my own childhood with a brother.
Even as a kid, I resented how... Pink, and princessy, I was expected to be. I wanted to be a princess AND a superhero! Who rode a robot-dinosaur! I don't think all kids need to have clearly defined gender boundaries, but I suspect buying little boys Barbies won't go over well, so I have come up with a plan for the little brats that are rapidly infiltrating my life.
Consider this an oath.
I swear to never buy a gendered toy for the kids in my life.**
I will buy stuffed animals in the most neutral colors I can find.
I will buy arts and crafts.
I will buy SO MUCH lego.
I will buy science toys.
I will buy puzzles.
I will buy board games.
I will buy sporting equipment.
I will buy them musical instruments.
I will buy them more books than their parents will know what to do with.
I will buy them video games that don't pander to a specific gender (RPGS FOR ALL!).
I will buy them a toy that is not typically aimed at their gender if they show interest (little boy wants an Easy Bake Oven? IT IS DONE!)
I will not buy them anything wrapped in gaudy pink and purple and glitter.
I will not buy them anything that is covered in muscle men and army cameo.
Do I think this will make a difference? Probably not. But maybe it will. If nothing else, it's something I can do, and sometimes finding that baby step you as an individual can take to adressing an issue is huge. I want the kids in my life to have awesome toys, and both genders have them. Come on, you think my brother wasn't playing with my Polly Pockets while I was playing with his hot wheels? They fit inside the convertible!
*This is not a shot at Jem, it just didn't impact me the same way.
**Says the woman never planning to have children.