When it comes to playtime, girls should be pretty pink princesses and boys swashbuckling adventurers.
That's been the conventional wisdom for a long time, and it was only last year that retailers including Target and Toys R Us began to phase out toys labeled for "boys" or "girls." Thanks to parents and progressives who've demanded that toy marketing encourages girls to build, lead or save the day, and avoids locking boys in a one-dimensional macho mindset, more kids understand it's OK to play however they want.
That's also the wonderful and adorable message in a new Sesame Street episode, airing July 23. Titled "Dress Me Up Club," the episode features Abby Cadabby playing with pals including Prairie Dawn and Elmo, when it's decided they'll all participate in Dress-Up Day. The fun is open to all, but the minute we see racks of costumes labeled by gender emerge, we can feel the constraints arriving.
You don't have to squint too hard to see that the girls' options include lots of tulle, pink and sequins, while the boys' rack includes cool prints and what looks like a dinosaur costume. "Today we're pretending to be superheroes and princesses!" Prairie Dawn announces.
It's a simple enough set of options, and so is Abby's desire to be a superhero. Her friends calmly explain to Abby, however, that superhero play is for boys; girls should be princesses. But Abby wants to fly through the air like Elmo! Instead she gets relegated to a tea party — which, admittedly, doesn't look as fun.
Of course, by the end of it we're all aware that girls can be heroes too - "There are female superheroes, and we could always use more help!" Elmo offers - and boys, if they want, can play tea party and ballet too. There's a fun song, and, in a further homage to the letter D, a reminder that girls can be dentists, drummers, divers and more.
It's sort of sad that the wonderful message here is even still needed at all in 2016, but here we are as a society: it doesn't matter who wears what. Anyone can play in any way that makes them feel comfortable, and they can grow up to be whatever they want too. Though Sesame Streetis clearly aimed at children, this is an episode that some adults could benefit from seeing as well.
Sesame Street airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. on HBO; "Dress-Up Me Club" airs July 23.