We supposedly live in an era where gender norms are to be broken, or at least regularly questioned. Young men are into My Little Pony, 7-year-old girls not only read superhero comics but criticize their portrayals of women, and it is a sign of being a decent parent not to force your kid to like whatever stereotypically boy- or girl-themed shows, toys, movies, or books happen to match his or her anatomy.
So, as a father of a 5-year-old girl, I have tried to expose my daughter to a variety of possible interests, including things that are, according to some, “just for boys.” While this has gone well at home and she has a diverse set of interests, the response when interacting with other kids remains the same as always: many boys her age don’t think she should be into Batman or Star Wars or whatever. She should only be playing princesses and horsies and dollies according to them. Frankly, I expected this response and can write it off as no big deal since they are other kids. However, recently I’ve begun to notice the most annoying gendered assumptions and comments directed at my daughter aren’t those made by other kids . . . they are those made offhandedly by random adult women who have an occasion to talk to her.