A simple 8-panel cartoon on toy choices for boys and girls.

Shopping for toys might not seem like an important parenting moment, but it is.

For example, when my wife and I are looking online or at a shop somewhere, our 7-year-old boy frequently chooses toys that are marketed to girls, like pink backpacks and sparkly purple art projects.

Some parents might steer him over to a different set of toys, but we make a point to not pass judgment. We do caution him that he might have some kids teasing him, but that doesn't bother him one bit. In fact, that kind of peer pressure doesn't affect his decisions at all (proud papa moment there!).


Toys are still gendered and it's often in a way that's unfair to girls.

Many of the toys that toy makers typically assign to girls point them in a certain direction, often associated with homemaking and pleasing men, a point recently made by comic artist Christine Deneweth, who published a fantastic cartoon about kids and gender discrimination (see below).

Deneweth says she was watching TV when she saw toy commercials featuring boys conquering the world while girls stayed at home. She realized that the toys weren't just gendered, they were limiting girls to few roles in society.

"Boy toys market that boys can be anything: scientists, dragon masters, sports stars, superheroes, and so much more," she said. "Girl toys limit girls into being moms and cooks. And while it is good to be a mom or a cook, toy marketing doesn't show girls in a variety of roles. This can be damaging because girls need to see that they can do anything, too."

This comic does a great job of showing just how gendered toys can send the wrong messages to kids.

It's worth noting, of course, that just because a woman does these things doesn't mean she's "doing it for men." Many women cook, make dinner, are moms, and wear dresses because they want to do those things for themselves. But it is a problem that toys marketed to girls reinforce the message that women and girls are supposed to be doing these things, and they aren't being given opportunities to try other things. And vice versa for boys.

Stereotypical toys can be harmful to boys, girls, and those who don't identify as either.

For example, I am the family cook and my boys do the laundry. These are not gendered roles at all in our house.

But I'll be damned if I can find a cooking set in the boys' section at the toy store.

There are companies that are breaking these molds, such as GoldieBlox, which offers toys that can inspire girls to be engineers, to build things, to dream beyond traditional roles.

Image from Hasbro promotional video.

Even bigger companies like Hasbro have received enough pressure to offer gender-neutral toys when previously, Easy-Bake ovens were only offered in pink and purple. Who made them consider changing? A 13-year-old kid.

Perhaps we're decades away from gender-neutral being the norm, but every time we talk about this, we make progress.

And parents (or kids) ... if you find a toy that bugs you because it's blatantly sexist, feel free to have a conversation about it, or start a petition, or just refuse to buy into the stereotypes.

More

Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

RELATED: This sneaky guide dog is too pure for this world. A hilarious video proves it.

The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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