Tee has been talking about Pokémon cards all week. Apparently this old is new again craze has swept her school, and the kids have been playing at lunch and on the bus ride home. I was driving her to karate class when she wistfully told me she wished she could play too. She said that the older boys wouldn’t let her. They’ve been telling her, “Girls don’t like Pokémon,” and, “Girls can’t play.”
And then she said the words that broke my dad heart.
“I wish I was a boy so that I could play Pokémon.”
This is not okay.
Nobody tells my daughter that girls can’t play Pokémon.
“Of course girls can play Pokémon,” I told her. “You can play any game you want.”
“But they won’t teach me,” she said. “They don’t believe me when I say that I like it. They think I’m just pretending.”
I was so angry. She’s only six. Surely it’s too early for her to have to face this kind of stereotyping. How could anyone tell my beautiful little girl that she can’t do something, simply because she’s a girl. But I bit back the words I really wanted to say about those boys.
Instead I said, “I’ll teach you.”
“But how do you know how to play, Daddy? You don’t have any cards.”
“Don’t worry about it. I have an idea.”
So we made a stop on the way home from karate. I brought her into the store and told her to pick out one of the Pokémon starter packs. Her eyes lit up and she spent the next ten minutes examining each pack so she could pick the best one there. She carried that package of cards back to the car like it was the most precious thing in the world, grinning the whole way.
Later that evening, she asked me why girls don’t like Pokémon. I explained that some girls do like Pokémon — she’s a girl who likes it. She thought about that for a minute, and then she said that not many of the other girls at school liked Pokémon. I agreed that it might very well be that more boys than girls like it, but that wasn’t important. The only thing that mattered is that she likes it.
Nobody gets to tell my kid what she should or should not be interested in “because she’s a girl.” Forget this outdated crap about games for girls or games for boys. They’re just games. If my kids love it, I want them to go for it. I want both my daughters to know right down to the very centre of their beings that whatever they do, whatever they like, whatever path or career they choose, all that matters is that they’ve chosen it.
Of course I know it’ll be a hard battle. I know that they’re going to run into a world full of messages about what girls should do, what they should like, and how they should look. But I also know it’s a battle worth fighting. When I met my newborn daughters and held them for the first time in my arms, I promised I’d be the best dad I could possibly be to them. I swore I’d keep them safe.
I realize I can’t protect them from everything, but this is a start. Encouraging their passions, whatever they might be, is one small way I can help them believe in themselves. So we play Pokémon, because that’s what dads do. It won’t be long before she beats those older boys at their own game and shows them that girls can too play Pokémon.
Chris is This West Coast Mommy’s other half. Proud geek dad and software engineer, he’s been collecting and playing with Star Wars figures for the last 36 years. He wants to reassure his wife he won’t be stopping anytime soon.