Family Life

Girls Can’t Play Pokémon

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. 

"I got Pokemon cards!"

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 Forget this outdated crap about games for girls or games for boys.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.

Nobody gets to tell my kid she can't 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.

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  • You are an awesome Dad! And please let your daughter know that I have a 17-year old daughter, who will be heading to college next year to become an architect. And you know what? She has loved Pokemon for years & years now! Any girl (or any boy) can do anything they want to do…if they apply themselves & work hard towards it! Your daughter will do great things if she stays true to herself and continues to have your support no matter what her decisions.

  • My girls had issues, too, when they first got involved in Pokemon, too. That was 18 years ago. While we haven’t been going to league to play the card game for many years, they all still play the video games. Let it suffice it to say that they actually knew more girls I to it than boys all those years ago. Funny but some of the kids who used to tease them about it years ago are now into it. I went to Toys R Us with daufgdaufghter #2 and her boyfriend yesterday to get our free Pokjemon promo cards. Yes, me, too. I’m glad you’re encouraging your daughter. In time I’m sure she’ll find others to play with, to.

  • This was an awesome post, way to go Daddy!! I have 2 girls and they are in their 20’s now but have always liked Pokemon, started when they were young, they had the cards , pogs, and even some of the characters, and now today they play Pokemon go…so yes girls do love Pokemon!!

  • Ugh… why in this day in age do we even have this gender stereotyping going on?!?! So ridiculous!! Pokemon is for EVERYONE and Im pretty sure there are pokemon girl characters too?!!? I hope she loves it!

  • That is so angering. Of course girls can play pokemon, I play pokemon everyone in my family does. Not only do we each play the video game and the card game but we also play pokemon go as well. It’s not a gender specific game (not that there even is such a thing). I get so frustrated when people teach there children that games and toys are gender specific when they’re really not. I”m sorry your daughter had to go through that it’s very upsetting.

  • I am so happy that your husband explained to his daughter the reasons why she could and should play Pokeman. A person can do anything they want as long as they have the interest and confidence in themselves.
    I think the most important thing to install in our children, after our complete love and support of them, is to help them realize how special they are and instill confidence in them in any way or opportunity you can.

  • Oh wow, I didn’t expect this at such an early age. Not that it’s OK at any age. I was one of those girls that liked both girly and boyish games, sports and everything else, and it just makes me angry that those stereotypes still exist. I have to congratulate you on how you handled it.