It's really interesting to see the Lego then and now ad that was written about on Huff Post recently. Looking at the 1981 image, that's how I remember childhood. I don't remember everything being pink, princess themed or looking like a bag of glitter threw up all over it.
I don't remember being told that anything was out of my reach or that certain things were for "boys" or "girls". Maybe this wasn't normal. But it seemed awfully normal to me.
But then again, I remember being far more engaged in creative play than having toys when I was young. Maybe there were some advantages to not having a lot of money.
I remember playing "mad scientist" and writing notes about my potions (typically made from plants and dirt in the yard). I imagined charting data (I was pretty convinced my nail hardening potion that was made from ash and several other things totally worked).
I remember making plant based dyes using crushed plants (my favorite was crushing purple flowers and trying to draw with the "ink" I had made. I tried to weave baskets from pine needles. I built a loom in my tree house and spent hours weaving yarn.
I helped my dad pull engines from our cars. I had a 6' long poster of a Lamborghini on my wall for years.
Sure, I had my Barbies, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake and Cabbage Patch Kids. But I don't remember having much in the way of pink (Barbie's Corvette was sort of the exception). And Barbie would hang out with GI Joe and fought a lot of battles.
I learned how to use tools. I learned how to work on a car.
None of this was ever presented to me as anything other than normal. Now we have groups devoted to trying to convince girls that it's cool to build things or like science. It just seemed normal, at least in my life, to build things, make things and experiment.
Perhaps my family was more progressive than we knew. But my parents and grandfather always encouraged me to try everything that interested me.
Having that encouragement has given me some amazing life experiences. And I'll be honest, when I got older, I did experience some of the "but girls don't do that" mentality.
When I became a firefighter, my mom and grandpa supported me, but other people would ask why a pretty girl would want to do that. I was ready to join the Army. Again, a lot of why would a pretty girl want to do that. I don't think I realized that was a prevailing viewpoint until I was 18!
Kids react in the way the adults around them. When the women around them defer to men to do "man" things, it sets that up as the norm. When the men around them feed into that idea as well, it makes it seem to be normal to have a division of male/female roles.
Just do things. Don't classify things as feminine vs. masculine. When you are a child, anything is possible until the outside world tells you otherwise. Perhaps it's time to take a note from Nike and "just do it".