Gendering Toys is Good for Nobody

I wasn’t surprised when my son, Zachary, was teased for bringing My Little Pony in for first-grade show-and-tell. After all, I had been following the story of Katie, a first-grader in Evanston, Illinois, who had been mocked for choosing a Star Wars water bottle. Katie’s mother, Carrie Goldman, blogged about the incident, and her post quickly went viral, with over a thousand women Star Wars fans leaving Katie supportive comments. Having read Katie’s story, I had a sense of what might be coming when my son showed up in the kitchen holding Twilight Sparkle and announcing, “This is my show-and-tell.”

Frankly, anyone who has been inside a toy store lately has seen the extraordinary gender division. There are girls’ toys and there are boys’ toys, and there isn’t a whole lot in between. You’ll know when you are in the girls’ section by the bright pink glow and the predominance of kitchen-related items. That’s also where you’ll find My Little Pony, in all her sparkly, pastel magnificence. If, however, you’re looking for the boys’ section, just head for the dark toys featuring building supplies and weapons. That’s where the Star Wars merchandise is shelved.

Toy marketing has become increasingly gendered over the last decade and a half, according to Lyn Mikel Brown, co-author with Sharon Lamb of the books Packaging Girlhood and Packaging Boyhood. Although initially related to the anti-consumerist Riot Grrrl movement, girl power resonated with girls and so became fodder for the marketers. “Suddenly, we saw in the mid-nineties everything being called ‘girl power’,” says Brown. “Crafts, makeup, shopping–everything traditional ‘girl’ was given this new edge, but the message was the same.” That message? Girls need lots of pink, fluffy toys.

But kids can still play with whatever they like, right? It’s not that easy, unfortunately. “We rarely see girls and boys in the same commercials,” explains Brown, or in the same section of the toy store. “Toys are heavily marketed through stereotypes. It’s all about making it simple to sell products to little kids.”

The fault doesn’t just lie with toy manufacturers. Although Hasbro, maker of the My Little Pony and Star Wars toys, did not respond to my interview requests, marketers with other toy companies explain that the retail stores have tied their hands. Top retail stores define the sections and are reluctant to stock gender-neutral toys because they don’t have a section for them. But when I went to my local Learning Express, an educational-toy-store chain, they told me that they don’t carry male dolls because no one will buy them.

So marketers and toy stores are throwing up their hands, saying they are responding to consumers’ tastes. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem, and the children lose out. By the time they are in elementary school, children are well aware of which colors and products are intended for them. Their choices have been severely limited by the adults around them, to the detriment of the children. “Diversity is always better in terms of cognitive development, in terms of relationships and social environments,” says Brown. “When you offer few options and give kids a very narrow slice of life, there are things they don’t learn, experiences they don’t have.”

What the children do learn is strict gender norms, and the children who don’t adhere to those norms frighten their peers. “They’re made anxious by difference because we’ve given them sameness,” Brown says. To alleviate that fear, they tease the child who doesn’t conform.

When the teasing starts, adult response is crucial. While Katie and Zachary had similar experiences at school, Goldman and I had remarkably different ones when we tried to address the problem. My child’s teacher put a stop to the individual instance of teasing and that was the end of it, but Goldman’s community took the teasing as a call to action. “There could have been defensiveness, from the school, from the parents of the first-grade boys,” Goldman says. Instead, the community and the school have come together to talk over the issues and break through gender norms. The school is considering bringing in a group to teach an anti-bullying assembly. A Star Wars fan organized a Geek Pride for Katie day, with over 19,000 people pledging to wear Star Wars clothing this Friday in support of Katie, although Katie’s school is making it a Proud to Be Me Day, in which every child in encouraged to wear whatever interests her or him. That kind of proactive response can help to combat the strict gender lines that toy companies establish.

Campaigns like Pink Stinks in the United Kingdom bring publicity to the way gender has been scripted for our children. Every now and then the media runs an article on the tyranny of pink or the elusive tomboy. However, the best way to combat gender stereotyping and gender bullying is to refuse to lock children into gender norms. Children are bombarded with marketing, but every time we teach a girl to build or a boy to nurture, every time we give a girl a Star Wars water bottle or pick up a My Little Pony for a boy at a yard sale, we are opening up options that the toy stores and companies have shut down.

Photo from Flickr.com user Brian Sawyer through Creative Commons License 2.0

Comments

  1. great article!

  2. This is a well-written position piece about the ramifications of gender socialization. What I like is the message that we can empower children's self-development by granting them the space to explore, choose, and select what interests them. We can help each child know all of who he or she might become. We'll reduce the power of marketing by raising thinking children. By giving attention to the children who treat themselves and others with tolerance and kindness and less attention to those children who bully and tease, we can move toward more tolerant and kind communities and societies.

  3. lifeineden says:

    Nothing makes this problem more obvious than raising boy-girl twins. I refuse to buy two of everything, so my goal is a majority of gender neutral toys that they can share. From the age of 0-1.5 that isn't too difficult. But now that we are beyond 2, it is near impossible. When I shopped for a play kitchen — they were nearly all pink or pastels. My son loves to sweep, but all the toy broom are pink and sparkly. I don't have a problem with him using a pink broom — but my girl actually does like pink and would probably steal it from him just because of that. It is frustrating. One must turn to online retailers or specialty shops, which then puts many gender neutral items out of price range for many. It is absurd, just like so many aspects of marketing to children (don't even get me started about toys in fast food meals and their connection to age-inappropriate movies and shows).

    • toodlebugsmom says:

      so buy two and put a name on each so they can't steal. I'm the oldest of 7. I know about these things. lol

    • We have a blue wooden kitchen for my boys. Granted, it’s a pastel, but it looks gender neutral. I also saw it in red. Bought it at Target two years ago. We also have a number of toy brooms and even a mini Hoover that runs on batteries. None are pink. They’re out there. Just keep looking!

    • well, have your son use a real broom ;)

  4. My husband jokes about how the pink sparkles cry out to our daughter from aisles away… it's like she's magnetically drawn to them.

    Although I'm glad that she did also have Legos on her Xmas list. Which are clearly in the "boy aisle"

  5. As a small retailer I can attest to how difficult it is to get gender neutral toys. I have a small bookstore/cafe in Tucson AZ and we recently decided to try adding toys to our kids' section. It has taken a lot of work to find items that are not overtly gender specific and we find ourselves mostly limited to toddler age toys like blocks, shape games and large-piece floor puzzles. We also have a few book-related character plush toys. Gender neutral or at least non-conformative coloring books or activity books are so far impossible to find (except two by PM Press – they are great but pricey) I have asked some of the manufacturers and they say that they have to carry what folks are willing to buy.

  6. Thanks for taking this on. I cannot stand the boys’ vs. girls’ toy aisles and the public message saying what my sons ‘are supposed’ to like vs. what they really do like.

    I will say that when my youngest son just wanted to add Barbie to his holiday wish list, I balked. Oh, I am happy to get him a doll. No problem there. But my mom didn’t allow Barbies for her six girls. And I’m not going to allow a Barbie for my fella.

  7. I went to a Steiner Waldorf school as a child (http://www.steinerwaldorf.org/ ) and their approach to toys is quite interesting. They stock (and encourage parents to buy) only the most simple, neutral toys. Most are made of wood or other natural materials and they were mostly toy animals, gnomes (not sure why), and things that could be used to build and create other things. They have dolls, but they are all made of soft material and only have very basic feature markings (I remember mostly female dolls, but they definitely had male ones too). The purpose of deliberately keeping toys simple is that children need to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps and that this is the best way for them to learn and develop through play; but it also means that the extreme gender stereotyping kind of toys are kept away.
    I remember that the girls still tended to play "families" and the boys were more likely to build "war ships" (out of planks of wood), but at least the things we played with weren't telling us what being "a proper girl" or " a real boy" meant.

  8. Good article, and I'm all too aware of the way the puddles of pink keep expanding through the toy aisles. But, at least in my crunchy niche, there has also been progress. My friend and I took our 9-year old sons to see Billy Elliot, and we had to explain to them on the way home that in some places, it was considered totally uncool for boys to want to dance. I also had to explain to my son a couple years ago that there was a time when people thought it was not acceptable for boys to cry.

  9. Great piece Emily.

    When I was growing up in the 1970′s and 80′s, I’m sure things were gendered, but I don’t remember it very well. But I also grew up when calling yourself a feminist was liberating and exciting or at least that’s how my babysitters seemed to see it.

    What this piece is reminding me of (as a non-parent) is the profusion of gendered commercials on TV. Mom is always swiffering and swiping, and dad looks on in amazed blissful boobishness. Has it always been thus? I thought I remembered commercials with men doing household tasks, but I could be mistaken.

    Is there just some kind of gendering backlash?

    Thank you for sharing Lyn Mikel Brown with a non-parent. I think it will be an interesting read.

  10. Interesting post. I often find myself frustrated that my child gravitates toward “boy” toys, and I just about gave up when he told me that I was wearing “girl” colors when I put on a pink shirt. Thanks for the reminder to keep fighting that.

    (And I hope Ms. will continue to have posts by Ms. Rosenbaum.)

  11. The latest gendered atrocity: VIDEO BARBIE. Lens in Chest, video in back, USB in, er, hip. REALLY? Yea, really. Ugh. http://storiesaregoodmedicine.blogspot.com/2010/1

  12. long time mom says:

    I find the popular princess behavior of parents of girls to be nauseating. Yet I see it everywhere, for every birthday and class show (not to mention Halloween, what happened to gross green witches?)… we get what we ask for. How about Lincoln Logs, blocks (simple and complex), as a girl I adored my erector set. What are your kids building with their Legos? stoves or bridges?

    • toodlebugsmom says:

      I know the feeling! I let my girl use her imagination for whatever she wants. I don't judge or say that's girly or boyish. This year you know what she wanted to be for halloween? Alice or the Cheshire cat. He birthday theme: Phineas and Ferb or How to Train your Dragon. Both can be boyish! but that's what she wants, so that's what we do. No questions or judgements.

    • Yes, yes–I completely agree! My three-year-old daughter is named Jasmine, and everyone who meets her says, "Oh, Jasmine like the princess!" No, actually, she was named after Jasmine rice, thanks. She doesn't even know who Jasmine the princess is.

      Gender in marketing drives me absolutely bonkers. My daughter's favorite movie is Pixar's Cars–she wants to watch it whenever we let her choose a movie, and we've slowly collected most of the cars from the movie. They, along with a collection of plastic animals, are the toys she plays with the most. When I started buying big girl underwear for her, she wanted the pack that had Lightning McQueen…but it was made for little boys. The girl panties were all Disney princess. (And don't get me started on the fact that much of the Cars merchandise features Chick and the hot rods from the beginning of the movie–the meanest characters in the movie are often the most heavily marketed. What is that about?)

      I do my best to let both of my daughters choose their own paths. My oldest loves pink and clothes, but she also loves animals and cars (both from the movie and in real life). My youngest is developing her own little quirky personality–including a total fascination with Buzz Lightyear and anything to do with the moon and stars. My hope is to let them make their own choices and give them the confidence to feel at ease with those decisions when they start attending school and get introduced to those stifling gender stereotypes by others.

  13. Palaverer says:

    Sadly, no one is going to throw your son a parade for daring to play with a "girl's" toy. One gender transgression is still more taboo than the other.

    • While it is now acceptable for a girl to act like a boy, it is still shameful for a boy to act like a girl.

      I hear a lot of people interpreting this as sexism against boys, and proof that feminism is selfish since it is now the boys that need to be "raised" up to the level that girls now occupy.
      However, I still see the double standards against "boys acting like girls" as a feminist issue because the boy is not being teased for transgressing the stereotypes of his gender (which is what he is doing). He is being teased for acting "feminine", and being feminine is still inferior to being masculine.

      Women were never ridiculed just for being masculine, because masculinity itself is exalted and honorable in our culture; instead they were ridiculed for taking on a role that they didn't *deserve*. A woman doesn't deserve the status that is afforded to a man no matter how masculine she acts. She is a phony, and she should just stick to "women's roles".

      We don't see a mirror mentality when a man is teased for acting feminine. Instead, as a man, he is *lowering* himself by behaving like a female. The femininity itself is what degrades his status, NOT the transgression of gender norms. This double standard is seen best in our culture's views towards homosexuals. Lesbians get a fair amount of teasing, but everyone can understand why a woman would want to act masculine, or play the male role….but it is shameful for a man to *voluntarily* embarrass himself and degrade himself to the lowly status of "feminine".

      All things feminine are still largely viewed as inferior, weak, and worthless.

      • justpassingthrough says:

        Exactly. Men are the default humans, women are inferior copies, hence femininity as an insult, masculinity as admirable. Another example is when men wear women’s clothing: it’s supposed to embarrass the man and afford an uproarious opportunity to point and laugh at his degradation. When a woman dresses in men’s clothing she’s emulating the superior sex, therefore, it’s not considered amusing or degrading.

  14. Heather M. Robinson says:

    It's such a challenge for feminist moms! We can only do our best. I am choosing, for many reasons, to raise my daughter out of the US in her young years. One great advantage of this is to remove the both of us as best we can from consumerism and all that goes with it, including the "toy gendering". Where we live it's a lot easier to keep her from shops where there are even toys. But my other challenge is that teachers, girls, and boys are a bit behind many Americans; for example, her preschool classmate has told her that girls cannot wear pants, and she is perhaps more pushed to imagining traditional female careers, such as ballerina. To address this cloud, we talk a lot and purposefully about the issues, I buy her building block sets and other things non-gendered, and I try to point out people or instances where things fall outside of the norm that others are teaching her.

  15. I used to work at Radio Shack, and every so often someone would walk in and ask if we had toys for girls. I would show them a remote control car, and they would inevitably say, "No, toys for girls." I would reply, "We try not to reinforce rigid gender stereotypes." People would just look at me kind of funny and walk away. I quit shortly after we started carrying "Bratz" toys. What the hell is up with those? What parent in their right mind would buy their kid a doll that looks like a strung out underage prostitute?

  16. toodlebugsmom says:

    I may be off in saying this, but if your kid gets his feelings hurt because people are picking on him/her for having a toy that's not made for his/her gender, than he/she should buck up and stand up for themselves. No one did that for us when we were kids. I played with star wars toys and barbies! Everyone made fun of me for it. You cry and you move on! It's part of growing up and being toughened up. Kids don't need to be shielded from that. It's life and they need to experience it. That's my opinion. I'm a mother of a 5 yr old girl who's tougher than any of the boys in her class, who isn't afraid to wear pink and play football at recess with the boys. Teach your kids to adapt to the troubles in life and they will go further than if you coddle them for every little thing.

    • I completely agree with you, you can't baby them because their feelings got hurt.. You talk to them about being their own person and make sure they know there is nothing wrong with that.

      • Well the thing is…. they are babies. Not BABY babies, but they are small children and they are impressionable. Not every child will react the same ways to the same situations – some are simply more vulnerable or more courageous than others. What kind of insensitive world do we live in when we look at a five year old and say "Don't be a baby!" Children's minds are simple. What other people say to them touches them.

        • What Cassie said. Sorry, you can’t expect a toddler to not come home crying when his feelings are hurt. You can’t expect a little child to have the life experience to know how to diplomatically and firmly tell a bully off. That is a ridiculous expectation.

    • no offense, but I think you and Stephanie have missed the point: the problem here is the imposition of rigid gender roles, not what an individual does or doesn't do when she is being teased by other children. i think rigid gender roles are much worse than being teased — because they influence and limit how we think. but, they are incredibly pervasive. my daughter is not yet 2 and when we dress her in the "boy" clothes that we've gotten as hand-me-downs, adults in the playground or on the street will ineviably say "hiyya fella, what a big boy you are!" but when she is dressed in "girl" clothes, we always get "what a precious little thing" — same kid, but remarkably big when people assume she's a boy and small when they think she's a girl. one of manyy examples we've already seen.

  17. I like this article for the content, but also that it talks about the solution and not just the problem, and does so with less bitterness and "doom and gloom" than I'm accustomed to stumbling across.

    Well done, thanks.

  18. Educational supply stores like Constructive Playthings and Kaplan offer gender neutral toys for preschools as well as homeschoolers. I am expecting my first child now (a girl) and intend to buy many of her toys from such places as much as possible. Thank you for sharing this article. Gender stereotyping in children is one of my hot button topics, and I have gone round and round with my mother-in-law in my argument to raise a non-gendered child. It is becoming more and more difficult in the world in which we live, but it is by no means impossible.

  19. This article reminded me of McDonalds kids meal toys. When I was a child they would ask do you want the barbie toy or the racecar toy. Now they simplified it to girl or boy toy, something that bothers me so much that I always ask them to elaborate on which one is which. The repercussions of enforcing gender stereotypes through children's toys are scary to imagine. It reminds me of the gender construction formed through 1950s advertisements: http://www.businesspundit.com/10-most-sexist-prin

  20. Great article, I hope we can all do our part to curb these gender roles, and let the children choose what they want to play with and how they want to be without so many daunting societal pressures. I think with out these strictly defined roles, equality will be a lot more attainable.

  21. I'm a straight guy and i liked my little pony as a child.

  22. Great post! I have two young children and work very hard to make sure the toys we bring into our home are gender neutral, non-sexualized, and available for both children to play with. My daughter is usually walking around carrying a bucket of sea creatures while her little brother has a tea party with his plastic dinosaurs.

    Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly here in the United States is a product line for girls tries to restore some balance, as well as a advocacy group for parents that teaches media literacy and how to parent in a world full of gender stereotypes and sexualization.

    Thank for the well written article and bringing continued attention to the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes in childhood.

  23. This is exactly why I've created Princess Free Zone (www.princessfreezone.com). My daughter has never liked anything in girls departments–the demarcation is pretty clear in most stores. For a long time, she identified with being a boy because everything she liked was considered to be "boy." Drove me crazy.

  24. Donna Fraser says:

    This discussion is very insightful as it points to forces of socialization that shape gender identity, gender ideology and gender role expectations.
    Globalization and the internationalization of the national economies has brought about a demand for the transformation of gender roles to meet the demands of the new international division of labour. It is nice to see parenthood as critical consumers and increased awareness of gender stereotypes in child's play. The labour force demands diversity and so it is important that the relics of a traditional division of labor is closely monitored. The child's right to an education includes free choice of a profession any profession; the impact of child's play on achievement motivation cannot be understated. A critical awareness adds resilience to character, this is important.

  25. I loved Star Wars toys back when I was a kid. Most peopel thought I was weird, but considering that most of them wound up pregnant out of wedlock and had to give up pursuing college (if they had any intention of ever going), I'd say that the gendering method does more harm than good. Granted, it does make it easier for the department stores to lay out their floor plans, but there has to be a better way that does not mess with kids' heads. I tihnk it really is up to the parents to make that choice.

  26. I had a somewhat bizarre encounter with gendered toys the other day. I was selecting gifts for an infant through the Salvation Army Angel tree who wanted 'something to hit on'. On K-mart's website, I found the Melissa and Doug Band-in-a-Box, a little too old for the infant, but I looked to see what was in it. The box contained a tambourine, cymbals, maracas, clacker, tone blocks and a triangle, meant for preschoolers. Then, I looked to the specifications: "Gender: Girl." Huh? How is this only for a girl? If it were gendered, I would think it would be for a boy because it is noisy and girls are supposed to have soft, dainty, and quiet toys. Any thoughts?
    Here's the link to kmart if anyone's interested: http://www.kmart.com/shc/s/p_10151_10104_05284163

  27. I'm very sorry your son was teased. I think gendering toys is ridiculous. A football, a plastic pony, a doll, a Star Wars toy . . . they are just things. Boys and girls should be able to play with any of them without being teased.

    For what it's worth, the new My Little Pony has spawned huge interest in what is normally a "blue zone" . . . geeky adult male communities (like Star Wars collectors, Transformers collectors, etc.) It's very interesting watching them go from "I like this show, is there something wrong with me?" to "PONIES HELL YEAH!" Since some of these guys are or will be parents, hopefully this will be a little step in disintegrating the invisible line that separates "girls toys" from "boys toys".

    Oh, and about gender neutral stuff–when I was a kid, I found those toys to be very DULL. Not because of the gender neutral label, but because of the type of toys that fall under the label–they always struck me as either leftovers of the toy world or sort of pretentious. ("Look, I am a toy made of real wood!" Yeah, that's marketing towards the parents, not the kids.) Frankly, I think a lot of gendered toys are fine, the problem is the mentality of "boys can't play with this, girls can't play with that"

  28. Thank you for this insightful article. I've been ranting about this very issue for years. Finding gender neutral toys for my daughter was a chore 16 years ago. For today's parents, the task is damn near impossible. I see that manufacturers are even making "girl" versions of old games like Twister and Life. Check out my last rant here: http://www.reignofthegirlchild.com/2008/12/annual

    For the record, I've worked for a toy manufacturer. The previous posters are correct; manufacturers make what the store buyers want. Toy company creatives may have entire notepads of beautiful drawings and ideas for non-gendered toys, but that doesn't mean they will be produced. Which toys are developed is ultimately based on shelf space, location in the department and what the store buyers think will sell. If there is no aisle or shelf space in the store for gender-neutral toys, manufacturers can't waste time and money developing them because no buyers will take them. Buyers request the items that they know will be big sellers. Unfortunately, those are usually the very gendered pink and blue toys. It all comes down to $$$ … what else is new?

  29. I am so thrilled to find so many positive comments regarding nongendering toys and life! My son looks like he'd be a football player, but he rides horses and wants a toy stroller for his stuffed bunny for Christmas. While in the toy story a year or so ago, he asked me "Why do the girls get all the cool stuff?" in reference to the toy sets with all the pieces and colors and sparkles. He also now veers away from the pink aisles (which are getting louder and more traditional and sexy by the day) because he has learned in school that pink is for girls. This, despite the fact that other than the building toys there really isn't much in the "boy" aisles that interests him. And all of this I work hard to explain and to fight and to help him understand so that he makes choices based on what he likes and wants and not what others believe he should like or want. He's learning but it's hard for him to tell others that his favorite color, really, is bright pink!
    We have so far to go and that journey gets harder when we keep stepping back instead of forward. ARGH!

  30. boys and girls are different. get over it. Some (restating, some) teasing is good for a child to help them get tough skin. In the real world, things aren't all pony's and rainbows, there are hard times and tough people you have to deal with. If you try building your child on a mentality that if they play with opposite gender toys (and yes there are such things), they will be teased because my little pony is a girls toy. If you want to raise your son to be weak, sensitive and feminine, expect him to be picked on as a child, right or wrong it is the truth. You can teach tolerance to a point but sometimes you have to step back and realize that it is ridiculous. This hippy crap may work in Switzerland but that is not how this country operates and never will.

    • Dear John – If it's "hippy crap" to teach kids to be respectful and kind to others then sign me up. Do you actually endorse children bullying another child because they play with a certain toy? Shame on you. Oh, and incidentally, I am the mother of a boy who loves light sabers and nerf guns, but he also loves his Teddy bear, and we would never stoop to shaming him if he wants a doll or other so-called girl toys.

    • Lauren Karaffa says:

      John Doe, you are a perfect example of what the marketing of hyper masculinity and hyper femininity has done to the people in our culture. Yes, men and women are different, but a lot of the differences you see today are manufactured. Being sensitive does not mean being weak. It means having feelings and not being an asshole. Being a woman does not mean being weak either, and the way you suggest that a boy who plays with "girls toys" is weak really just proves that you are a misogynist. In reality, there are as many different ways to be a man and a woman as there are men and women. Yes, life is hard and people are jerks, and it is much easier to deal with that if you can think for yourself and have a degree of truth and acceptance in your life and don't just default to culturally proscribed defense mechanisms.

    • To say that teasing helps us "develop tougher skins" is flawed logic. Read any study on the psychological effects of bullying you like (and remember what is harmless teasing to one can easily be hurtful to another).

      And for another thing, boys deciding not to play with a doll, or girls deciding not to be footballers, because they're scared people will tease them and not because they're genuinely not interested, is hardly psychologically healthy behavior, nor does it aid the child in their development of a personal identity. Should we all be buying into someone else's idea of what is "right" for them, rather than deciding for ourselves?

      You appear to be directly associating femininity with weakness, which is something I think a lot of female boxers, as well as teachers, footballers, gymnasts, athletes, rally drivers, scientists, architects, martial arts instructors, doctors, surgeons, inventors, etc, etc would have a few things to say about. Our strengths are not in any way defined by our tastes. Nor is our gender any indicator that we are bound and guaranteed to follow the standard formula of "this is for goys/girls". This is so blatantly elemental a fact that I can't believe you missed it. Walking around with gender based blinkers, are we?

      Certainly I agree that there are probably some differences in the behavior of boys and girls but it's nearly impossible to tell how much of our present day behaviour is learned and how much is just nature making a point, anyway.

      If you're the example of what happens when toys are gender stereotyped then sign me up for the hippy crap!

  31. In the 70's, when I was raising my children, we were more open for awhile about gender specific toys. My boys mostly did play with" boy"s toys and my daughter with" girl" toys. But my oldest boy loved his stuffed animals more than any other toys and both boys played "house" with their older sister, which meant sometimes being the daddy to her baby dolls.. Both sons are married with children and very definitely straight. One of my grandsons now loves his Teddy bears. He is 8. He also loves soccer, kick ball is in Little League and loves video games. The idea that boys cannot ever play with anything cute or girls with action figures or cars is ridiculous. Such stereotyping is harmful to children. We have advanced in many ways in career opportunities for women and in having men help out with childcare, cooking and household tasks. But we have gone backwards in segregating toys into only being appropriate for one gender.

  32. I think if you teach your children it doesn't matter what you play with, despite what the boys side and girls side is, your child will be well rounded. You do not have to pay attention to what the industry is saying, and when more people start crossing their toys into the 'it doesn't matter category', maybe the industry will make a change. They want to go by what's popular to make more money anyway.

  33. In thinking this through, it is not really that some toys are bad, princesses are not really bad, nerf guns are not really bad. Certainly there can be some questionable messages with either and I can’t say I am a fan of Bratz dolls or WWF “action figures” and wouldn’t buy either one for my kids. However, it is the marketing that is the problem. It is that there are pink shelves and dark shelves at Toys R Us. It is that it is assumed that girls want a pink pike and boys want the same bike in blue.

    Is the answer as simple as Barbie commercials with boys playing too or mixed toy isles at the local toy store? Because in the end, it is able not forcing our kids to make a choice based on color or sparkles or location in the toy store. Not about forcing them to play with gender “neutral” toys.

  34. Diana Cameron McQueen says:

    You know what world and blog-sphere? This is not new. I fell in love w/ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sneakers (I loved the turtles and had the toys) & wore them everyday to school. Other kids mocked me mercilessly for wearing them, cause they were kiddie (this was 2nd grade people) not "for boys", but I loved them and wanted to wear them.

    Kids don't always do what we assume they will do. All this pressure from companies to like certain things, it's not like our children are brainless zombie's. Yes, it's harmful, but sometimes kids are just different and know what they like. And those are the kids that get mocked at school for being who they are, but that doesn't stop them because they know what they like, and won't change that to please others.

  35. Ha.

    You're kidding? The toy aisle is starkly gendered? No way.

    Two things I wanna say: 1. Go around the corner. Typically, there is a "car aisle" (for boys), the "doll aisle" (for girls), and then an "action figure aisle" which contains both army men and normal type pokemon like Eevee and Porygon (the nerdiest of the pokemon). This aisle is confusing, as it puts clear masculine toys in with other properties that are neutral gendered or just plain nerdy… like, say, Star Wars. Here all toys get the boy treatment, which is just unfair. And anyways, the next aisle is toy instruments and computers and board games, and no one argues those are neutral (some even androgynous, however that works for kids).

    2. I wouldn't worry about the kids themselves. I mean, tomgirls have it harder *sticks out tongue* but kids seem to "choose" their own gender completely independently of… sometimes everything. I don't know how it works, but I've seen kids make some baffling choices when their environments are considered. My nephew, for example, likes cars. Go figure. Toy manufacturers/marketers suck garbanzo beans, for sure, but before such time as they wise up the actual kids in question seem to get by just fine without being "told" what gender their supposed to be.

    And bullies will tease you for anything. They really don't need an excuse. Your kid just has to tell them what-for, or however it is they deal with bullies nowadays.

  36. I absolutely love “Bratz toys: What the hell is up with those? What parent in their right mind would buy her kid a doll that looks like a strung-out, underage prostitute?”

    I’m gonna send this one out! And I actually bought my daughter Bratz. She played with them for a short time, lost interest, is now 14 and actually wants to dress modestly. No thanks to Bratz, though.

  37. I’ve read about this type of thing before, and there isn’t much you can do about it. Sure, you can limit the toys your child has, but as a couple with twins talked about on 20/20 a few years ago – the boys gravitate to army men and the girls gravitate to pretty things. The mother said she refused to allow toys with guns in the house, but she couldn’t stop her son from play shooting a stick or the fly-swatter. Let’s face it, there are blurry areas, but in general, boys and girls are different. Not better or worse, just different.

  38. when i was growing p my mother ran an in home daycare, but props to here on his issue it was well stocked with a variety of toys, toy play sets(ewok, mylittle pony, and for a while castle Greyskull) and dress up clothes, when we were well behaved she’d even let us (sometimes) use face paints. offered the option many of the boys would choose to play with the ponies and barbies, as eagerly as they would the trucks. The playhouses my father built for all of us were as often a fort, in our games as they were a house or a restaurant or monster’s layer.

    I discovered much latter that some of these boys were not allowed to have “girl” toys at home. A definition covering toys like the my little ponies, and even sometimes action figures such as the pink and yellow Power Rangers; but, at the daycare my mother didn’t mind if the boys decided to play house as the “mom” (which was often) or put on a fashion how” where they all wore dresses, they had free reign to play with whatever of the toys that were there regardless as to whether of not it was a “girl’s toy” a “boy’s toy” or a more gender neutral one.

  39. fluttershy says:

    genderizing toys is a very old trend – ragity anne vs machano – and marketers do it because , for some psychological reason, its far easier ot market them that way

    but, it causes majour problems, from what happened with her kid, to increased gender dysphoria, to bullying. hopefully this new brony trend will help remedy things a little

    disney, i’ve found, are little pricks for this, with their disney princesses and super hero’s

  40. I agree with your article whole-heartedly, but trying to take the gender out of toys can be just as bad. It’s like saying you can be too much of a boy or too much of a girl just because you like cars or ponies over blocks.

    I remember when I was younger, my mother bought me a variety of toys–Transformers, Power Rangers, Barbies, My Little Pony, Legos, building sets, stickers, makeup–and she didn’t care because it made me happy. Girl toys were just as pink and boy toys were just as blue as today, but as if I cared. As long as you support what your child likes and not try to lead them to either boy/girl/neutrality, they won’t really care about if something is for their gender or not.

  41. I have to agree with this. as a kid I had “boy” and “girl” toys, my grandma hated it she thought I should be playing with dollies and leave the trucks for the boys, but my mom didn’t care she bought me and my sister trucks and dolls to play with. but I do remember yesterday going for a walk and I saw a boy with a baby doll so I think the gender thing is working.

    but this genderizing thing needs to stop. boys and girls can play with the same toys. a toy is a toy Gender shouldn’t matter

  42. I agree entirely. While trying to buy a birthday present for my one-year-old niece, I had to work pretty hard to find something both age appropriate and not horrendously gender-stereotyped. Even looking through the Duplo (small-child-safe-Lego) toys, the first thing I noticed was that all but ONE set that came with cars or wheels to build them came with only *male* figurines to drive them. Obviously the simpler things like Sesame Street toys (most popular being Elmo among most of the children I know) are less strictly gendered, but I vote less fluffy and more imagination!

  43. Mysterious Stranger says:

    Seriously, male or female, young or old, who wouldn’t prefer Star Wars over pink. Star Wars is an epic tale where the ideals of medieval chivalry are set in a futuristic setting. Pink… is just a color.

  44. This video of a child mourning the lack of female characters in action figures or on packaging might interest you: http://cheezburger.com/54626305?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+supermemes+%28Super+Heroes%29
    Even kids know that they are missing out.

  45. I agree. I work in a store that stocks A LOT of M&D toys. And for a good amount of it, it’s decent kids toys. But, I’m pretty sick of the rampant gender-profiling that they market. Girls are pink princesses and brides, boys are firemen and pirates. Girls have actual housecleaning supplies and boys have adventure sets — these have exclusive portraits of girls or boys on the toys — with some neutral toys like stuffed animals, learning toys & art supplies. It’s really frustrating. Of course it’s even worse in the big box, plasticy toy stores.

    • By M&D I mean the toy company Melissa and Doug: good quality for the most part, with some really cool stuff. But…

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