Sexism in toys

29 05 2011

I was just reading this post about the way women are portrayed as sex objects in popular culture and the influence this has on children. It brought me back to a pet hate: the difference between girls’ and boys’ toys.

Firstly, what is the purpose of toys and should there be different toys for boys and for girls?

Toys are, essentially, tools for play. In play, children explore their place in the world. They learn how to interact with objects and other people. They use play as a means of exploring ideas they don’t fully understand. Toys, therefore, serve to assist in the mental, social, physical and emotional development of children.

Do we want our children to all learn the same things, or do we want boys and girls to learn different things to fulfil different roles in society? What do we expect of our children when they grow up? Do we want to give them equality of employment opportunity? Do we want them to form and sustain stable relationships? Do we want them to treat one another as equals? Do we want them all to be capable of looking after themselves and their children in their own homes?

Personally, I would answer yes to all of the above. This is not, however, what we are teaching them. We are teaching them that boys should be doing something active, something ‘clever’, bringing home the bread and that girls should be making themselves look pretty, caring for children, cooking and cleaning.

Out-dated, you say? Couldn’t possibly be happening in this day and age, you say? Look at the facts.

I have scrolled through the first eight pages of the ‘role-play‘ category on a major toy retailer’s website. I only reported on toys that were either pictured with a child or used an overtly gender-specific colour scheme. The charts below were created from my findings.


 


 

Who does this affect? Everyone. It affects parents and children, yes, but it also affects the rest of us: this is the training we are giving to the people who are our future. They will be the doctors, the politicians, the civil servants, the emergency services personnel, the mothers, fathers, entertainers, teachers etc etc etc. Do we want female representation in these professions? Or do we want men to do that so that women can stay at home and cook, clean, look pretty and make babies?

Please consider this when buying children’s’ toys and clothes. Girls don’t intrinsically like pink, purple, sparkles, high heels etc, they like them because they’ve been taught to. Make sure they get a balance in their toys and clothes – let them be active and get dirty, don’t let them focus on make-up, clothes, cooking, cleaning, looking pretty etc. At some point, girls will need to earn a living and boys will need to be able to look after themselves. Don’t do them a disservice by not making sure they all learn to do both.


For anyone interested in the raw data, here it is.

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2 responses

2 06 2011
verity

Important questions to be asking. It all seems so obvious, and people have been questioning it for a long time, yet still, very little changes.

9 07 2011
UPDATE: Sexism in toys « thatbitfurther

[…] Sexism in toys 9 07 2011 As an update to my previous post about sexism in the toy industry, I would like to share a few […]

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