Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gender Differences in Toys

Some say that children are introduced to gender differences at a very young age. How could this not be true if from the time they are born, children are taught the differences between boys and girls. Without even knowing, young children are being stereotyped by the toys they play with, the clothes they wear, etc. If we take a look at the situation from an outsiders point of view, we would realize that both society and media are responsible for how we distinguish between the two genders. One of the major ways in which children begin to see the differences between the two sexes, is with the toys they play with. For as long as anyone can remember, boys have played with action figures and cars, while girls have played with dolls and kitchen sets. Toys are responsible for sending the wrong messages to our youth about gender and their roles in society.
The messages that toys are sending children are responsible for how they view boys and girls. When you go toy shopping for a specific gender, you pretty much have an idea of what you are going to get. If you are shopping for a little girl, you are probably going to look for a doll, a tea set, a stuffed animal, etc. If you are shopping for a boy you will most likely be looking for actions figures, trucks, cars, etc. Society has been responsible for drilling these specific images into children’s minds. Little kids grow up thinking that girls are only supposed to play with dolls and delicate items, when on the other hand, boys can play more dangerous and rough games. Their minds are shaped this way, because that is what they have always seen, and they do not know otherwise. From what we read in Gilman’s “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to See”, girls are obsessed with barbies, and that is how it should be. On the other hand, Messner’s “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinity” explains how boys can just relate so easily to sports, and rough play. This is the sort of wrong images that little ones are seeing, they are letting media shape their ideas of what society should be.
While toy shopping, one not only notices the gender difference, but also the age difference. For example, toys for younger babies, are more gender neutral. At this stage, toys are used more as a learning object, than a simple object for play. For example, while looking around at “Babies R Us.com”, one sees that there is no gender difference in a “Babies First Key Teether” (“Infant Toys”) . As children get older, we begin to see their different preferences in toys, which is when they become more aware of gender variations. For example, shopping at “Toys R Us.com”, you get to pick between boys and girls. (“Toys”) This just goes to show that the older children get, the more their toys get separated by gender.
The biography that was given to me was of a little boy named Dan, who enjoyed to play with skateboards, ninja turtles, video games, soccer ball and power rangers. While searching for these toys online it seemed interesting to me, as I said before, that the categories were divided up between genders. If it were a newborn/ young baby, the gender probably would not have made a difference. But as soon as I put in eight year old, it divided it between boy toys and girl toys. Another thing that I found interesting was that while looking in the boys section, all I found was cars, actions figures, trucks, construction things, etc. Not that it was surprising, because it was something I expected, but I just found it really amazing, because it was something I had never really thought of before.
While gender differences are introduced to us as children, they still affect us well up into adulthood. For example, in a piece we read by Henley and Freeman, they describe the differences between both genders. They describe everything from posture, to language, to dress, to social interaction. “Social interaction is the battlefield on which the daily war between sexes is fought. It is here that women are constantly reminded what their “place” is, and here that they are put back in their place, should they venture out”, (Henley and Freeman, 84). This shows how, those seemingly normal gender difference as children, can affect people, into their adulthood. Men and women are viewed very differently in society, and the reason might just go back to the toys we played with as kids.
Toy shopping online made me more aware of something that I already knew, but never bothered to pay too much attention to. It is true that from our childhood, we are expected to play with certain toys that agree with our gender, but at times it seems that society takes this to an extreme. Why should it not be okay for boys to play with dolls, or girls to play with cars? I think that toys should become more neutral gender, and maybe in this way, we can change those preconceptions about gender roles in our society.


Gilman, Susan Jane. “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to see”. Becoming a Woman in our Society. Pgs. 72-75.
Henley, Nancy and Joe Freeman. “The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior”. ”. Becoming a Woman in our Society. Pgs. 84-91.
“Infant Toys”. Babies R Us. 2007. Geoffrey. 29 September, 2007.
Messner, Michael. “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities”. Gender Socializations. Pgs. 120-137.
“Toys”. Toys R Us. Geoffrey. 29 September, 2007. .