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Toy Aisles and Gender Prescriptions

Toy Aisles and Gender Prescriptions

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As the mother of a toddler, I have spent a lot of time in the toy aisles of every store I’ve entered in the last two years.**  The gendered nature of almost all of the toys is impossible to ignore.  In an average big box store like Target, you will pass three or four solidly PINK aisles and eventually come to a few predominantly blue and red aisles.  It’s not that the aisles are actually painted or decorated in these colors, it’s the glare from the toys.  (See above image.)  And I assure you that once you have left the last pink aisle, you will not find one spec of pink in the remaining toy aisles.

No toy packaging in the blue and red aisles explicitly states “BOY’S TOY!”  However, I suspect that a five or seven-year-old girl might feel slightly conspicuous or intrusive if she were to wander down the aisle of trucks and dinosaurs.  Perhaps it would feel like she were an unwelcome intruder at a neighborhood “boy’s club” meeting.  Even if she really loves garbage trucks and dinosaurs, she might not feel like she should.  The same thing goes for boys.  Plenty of young men would enjoy having a doll or a vacuum, but the all-encompassing pinkness of that toy aisle might be sufficient to keep him away.  They might as well rope the toy aisles off and demand ID before admission.

When I shop for my own little girl, I do stroll through the pink aisles, but I rarely purchase the items.  The overt sexist stereotyping of the toys is either laughable or sickening, I can’t decide which.  I find the boy aisles less offensive.  I much prefer my child to play with trucks that are realistic in appearance than to play with pink vacuums or dolls built on pornographic standards.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what toys I choose for my child, what movies I allow her to see, or what moral messages I endorse, she is going to be exposed to the unrealistic, disheartening gender stereotypes that pervade our culture.  In fact, for her birthday last year, I told her grandpa she would like a toy car or truck.  Her grandpa fulfilled the request — with a pink car being driven by a mom, groceries in the trunk, and a baby in the backseat.

**My little girl turned two a few days ago.  In case you’re curious, here is a list of what gifts I bought for her: A garbage truck, a fire truck, yellow sunglasses, a yellow charm bracelet, two kitty cat shirts, an Ernie stuffed toy, her first Barbie doll (a ballerina [I feel like I have to justify this purchase.  I’m not proud.  But the Barbie is a dancer and I do want to share my passion for dance with my baby!]), various Sandra Boynton board books, a Little Pookie stuffed animal, various cat books, several other assorted books, a Brain Quest game, and Cookie Monster socks.  I personally was most excited about the charm bracelet and the ballerina Barbie, but my baby is most interested in the trucks.
And again this year her grandpa purchased a gender stereotyped variation of the toy I suggested he buy for my baby.  I suggested a tricycle and a helmet, he gave her a pink tricycle and a pink helmet.  He also threw in a pink soccer ball.  🙂

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5 Comments

  1. sgadille says:

    I think at the age of two there is almost no difference in boys and girls biologically so why purchase stereotypical toys anyway? I think that the toys that you bought were all really great. I hope that when your daughter gets a little older, she will like things that are not based off of gender roles but based off of her own interests and for your sake hopefully she will get like dancing too!

  2. ninazm21 says:

    It’s great that you are so alert to these stereotypes that young girls are subject to. It’s great how you are able to guide your daughter away from such stereotypes. I’m sure when she’s exposed to those stereotypes you will be able to help her realize how unrealistic some societal expectations and depictions of women are. Also, you’re daughter is a very lucky little girl, thats a whole lot of gifts to get just from her mom lol. But, I love how you are buying her varying ranges of toys letting her identify what interests her rather than letting the toy aisles confine her interests.

  3. Jack Manska says:

    When I was a boy I wrote to Santa hoping for an Evel Knievel SSP and GI Joe. Santa never listened. Later I would discover that Santa was arrogant self-centered drunk who said “Boys don’t play with dolls”.

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