When walking into toy departments, it is easy to notice several distinct isles. In most cases, the most distinct feature is the color of the toys and the general make of the toys. In one isle, one can find toys that are packaged in shades of grey, blue, brown and black. In another isle, the toys will be in pink, white and even red. These toys will have been marketed differently from the color to their designs, and this is what draws many people to them. This general presentation will determine which isle a person will visit to buy which toy. By the look of things, these toys are designed and marketed on gender lines. It does not take much time to notice that one isle contain boy toys and the other girl toys (Carroll 29). Toys found in pink isles revolve around beauty and domesticity while toys in blue isles revolve around action, aggression and building. Toy departments are, therefore, rigidly segregated on gender lines because this is what consumers have conditioned the marketers to do if they are to sell their wares to them.
It is true to assert that gender has always dictated the world of toys. Gender segregation and stereotyping here has not an raised alarm as it has become more sophisticated over time. Men and women have always advocated for gender equity in very many areas of life but what is saddening is the fact that the world of toys has been ignored. What is seen in the toy world in 2014 is what was there in 1950. This happens because society has always made children identify themselves as either boys or girls and would rather; engage in activities that define them as such (Clark & Higonnet 59). This means that as long as children want to shape their identity on gender lines, this is the best way to do this. Even at the playground, one will not be surprised to see the same children group themselves on gender lines and play games that best suit each gender group.
Right from infancy, girls tend to like people’s faces than boys do. This could explain the reason they have a high affinity to dolls than tractors and other toys which are considered boyish. At the same time, boys often like to engage in tasks that challenge their mechanical and spatial skills. Such games include playing with blocks and switches. This is the main reason most of their toys are made in such a way that they engage their physical and mechanical nature. Girls, on the other hand, are soft and verbal games where talking to toys is involved. These toys, will therefore appeal to boys and girls differently, therefore, giving meaning to the fact that they get attracted to a given set of toys naturally (Cohen 42). Society may have played a role in this but again, the genetic composition of both may be contributing to this.
The marketing of toys and the toys themselves are designed in such a way that they appeal to different genders in a unique way. The industry believes that baby girl toys have got to be pink and girly for them to appeal to girls. The same can be said about boys’ toys. We are yet to see a black Barbie doll and a pink race car. From a very tender age, children group themselves not on racial or religious lines but on gender lines. The toy marketing world has not made the situation any better because they make toys based on the gender of the recipient. Those with the same interests, that is, either boys or girls would prefer that they identify themselves with groups with whom they share a common interest. This has been a trend for a long time, and many toy companies have taken advantage of this and would rather the trend continue. It is until GoldieBlox entered the market with girl toys meant to make engineers and mathematicians out of the girls.
The ideas about gender roles as seen in children’s toys are a clear indicator that not much has changed in the struggle for gender equity in our society. There is an increase in diverse family structures and now more than ever, fathers can cook and mothers can get under the family car and fix it. But the sad reality is that no boy can be bought a cooking kit or a makeup set as toys. Equally, no girl will be bought a truck to play with or have as a toy. Toys are continuously pushing children back to towards the unequal society of the 20th century. It is impossible to disentangle the biological make up of boys and girls but then the social activities they engage in can help break the barrier. Our culture is laden with gender messages all around us and marketers as well as designers of these toys are all too willing to capitalize on this fact and ignore the much advocated for gender equity.
Carroll, Janell. Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Belmont: Cengage Learning. 2009
Clark, L. Beverly, & Higonnet, Margaret. Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children's Literature and Culture. Baltimore: JHU Press. 2000
Cohen, David. The Development of Play- Ed 3. New York: Routledge. 2006