Although I consider myself extremely feminine, I detest gender stereotypes and promote gender equality. That being said, it wasn’t until I observed the quads playing together that I put much thought into the gender bias of toys. Both of the boys spend the majority of their time playing with the kitchen set. I’ve mentioned before, they simply love mixing up concoctions in tea cups and feeding the baby dolls. Although these may be considered “feminine” toys, I love that my boys have opportunities for this kind of play. When they are someday grown and have children, I hope they are the kinds of fathers who help prepare dinner and care for the children. George does these things without hesitation and that makes him a strong father and husband.
On the flip side, the girls enjoy playing with race cars, trains, and tools. I hope they learn to value problem solving skills and never feel inferior to boys. The thing is, it’s easy at our house having an equal number of same age boys and girls. It’s totally coincidental that the boys have just as many “girl” toys available to them as “boy” toys, and vice versa for the girls. I would hope that if our children were all the same gender we would expose them to a variety of “boy” and “girl” toys, but it would be very easy to follow stereotypes when shopping for toys. It’s quite possible if we only had boys that our home would be void of dolls and dress up clothes, and if we only had girls there wouldn’t be a single car or building block.
Several months ago, a viral video spread across YouTube. It depicted three girls constructing and setting a Rube Goldberg Machine. It was an advertisement from a new company, Goldie Blox, that seeks to encourage girls to pursue careers in science and engineering. Currently only 13% of engineers are female, and the creators of Goldie Blox feel it’s correlated to the toys girls are given. In January, Huffington Post published an article about how toy manufacturers are transforming once gender neutral toys such as Legos to feminine versions and made “girl” toys even more feminine than before (hard to believe that’s even possible). It sends an interesting message to children doesn’t it? The line is drawn in the sand: there are toys for boys and toys for girls. It saddens me to think toys could limit the aspirations and careers of my children.
All that being said, I’m not in any way suggesting that we stifle what is innate in our children. As a child, I vehemently rejected cars, sports activities, and construction materials. Instead I gravitated to dolls and similarly feminine toys. It wasn’t for my parent’s lack of trying, they certainly provided a variety of play options. I believe that as parents, it’s prudent to provide equal opportunities for our children and not to chastise them if they choose to play with something that may be geared towards the opposite gender.
Do you think toy manufacturers have drawn the gender lines too clearly?