West Vancouver, BC, Canada
Regardless of how much we would like to think that our society is moving toward an era, where there is no sexism, one only needs to step into a toy store and realize that we are far from it. The first interaction that children come across of are their toys, and many toys are still classified as “boy’s toys” or “girl’s toys” by companies, who make them, and by consumers. From the time a child is born everything is planned according to his or her gender. If it’s a boy, he is most probably being taken home in blue-colored clothing, and from there to a room decorated with action figures, trucks and sports balls. The little girl will be taken to pink or pastel colored room, with dolls and stuffed animals neatly placed around her and her room. The colors of toys and the types of toys children play with help shape the perceptions and gender roles they are expected to confirm to in society.
Toys are differentiated by color, roles and gender. Colors play an important role in our society, when defining people. Blue, green, yellow, orange, brown, black and gray are thought of in society as “boy colors”. Pink, in different shades, and red are thought to be girl colors”.
Once a child is old enough to walk to a toy store, the color that will attract them the most is the color that they have seen the most since birth. Toy companies are packaging their merchandise and advertising them, so it reinforces gender stereotyping of toys and games.
What is more disturbing to me than the color of the packaging is the message that we are passing to our kids through their toys! Almost all the girls’ toys have something to do with females being thought of traditionally as homemakers, wives and mothers. Being able to cook and being nurturing are very big parts of these roles. There is everything available from miniature stoves, “cleaning and ironing sets” to a “Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner” which are only targeted towards girls, anything that has to do with house work is available for sale. It is like we are giving them a head start in learning how to do the house chores well. The vacuum cleaner has a picture of a girl vacuuming, why isn’t that a picture of a boy? Why should a girl at 5 years of age be interested in wanting a vacuum cleaner, or an easy bake oven?
To make matters worse, all the boy toys are about building highways or high-rises, all sorts of tools fixing things or action figures for a good old war/fight. Why aren’t we advertising for boys to be interested in cleaning after themselves or caring for babies? Toys for little boys seem to want shape them to be providers, adventurers, and skillful with their hands and minds.
Little boys become conditioned early to learn what is excepted and acceptable according to society’s standards and perceptions. Whereas girls learn that they should be more concerned with what is happening inside the house rather than outside. It makes me wonder what century we are really in- the 1920’s?
In the sports section of “Toys R Us”, there wasn’t even one package that had a picture of a girl on it. There were boys jumping up to a basketball hoop, throwing around the football or the baseball, but non-with a picture of a girl doing that was displayed. They instead had a variety of “princess” type gowns and all sorts of accessories and make ups. As soon as I saw it, it was truly terrified that any girl would want to look like that. Why is that we are telling them from a young age that they need to own, wear and want makeup? to be concerned with enhancing their looks? Girls are being taught from a very young age that there is room for physical and facial enhancements. They are never taught to accept, who and how they are, to accept their features the way they are. Girls are being allowed by their parents and media to look like cheap problematic ; there is nothing wrong with a girl, who likes to play dress-up once in a while, and who puts on make-up. But why are there dolls out there advertising and telling them that they should look like girls that stand on street corner.
In conclusion, this project opened my eyes in many different ways. I had never thought about how toys are forming the minds of the young ones till the day that I started to take pictures and realize that these toys could be very influential to our kids. In a society, in which both parents work, the next thing that the child gets attached to and starts to idolize is his or her toys. Boys’ toys were always photographed exhibiting active behaviors, while the girls displayed more passive behaviors.
I interpreted the things I observed in the store as society’s view on how girls and boys are expected to behave in accordance with stereotypical and limiting gender roles and tasks. I believe that these perceptions and standards can hinder a child’s self-concept and perception of themselves. This also in my opinion presents a narrow-minded view of what roles and tasks girls and boys are capable of exploring. At the same time, it is clear to me that many of the behaviors and observations, I noted in the store, are reflective of traditional and societal standards and perceptions. By completing this assignment, I learned how there are many nonverbal social perceptions, these shape how we interact with one another and what expectation we hold for individuals according to their gender.