Toys steer us in the direction of what is accepted, and expected, from our gender at a young age. Handing a kid a toy is not just a way to pass time, but the limitations of gender specific toys the ability to affect a child’s future. We are molded into gender roles for the future just by the influence of the plastic items in our hands. This all stems from the idea that there has to be a defined line between girls’ and boys’ toys. Christmas catalogs and holiday commercials line up the kids’ sale pitch with Barbies for girls and superheroes for boys. Parents paint the walls of their newborn’s room based on their gender, and so, perhaps without consciously intending to do so, they begin to push a way of being, just based on a baby’s gender.
Not only do toys need to stop being marketed toward a certain gender, but society needs to be more accepting in general. A girl playing with more masculine toys is just as okay as one playing with dolls. Same goes for guys too. They should be allowed to play the nurturer without society judging them for it.
Boys are shamed for expressing feelings as it appears feminine and girls are shamed for being too sporty because it’s considered masculine. I think this all stems from the prods and pushes children receive — such as gender specific toys. If we didn’t have such arbitrary rules regarding gender, maybe it would be more accepted for gender to be more fluid and accepting of those traits considered as such.
How are we supposed to encourage girls to go into more science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and boys to lose the machismo facade if society doesn’t actively partake in breaking the molds of these stereotypes? And that starts with breaking one of the earliest restrictions children face based on gender: toys. It’s hypocritical for society to want women to go into coding when society has just started to even realize that barriers exist. A girl can’t be expected to show interest in a field when she was pointed in the opposite direction.
“[Playing] with masculine toys is associated with large motor development and spatial skills and [playing] with feminine toys is associated with fine motor development, language development and social skills,” said Megan Fulcher, associate professor of psychology at Washington Lee University, in a New York Times interview. “Children may then extend this perspective from toys into future roles, occupations and characteristics.”
A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development discovered that on a global scale, girls tend to outperform boys in science, yet the reverse is true in the U.S. and other Western European areas. Ironically, the constraints and cultural dictation of a more highly developed country actually work against us.
Occupational stereotypes can occur within children in as early as four years old. While STEM toys aren’t the way to encourage more girls to into STEM fields, they’re a catalyst towards increasing the amount of of women that graduate with a STEM degree.
So don’t think pink or blue, girl or boy toy this Christmas season for your nephew, sibling, or any child. You never know how they toy you gift can impact their life beyond the playroom.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Allison De La Bastida at [email protected]