For centuries, dolls have helped children develop their socio-emotional skills by teaching them how to empathize with others. Last year, dolls raked in nearly $2.7 billion in sales, making them one of the toy industry’s biggest items, reports Ms today
“Not all of today’s dolls offer emotionally healthy experiences for children. Increasingly, parents are speaking out against how mainstream toys send children negative messages about such issues as gender, body image and race.
“The last few years have seen several sexy head-to-toe makeovers of popular children’s characters. Dora the Explorer, once hailed by parents everywhere for her stereotype-bashing, was transformed from a cute toddler to a Barbie-in-training. Strawberry Shortcake used to be most recognizable for her frumpy hat and green stockings, but now she sports pink locks and long lashes. Even gender-neutral trolls have been reincarnated as hip and sexy Trollz, rivaling Bratz, the Winx Club and Monster High for the title of “sexiest dolls on the block.” The list of sexualized, feminized toys goes on: Holly Hobby, Legos, My Little Pony, Polly Pocket, Rainbow Bright. Even the Care Bears are now more pretty and feminine than they are fun and fluffy.
“When it comes to their effects on children, particularly young girls, these sexualized makeovers aren’t all fun and games. “When we give a child a doll, what we’re saying to that child is ‘This is what people look like, this is what women look like, this is what you might aspire to,’” says Susan Linn, executive director ofCampaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC). With dolls getting prettier and skinnier than ever, it comes as no surprise that, by age 3, girls begin to equate thinness with beauty and popularity. By age 5, they express dissatisfaction with their weight, and by age 9 many experience the onset of eating disorders. Continue reading “Breaking up with Barbie”
The majority of the Toys R Us Lego Isle is a very familiar shade of blue, copyrighted and trademarked, and gleaming under the florescent lights.In one brightly lit section, however, pink reigns supreme: the section full
of toys marketed to little girls.
As discussed in today’s fbomb, “Most of these toys can be placed in at least one of three categories: luxury play (play that seems to serve no other purpose than to stimulate the girls’ imaginations in settings of extreme opulence and wealth), housework play (in which a child mimics doing household chores, including anything from an Easy Bake Oven to a baby doll to a plastic kitchenette), or interpersonal relationship play (in which a child is meant to identify with a doll of some kind, and she and other “dolls” are meant to interact). Many of these toys reinforce sexist and harmful ideas in girls that invariably inculcates passivity and conformism in adult women.
A classic example of sexist toys can be found in the “household maintenance” aisle of Toys R Us, win which things like toy brooms and dustpans are marketed specifically to girls. Such housework toys send the message that housework is traditionally feminine and expected of wives and mothers. Girls can use toy brooms to pretend they’re cleaning their family’s house or pretend to make her family dinner in a toy kitchenette. The fact that these toys exist is not an issue: some children (boys and girls alike) may actually enjoy pretending to cook or sweep. The problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of these items are being marketed to girls, not boys.
But it’s not just that gender-specific toys indoctrinate girls to do gendered work: many also teach young girls to covet lives of luxury, status, and indolence, which invariably set them up for failure, defeat, and despair. These “luxury” toys reinforce the disparity between what girls are taught to want and what they actually receive or are able to achieve. Girls are practically trained to expect these lavish lifestyles when the reality is that they will more than likely end up working for the rest of their lives, both at home and in the workforce. That is not to say that parents either have the choice of buying their children things like toy yachts or sitting their children to explain the details about living in abject poverty. Rather, especially given that in comparison to the rest of the world most Americans are incredibly blessed and privileged, the ideal lifestyle luxury toys encourage girls to aspire to is disproportionate to how most Americans actually live and could in fact be detrimental to the way girls view society and shape their own goals. Continue reading “Tales from the toy aisle”
A girl with ADHD may be labeled Chatty Cathy — the enthusiastic school-aged girl who is always telling stories to friends. Or she could be the daydreamer — the smart, shy teenager with the disorganized locker, repots WebMD:
“But what happens when she grows up? Or when her ADHD isn’t diagnosed until she’s a woman? Is her experience different from what men with ADHD go through?
“In some people, the signs of ADHD seem obvious — fidgeting constantly, difficulty paying attention in school or at work, and leaving tasks unfinished. For others, particularly those without behaviors problems, ADHD may be more difficult to diagnose. The symptoms of ADHD may mimic those of other conditions, and sometimes the signs are subtler and harder to distinguish. One psychiatrist, Daniel Amen, MD, believes that to get a truly accurate diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to look inside the…
“The issues adults with ADHD have mirror those in the population as a whole, says Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Fla. For example, she says men with ADHD tend to have more car accidents, suspensions in school, substance abuse, and anger and behavioral issues, compared to women with ADHD. But men are more prone to these kinds of issues in general, regardless of ADHD. Women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem,depression, and anxiety. But they do in the general population, as well.
” These challenges also often play out in different areas of their lives. Men with ADHD may have problems at work, unable to complete their tasks or getting mad too easily at subordinates, says Anthony Rostain, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see conflicts at home. Kathleen Nadeau, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland in Silver Spring, says her female ADHD patients, especially mothers, come to her in a “constant state of overwhelm.” Continue reading “ADHD labels and gender”
It’s obvious from walking through a toy store that LEGO has focused its licensing and product development around boys.
Today’s CNN.com carries an article on how LEGO is shifting on gendered products––driven, of course, by a profit motive.
“To capture the girl market, LEGO created the alternate, girl-only world of Heartlake City for Friends instead of incorporating more females into existing LEGO sets. LEGO says the line was one of its most successful to date, “surpassing early projections to triple the number of girls building with LEGO bricks” in 2012.
“But that still leaves the market wide open for children such as my daughter, who want more female “minifigs” in gender-neutral packaging. Instead, LEGO clearly distinguishes which sets are aimed at boys or girls, and our children take in the colors on the packaging and placement on the shelves through a cultural lens. They get the message loud and clear. LEGO is the second-largest toy manufacturer in the world; gender parity matters in a product that is consumed and loved by so many children. Continue reading “Gender in a Lego world”
Bryan Piperno was just 9 years old when he began keeping his secret. The Simi Valley youngster tossed out lunches or claimed he ate elsewhere. As he grew older, he started purging after eating. Even after his vomiting landed him in the emergency room during college, he lied to hide the truth, reports today’s LA Times.
“Piperno, now 25, slowly fended off his eating disorder with time and care, including a stay in a residential treatment facility. But surveys show a rising number of teenage boys in Los Angeles now struggle with similar problems.
“High school boys in Los Angeles are twice as likely to induce vomiting or use laxatives to control their weight as the national average, with 5.2% of those surveyed saying they had recently done so, according to the most recent survey data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand the Los Angeles Unified School District. They are also more likely to have used diet pills, powders or liquids than boys nationwide.
“The numbers challenge old assumptions that boys are immune to a problem better known to afflict teenage girls. Girls still exceed boys in fasting to lose weight, but the latest data, from 2011, showed that Los Angeles boys were nearly as likely as girls to purge through vomiting or laxatives. They were also as likely as girls to use diet pills, powders or liquids without the advice of a doctor — 6.2% said they recently used such substances, compared with 6.1% of girls. Continue reading “Boys with eating disorders”
“Women today may feel they have come a long way since the inequality of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. But the shelves of many toy shops paint a very different story, says today’s Daily Mail
“Where once toys may have been marketed in neutral colours to target both boys and girls, now they are much more likely to be gender stereotyped – blue for boys and pink for girls. The issue has been highlighted by campaign group Let Toys Be Toys, who recently shared a picture comparing the toys on sale in Argos in the Seventies to today on their Twitter feed.
“While decades ago toy pushchairs, prams and household equipment like play ovens came in whites, reds and blues – aimed at both genders – today the majority are all pink. And while the items above aimed at girls relate to being domesticated, in contrast boys today are encouraged to play with science sets, cars and action heroes. Let Toys Be Toys, set up by a group of British parents last November, are calling for this to change. They are petitioning retailers to stop segregating their products ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’.One of the campaign’s founders, Tricia Lowther, 44, a self-employed copywriter from Durham, who has a five-year-old daughter, told the MailOnline: ‘It does bother a lot of parents, we seem to have tapped in to a huge and growing sense of frustration with the way toys are promoted according to outdated, illogical and sexist stereotypes. Continue reading “Gender and toys: the bad news”
When the elite Phillips Academy here went coed in 1973, some worried that women would quickly take over this venerable institution, the alma mater of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse and Humphrey Bogart, not to mention both Presidents George Bush, reports today’s New York Times
“In short order, the number of girls in the student ranks did roughly equal the number of boys. The faculty today is more than half female. And until her retirement last summer, the head of school was a woman, for nearly two decades.
“And yet some of the young women at the 235-year-old prep school feel that Andover, as it is commonly called, has yet to achieve true gender equality. They expressed this concern several weeks ago in a letter to the “student newspaper, The Phillipian, and like a match to dry tinder, it set off a raging debate that engulfed the campus.
“The proximate cause of concern was the election, held Wednesday, for the top student position, called school president. Since 1973, only four girls have been elected, most recently in 2004. (The other top student position, that of editor in chief of the newspaper, has had nine girls and 33 boys.)
“The letter writers said this was an embarrassment, especially at a school considered so progressive. The paucity of girls in high-profile positions, they said, leaves younger students with few role models and discourages them from even trying for the top.
“But the broader concern involved age-old questions of whether men and women could ever achieve equality, the nature of sexism and the nature of a meritocracy, which Andover very much purports to be.
More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/education/phillips-andover-girls-leadership-debated.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
It’s commonly thought that teenagers these days are so much more hip about gender and sexuality than their parents ever more. But this perception can obscure the facts that concepts of “normality” and “fitting in” still drive much of the culture of the young, As discussed today in Huffington Post:
“Popularity in middle and high school operates as a heterosexist reward system. Who “fits in” and who does not has a great deal to do with heterosexuality and gender conformity, which makes it difficult for LGBTQ kids to engage in the school social scene. For adolescents, school is (significantly) about social connections, social possibilities, social hierarchies and navigating through them. A great deal of school social life is about reinforcing the “normalcy” of heterosexuality and marking those considered to not measure up as “weird” or “less than” in some way. Continue reading “Heteronormativity in school”
The world of video games has a long history of damsels in distress. It’s the go-to framework for endless heroic adventures where fabulous male heroes journey to save [insert female captured by villain here].
One of the earliest of these is the classic tale of a plucky, mustachioed plumber on a vertical, girder-climbing quest to save his lady Pauline from the barrel-throwing primate Donkey Kong, reports NPR today. ” It was the game that would set the stage for a long series of Mario adventures where his princess would continue to be captured and wind up “in another castle.” Continue reading “Revising video games to empower girls”
The now well-known gap between the male and female population in China continues to widen. Increasingly, the growing number of men is raising questions about what it might mean for the nation’s future – and it’s long term stability.
“Three decades after China implemented its contentious one-child policy, coupled with a lingering cultural preference for boys and the advent of cheap and accessible ultrasound technology, the country’s skewed gender ratio has only gotten worse,” reports todays GlobalPost. “Social scientists in China say the upcoming census results could reveal a gender ratio of 122 boys born for every 100 girls. Under natural conditions, there are typically 105-106 boys for every 100 girls.” Continue reading “China’s growing gender gap”
“Barbies are for girls and construction sets are for boys. Or are they?” asks today’s New York Times. Stephanie Clifford writes that “For the first time in Barbie’s more than 50-year history, Mattel is introducing a Barbie construction set that underscores a huge shift in the marketplace. Fathers are doing more of the family shopping just as girls are being encouraged more than ever by hypervigilant parents to play with toys (as boys already do) that develop math and science skills early on.
“It’s a combination that not only has Barbie building luxury mansions — they are pink, of course — but Lego promoting a line of pastel construction toys called Friends that is an early Christmas season hit. The Mega Bloks Barbie Build ’n Style line, available next week, has both girls — and their fathers — in mind. Continue reading “Gender bending in the toy aisle”