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”
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”
“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”