Are we stereotyping gender roles with toys?
On a recent visit to the market, my little girl, insisted on buying a “pink” Kinder Joy – an egg shaped chocolate that sport a toy inside. The store didn’t have a pink one, so I picked up a blue one instead. My 6 year old was aghast, “I am a girl Amma, and I can’t have a blue Kinderjoy. I was momentarily taken aback. “Blue ones have a car inside and the pink ones have a doll. Girls don’t play with cars,” she said. I was quite surprised at what my girl had just told me.
Hubby and I had never really made differences on “boy-girl” things or limited her in any way. So a statement like this was unexpected. I answered to her,” Well if girls can drive a car when they grow older, they surely can play with one.” Not sure whether it was the answer that convinced her or the want of a toy, she readily picked up the blue one.
But this incident kept lurking somewhere at the back of my mind. So yesterday, I asked Richard about this. Richard is my colleague and has a son of 7 years. “So tell me Richard, do you buy Danny a Barbie doll?” Richard gave me his usual perplexed look and said,” Of course not, he is a boy.” I didn’t leave it at that and asked,” But have you ever bought him one? Richard said, “Now Come on, he is a boy. He doesn’t play with dolls. Danny is 7 years old. He has played with stuffed toys at 2 or3. But that was it. He does not like dolls.” I butted in again, “But Richard, “If you have never bought him dolls, “how could you be so sure he doesn’t like them?”. Richard answered,” Because every time we visit the toy store, he runs towards the cars displayed. Now isn’t that enough to tell you that boys really don’t like playing with dolls?” I left the conversation here as I didn’t quite have a counter point.
I came home and did a great amount of Google reading and I figured out these things.
- There are dolls available for boys. However there probably aren’t enough buyers. At least not in India.
- There are instances of little boys playing with dolls and kitchen sets. But many parents often discourage them by saying, “Dolls are for girls”.
- Some parents are concerned about gender identity crises if their little boys play with dolls. However there has been research that has disapproved this.
So here are questions that still lurk in my mind.
- When it is ok for little girls to play with trains, cars and guns, why are we not open to little boys playing with Barbie dolls, kitchen sets, or dress up doll kind of games?
- Toy manufactures bring out in dozens fantasy toys such as the princess collection, fairy collection etc… for little girls. Why are there only toys such as soldiers and tanks for boys? Why are there no “prince” collection for boys? Or for that matter, why aren’t soldiers and warrior toys targeted for girls?
- So are we stereotyping gender roles from a very young age?
I dont seem to have an answer yet.