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Gender Neutral Toys Essay

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    Have you ever subconsciously buy racing cars for your son and dolls for you daughter when you go shopping, thinking this is what they should play with, or did you try to avoid the whole thing and give them whatever they want, no matter which gender the toy was supposed to be for. It has been a controversial topic recently as to whether all toys should be labeled as gender neutral. In this paper, I will be exploring the reasons why I think all toys should be gender neutral for boys and girls. And in order to explain this, I will draw upon the concept of binary thinking written by Leslie Feinberg, social construction of gender written by Judith Butler and Judith Lorber, and trans politics written by Dean Spade. And I think through how gendered toys reinforced binary thinking and social construction of gender and limits the baby’s choices and lead to the unlivable life of transgendered and companies want to earn money by making the toys gendered. Ultimately, I demonstrate although it is not possible to get every toy gender-neutralized, it is better than none.

    To begin with, in a stereotyped environment, like the environment that people are used to gendered toys, the way children think is different from the environment without gendered toys. When people grow in an environment that includes stereotypes in toys, their way of thinking starts to have an incorrect rationale and the labels on toys may tell a person about what things are thought to be normal and what are not. According to Feinberg’s article “We Are All Works in Progress”, “Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught” (Feinberg 1998). Because of the social norms and structure, our exploration of gender is limited. We were being taught from a young age that there are men, there are women, and that’s it. In most people’s minds, gender diversity has been flattered into two diametrically opposed camps, male and female. So, casually, parents expect their child to be either one of the two genders. This emphasizes binary thinking and ignores the people in between. Besides, people have stereotypes of gender, which is they assume boys should play with toy cars and toy guns while girls should play with dolls and princesses and this is due to the long playing social construction of gender. It is common for us to see right after the child is born, his or her family would get the boyish or girlish toys that they assume to be the right one based on the child’s sex, but the fact is, the child never has the choice to choose by him or herself of what he or she really wants to play with.

    What’s more, toys with gender means constructing and assigning gender roles to the baby. Gender is assigned when we produced sex, because once the baby is born, the doctor would come tell you whether the baby is a boy or a girl. And then parents would buy toys based on the gender of their child, reinforcing the social construction of gender and giving no choice to the baby to choose. According to Butler, in her article “Acting in Concert”, she talks about gender is something we do rather than we are born with. I definitely agree with this because since the kid is so young, he or she cannot even talk, there is no way other people can determine and decide what his or her gender is. “One cannot be born to be a woman, but rather becomes a woman” (Lorber 1994). This demonstrates that gender is a structure that produces woman as subordinates of man. Take myself as an example, when I was a little kid, my parents used to buy me all kinds of dolls and very girly toys, but in fact I was more interested in boyish toys like robots and cars more. However, when I asked my mom to buy them for me, she refused me without hesitation, and I can still remember her words. She said: “What do you want those for? You are a girl, so you should be girly and do what a girl should you think it is normal for a girl to play cars and guns all day?” And this is linked to normalization. Gendered toys are symbols of social structure and social norms saying girls should only play with dolls and boys should only play with cars. And think things outside of the norm as illness and abnormal. In my mom’s opinion, I was abnormal, and I wanted to do that only because I wanted to be different and get attention. As a result, I was really upset and started to dislike dolls from that time. So, I think it is important to let the child choose by himself or herself and they should be able to play with whatever they want.

    Apart from above, another reason for toys to be gender neutral is because we should support transgender children. It is important to allow children to be who they are naturally. With gendered toys, children are forced into the two binaries, and transgendered children would be forced into the gender he or she not happy with (Spade 2013). It is not necessary that every little boy likes to play with the boyish toys and every little girl likes to play with girlish toys, they deserve to be happy and free to be themselves without being forced to fit into the limited rules of the society. Just as the article “Mutilating Gender” has said, there should be intelligibility toward all people, which is whenever someone does something, he or she can be understood (Spade 2013). Also, transgendered people should live a livable life. If you say boys must play with cars and girls must play with dolls, you are ignoring the kids who are in between the spectrum of boys and girls, making them have nothing to play with and leading those kids to have an unlivable life. One of my friends Leo was a transgender and her parents knew it when she was really young. I was really surprised at how open-minded her parents were at first, because Leo told me that in the beginning, her parents bought her cars and robots, but when they found out she was not interest in the toys at all, they asked for the reason and after they knew the truth that she was trans, they accepted it and bought her lots of littles princesses and Barbie. I felt really happy for her to have such nice parents, and because of her parents, she didn’t have to go through the experience of being forced into the sex at birth but not her real gender, and she had a lot more choices to choose from.

    Moreover, the question that should all toys be gender neutral for boys and girls is related to capitalism. The fundamental of capitalism is productivity and to earn profit, and because when selling gendered toys, the company is able to earn more money, capitalism starts to worsen the problem of gendered toys. Companies that sell toys make separate toys for boys and girl, and they use the social norms and constructions that girls and boys should play different toys to earn money. As still many people believe in binary thinking that there are only male and female and they should both obey certain rules and characteristics, they are able to use marketing strategies and find a way of selling all the items out. Take the Toy R Us as an example, this company is famous for selling toys, and if the company sells gendered toys instead of gender neutral toys, it can produce several versions of one toy, which apparently will attract more consumers and the company is able to earn more money. However, this capitalism only benefits the company but does no benefits to the children, and the company does this only to make more money, so there is no benefit to have gendered toys.

    Last but not least, many people question if it is possible to make every toy gender-neutral with each gender liking a specific toy. The answer is no, and it is absolutely impossible as each individual has their own opinion of each toy. So how can you make toys completely gender-neutral if each person has their own opinion of which toy is good? Having some gender-neutral toys is better than having none. At least it gives choices to kids to see what they want to play with.

    In conclusion, in this essay, I talked about four main reasons of why should all toys be gender neutral for boys and girls. The first reason was if not, it could create binary thinking, the second reason was if toys had gender, gender would be assigned, the third reason was we could support transgendered children, and the last reason was only the companies could benefit but not us the consumers. Lastly, it is not possible to make every toy gender neutral, but some is better than none anyway. Also, in my analysis, I opened up space for exploring questions such as what will happen after toys are gender neutralized, and will children who play with gender neutral toys be affected in their childhood developments?

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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