The toy store is bright and loud children’s songs are playing in the background - Gender Toys introduction. A large area of the floor contains shelves similar to a grocery store’s layout. There are also special areas; a cushioned semi-enclosure where toddlers can crawl around, for example. There is some sectioning by type in the store, such as stuffed toys in one section, sports in another, etc.
There is a section that seems to be gender-neutral. This section contains board games, such as Monopoly and Scrabble, and puzzle and logic games, and Lego sets. There is another section near this area in which are sports related, containing basketballs, bikes, skateboards. Many of these are targeted towards boys based on their packaging, although some are packaged with girls in mind. Also there is a section for babies and toddlers, whose toys tend to be more gender-neutral. There are, however, definitely sections of the store targeted towards either girls or boys, although there is no explicit indication that any one section is for boys or girls. It is easy for me to see this, of course, because I like most people have been exposed since babyhood to gender stereotyping.
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It is quite obvious when one reaches a section targeted towards a specific gender. One of the indicators that I was in a girl’s section, for instance, was the predominance of bright “pretty” colors, especially pink. I was also surrounded by dolls of all kinds: grown-up dolls (the famous Barbie dolls), baby dolls, child dolls, all with different styles of make-up. There are also male dolls, but these seem to be there only to be complementary to the female dolls. There are tea sets and other household objects (and even houses), small make-up kits and fake painted nails. In this section are also found popular female television characters such as the Powerpuff girls.
In this section I see the predominant female stereotypes of girls being vain and pretty (as suggested by the made-up dolls and make-up kits), or of clearly having a more involved interest in the kitchen and household than boys (suggested by the tea sets and houses). The abundance of dolls also suggests that girls are encouraged to create “interpersonal” relationships among the dolls, and in extension, among their peers. The toys are also mostly intended for cooperative game play. Except for the toys referencing popular television characters, there is no other suggestion of violence among these girls’ toys.
There is also clearly a section targeted for boys. In this section I find toy swords, guns, bows and arrows, and other “weapons.” There are also several toy cars, trucks, planes, robots, and construction kits. Very masculine looking action figures abound as well, although one also finds female action figures, but not of the “pretty” variety. I also find dinosaurs, dragons, and different types of monster figures.
All of these masculine toys suggest or encourage lots of physical action and even violence (either real or acted out in the world of the action figures and monsters). There seems little to encourage boys to create relationships based on “normal” conversation and behavior among their toys or their peers.
Some recent studies suggest that there might be a biological factor in children’s gender-related choices, but gender socialization is what happens beyond the biological. In gender socialization what matters is the attitude of the adults who serve as role models for the children. When a boy is given only masculine toys or a girl feminine toys, and perceives that toys of the opposite gender are prohibited, one effect is that he/she becomes more aware of gender differences and develops a stronger sense of his or her own gender . Thus, these toys do contribute to gender socialization in boys and girls, but only as a part of the socialization effected by adults and peers upon children.