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Toy Store Bias

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    Gendered specific targeted toys are in majority of every store around us. Children are automatically exposed to gender-typical clothing, toys, movies and social environments. Many factors play a role in determining whether someone is identified as a boy or as a girl and toys are one of the main elements. Toy’s R Us is one of the most well-known stores for children’s toys and this store is a great example of how gender-typical toys are displayed. The store seems as though it has endless amounts of isles to choose toys from. At first glance, you do not notice that majority of the toys are separated based on who will be playing with them. The toys were separated based on gendered terms, it was beyond easy to be able to tell which isle was made for girl toys and which were made for boys toys.

    The packaging on the toys is what made it easy to determine who the toy was made for. The color was the biggest factor because just about every girl toy had pink and purple all over it, while the boys had blue and green. As closer observations were made it was even more distinctively defined by gender. When looking at the packaging, it showed whether or not a girl or a boy was playing with the toy on the front of the package. Girl packing had little girls playing dolls, especially toys such as Barbie, Bratz, and Princesses. However, looking across the store at the boy’s toys it showed only boys playing with the item on the packaging, which would portray a more athletic and masculine type of playing. The largest selection that had gendered neutral toys was in the Pre-K section. Although some toys did have the defined pink or blue labels. Some such as, Disney had more neutral colors.

    They also had boys and girls playing on the packaging or just the actual Disney characters, not specifically pointing to one gender over the other. A surprising find in the boy’s sections that had WWE Wrestling items did have the women wrestlers known as the Divas. Even though wrestling is usually thought of as a boys toy, it did display women being able to wrestle and that both genders are able to play with this item. Claire Etaugh and Marsha B. Liss wrote the article, “Home, School, and Playroom: Training Grounds for Adult Gender Roles” that discussed and tested whether girls and boys in elementary and middle school preferred male or female toys for Christmas. Their study was quite interesting; they asked specific questions based on what the kids asked for the week before Christmas and what they ended up getting and if they liked it, after Christmas. The authors brought in other variables such as, school courses and chores at home to make connections with the children’s answers. Basically the authors found that girls do prefer masculine toys and jobs more than boys preferred feminine ones. In fact, the older they both got, the more masculine toys they wanted.

    While children are young they’re conditioned to traditional gendered views. As kids start to grow up and are able to have their own mindset and are able to see that men are favored and appreciated much more than females. Which could be why younger girls are wanting more than the traditional female toys and jobs because they want to be seen as just as good as a male. Parents and adults are more likely to give children a requested “gender-typical” toy than a requested cross-gendered toy because as society we always associate what is right and wrong for each gender, meaning girls should be playing with toys that are targeted for girls and boys should be playing with toys that are targeted for boys. Even before children are born and parents know the sex, they start buying clothes and supplies based on the sex of the baby. When parents are only giving gender-typical toys rather than cross-gender then it is sending the message that boys and girls should not be sharing toys or should not have interest in each other’s toys. According to Margaret Matlin, author of “The Psychology of Women” parents fear that if their children use opposite gendered toys that they will develop gay or lesbians tendencies.

    Which until recently, has been seen as a bad thing. It has always been associated with abnormal, especially for boy, which is why parents are even stricter with young boys playing with feminine toys rather then females playing with male toys. “According to the research, parents often encourage their children to develop gender-typed interests by providing different kinds of toys for daughters than for sons”. The labeling and images of toys influence children identities, which is why the packaging of a toy is done a certain way. The images on a toy are telling young children who should and should not be using the product. It is very unlikely that a boy is going to choose a Barbie doll that has little girls playing with it on the packaging or an action figure that has a picture of a boy playing with it. This is happening all the time, our mindset automatically tells us that it is wrong for a boy to choose a Barbie over an action figure. The same goes for when a boy see’s packaging with blue or green rather than pink or purple. Boys are conditioned to receive boy packaging that is targeting to a male consumer.

    When girls are given toys they have feminine colors and products inside. This is telling children that their identities are based off their gender. When you are a girl, you choose feminine products. If you are a boy then you choose masculine products and packaging is a big influence on that. Labeling does influence children identities because when a boy picks out a toy it is more likely to have masculine words that describe the toy as being rough and strong, whereas a girl’s toy will have labeling that describes it as delicate and pretty. I would say that based on my analysis of the influence of presentation of toys are similar to Matlin discusses influences on gender typing and identity development. I agree that parents are much more vocal about young boys and what they play with, more than how they feel about girls playing with more masculine toys.

    Even when it comes to which chores the kids will be doing. Domestic chores such as, doing the dishes or folding the laundry is going to go to a young girl rather than a boy. Often young boys are giving more masculine chores such as, taking out the garbage. I do not think if I would have gone to a different store that I would have found a different outcome. No matter where someone shops for toys, they are separated; you can clear identify a boy isle over a girl isle. Boy and girl toys are separated because society always associates the genders as complete opposites and that they should not mix with the common interest of toys because then it could potentially change the identity of children. Before walking into Toy’s R Us, I never stood back and examined the way the store was set up. Although, I have always known in the back of my mind that boys and girls toys are much different and are separated I did not think further into why that is.

    The study that was done by Etaugh, C and Liss, M.  really put in perspective on why children are accustom to their gender. In order for children o play with more neutral gender toys, a wide range of influences would have to change. Parents would need to be more open and accepting that it is fine for boys and girl to be able to play with each other’s toys. It is possible for society to be able to make toys less bias and gender traditional to be more equal.

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