August 18, 2011 / Opportunity, Youth

Gender Messages and Toys


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Source of Cartoon: Saturday Morning Breakfast CerealThis is just an advertisement, you say. It doesn’t mean anything.

I have complete control over my children’s self-esteem, and my daughters are just as independent as my sons, you vehemently argue. But they’re not.

Self-fulfilling prophecy: when the entire world tells you who you are on a daily basis, you begin to believe it — and the voices of the one or two people who love you and say otherwise are drowned out. All you hear is what the millions tell you — what the norm is.

This comic strip is excellent and quite telling. Toys manufactured for boys require the use of technology, brains, problem-solving adventures, and excitement.

Message to Boys: there is nothing you can’t do. The world is your oyster. This toy will train you for success and manhood.

Toys manufactured for girls, on the other hand, require nothing but a girl’s maternal instinct to kick in and care for them. They require no adventures, no imagination, and no critical thinking skills. Whether they’re cute little puppy dogs or dolls, they do nothing more than sit there –- oh, excuse me, now they can burp, talk, and poop.

Girls are not expected to plug into computers, use advanced critical thinking or motor skills, or progress in society. Her puppies and dolls train her to take care of the needs of others.

Message to Girls: Here’s a doll. Learn to care for her as you will your husband and children.

And the conclusion of the toys sold to boys and girls — the different messages being sent to our girls and boys: boys can have jobs in engineering, science, politics, computers; girls can too, they’ve just never been trained to believe that they could join the ranks of such male-dominated fields. They’ve only been told to “Be a doll” and take care of a doll.

Girls can be as tall as high-reaching trees left alone to grow to their full potential, but daily recitations of their limits derail them from developing fully, and they grow no higher than a pretty and domestic bonsai tree in a decorative pot by the window sill.

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  • Optixmom

    When I was little I used to make all my dolls furniture, clothes, homes, office buildings, futuristic cars, you name it – I created it because as a child I realized that the toy industry wasn’t going to meet my needs. Now my daughter is doing the exact same thing as I did without any prodding from Mom. She played school with her dolls and had a physics class where she taught her students the properties of light.

    She (and I) do get frustrated about the offerings for girls at the toy store. She complains about the computer games that are marketed for her. She asked me, “Mom, why do all girls games teach us to cook or babysit? Why can’t the girls games have us building rocketships and racing to Mars?”

  • Wow! How old is your daughter? She sounds fantastic…bright. You probably have a lot of influence over her, which is important.I think that’s the least we can do for our girls in combating every other venue in their lives that tell them otherwise.

  • Optixmom

    My daughter is 10 and is a very girly dresser. Her clothes do not define her ability to think and work out problems for herself, or her ability to innovate during playtime. She is torn between several career options when she grows up currently; rock star, physicist, or mechanical engineer. I told her she could be a rock star while being either of the other two. 😉