Gender stereotypes in toys and marketing to children is a subject that’s been widely debated this year, thanks to companies beginning to see that grouping kids’ interests into gender-restricted boxes is just plain stupid. One company has turned its back on gendered marketing completely for it’s 2015 Christmas catalogue — and it’s awesome.
Oh, look! A boy is pushing a baby-doll stroller, and the world as we know it didn’t come to an end. Fascinating.
A girl is playing with a toolset! And she seems totally fine with it! Crazy!
The ads are from the Spanish company Toy Planet. It’s the second year they’ve done away with gendered marketing for their Christmas catalogue, and it’s being very well received. Toy Planet’s general director Ignacio Gaspar told the Spanish site El Pais that he’d love to see other companies joining them.
Research suggests the way we react to boys playing with typically “feminine” toys may be manipulating their own preferences. From Parenting Science:
Boys show strong preferences for stereotypically male toys. Girls don’t show strong preferences for stereotypically female toys. Why the difference? Some researchers have suggested that boys show a stronger sex bias than girls do because boys get more criticism for crossing the toy gender line. Kids of both sexes are encouraged to play with “gender-typical” toys. But boys may be more strongly stigmatized for playing in gender atypical ways
This is something that is easily verifiable. Just think of the ways people react to stories of boys dressing like princesses or playing with dolls. There is a huge debate that exists around that subject — it’s one that’s not present when you talk about girls playing with trucks or tools. Trucks and tools may not be marketed to girls, but the general public isn’t usually freaking out if they are.
Here’s a newsflash that’s going to totally blow your mind: girls are not born loving pink and baby dolls. Boys are not born dreaming about drill sets. Testosterone does play a role in how kids play with toys, but not necessarily what toys kids want to play with.
Give a girl some plastic dinosaurs, and she might do several things–act out a drama, take the dinosaurs “foraging,” or treat the toys as pets. A boy might be more likely to stage dinosaur battles. Perhaps it’s not the toys that define male-typical play, but what boys do with their toys.
The bottom line is — why is it so necessary that we differentiate between “girl” and “boy” toys? In a culture where we are constantly pushing for more equality in the workplace and at home, why is it considered out of the ordinary to see a boy play with a doll? Women are no longer the only people who default into the role of “caretaker.” Men are now more present in this role than they ever have been.
Ads like this send a message to our children from a very early age: you can be whatever you want to be. Boys, you can be caretakers. Girls, you can build stuff.
There’s nothing wrong with that message.