stereotypes, stunted development and stunted creativity

Last year, Danish toymaker Lego announced that it would work to remove gender bias from its toys. This would no longer include marketing items specifically aimed at girls or boys, but selling gender-neutral products, for anyone who wants to buy them.

The move followed toy giant Hasbro, makers of My Little Pony, Nerf, Transformers and Play-Doh, which dipped its toes in non-binary toy waters by expanding its Potato Head brand to include a non-binary option. sexist.

Lego’s decision arose from a report commissioned by the company that investigated how children and parents approach creativity.

Most research on the material culture of childhood has confirmed that toys that reflect strict gender roles have a significant impact on the personal growth and development of children.

Dr. Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, Professor of Literary Theory and Gender and Women’s Studies, American University of Sharjah

The survey of around 7,000 parents and children from seven countries revealed that gender stereotypes remain high, with 78% of boys and 73% of girls agreeing with the statement: “It’s good to teach boys to be boys and girls to be girls. ”

When it comes to sex toys, the statistics tell an interesting story.

While 54% of parents feared their sons would be ridiculed for playing with ‘girls’ toys’, only 24% of parents of girls feared their baby girl would be judged for playing with ‘boys’ toys’.

The findings were further evidence of the notion that girls being less valued in society still lives on.

“Most research on the material culture of childhood has confirmed that toys that reflect strict gender roles have a significant impact on the personal growth and development of children,” says Dr. Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, Professor in Literary Theory and Gender and Women’s Studies at American University. from Sharjah. “Most sex toys for boys encourage more cognitive skills than sex toys for girls. Additionally, gendered toys can reinforce social expectations about gender roles.

Why are toys gendered?

Toys didn’t used to be gendered. Games such as hula hoops, trains, spinning tops and rocking horses were historically offered to boys and girls.

What sets old toys apart from their modern counterparts is the marketing.

Historians agree that the mid-1800s marked a turning point in both gendered toys and gendered literature. The change was subtle at first, with older boys, reportedly starting to earn their own money, the first to be targeted as a marketable teenage consumer group.

With the growth of the toy industry in the United States in the early 20th century, the genre of toys became commercial, as manufacturers realized there was more money to be made by separating “blue” toys roses “.

“It is important to note that historical and cultural differences regarding gender roles can be seen in toy production,” says Dr. Golley. “Furthermore, the gender roles that shape toy production are designed by adult manufacturers, rather than evidence-based research into the preferences of children themselves.”

How do sex toys affect growth and development?

Danish toymaker Lego strives to make its popular kits gender-neutral, rather than marketed as toys for girls or boys.  Vlad Hilitany / Unsplash

“The toy gender can lead to a lack of holistic development by leading to a loss of childhood opportunities,” says Sneha John, a clinical child and adolescent psychologist at Camali Clinic: Child and Adult Mental Health. “Since each toy is associated with one or more particular skills, children growing up in strictly gendered environments are unable to integrate half of the skills needed for personality development.”

John says sex toys can reduce children’s thought processes, stifling creativity and innovation. “Stereotyped toys would limit the scope of future careers, as children might not be allowed to develop their cognitive abilities due to these stereotypes.”

Over time, boys and girls are very likely to associate these stereotypical qualities with themselves and their roles in life.

Dr. Nawar Al-Hassan Golley

Gendered toys are everywhere, evident in stores with large signs that separate the sexes, as well as online where you can search specifically for toys by gender and age.

But even if there were no signs in a toy store, you just have to look for the colors – the packaging on the girl’s side predominantly pinks and purples, the boys’ on blues , darker blacks and greens.

“Gendered toys adhere to a clear gender binary; they generally represent stereotypical masculine characteristics for boys and stereotypical feminine traits for girls,” says Dr. Golley. “Toys for boys, such as trucks, guns and soldiers or superheroes, marketed in dark colors, such as shades of blue, emphasize strength, even aggression, action and adventure.

“Toys for girls, such as dolls, ballerinas, princesses and their accessories, such as make-up and jewelry, marketed in soft colors, mainly shades of pink, emphasize softness, qualities care and certain standards of beauty based on physical attractiveness.

“Over time, both boys and girls are very likely to associate these stereotypical qualities with themselves and their roles in life.”

Adventure for boys, education for girls

A wide variety of toys can help your child develop their creativity, as well as their cognitive abilities.  Jelleke Vanooteghem / Unsplash

“Sex toys for us are the beginning of defining who our children are,” says Beth Satterly, a mother of three, who lives in Dubai. “Raising a child should be about finding out who they are and working with that, not trying to do anything specific with them. For me, the choice of toys is the beginning of all those choices that we make as parents and which are not necessarily for the good of the child, but more in accordance with our own perception and our own experiences.

With play being recognized as a crucial stage in child development, a child’s access to a range of play toys and experiences, regardless of gender, not only helps build sensory motor skills, global and fine, but also allows him to learn more about the world. and their place in it.

Toys aimed at boys are often framed in terms of adventure, action, movement and excitement. They are also more likely to be aggression or conflict oriented. While toys marketed to girls are generally more sedentary and indoors. Pink and passive with an emphasis on appearance – grooming a doll or a horse’s hair; creativity – painting and art, or education, like dolls that need to be taken care of.

“Toys provide our children with the opportunity to develop a variety of physical, emotional and social skills,” says Dr Waleed Ahmed, consultant psychiatrist at Priory Wellbeing Center Abu Dhabi. “Puzzles and blocks like Lego teach spatial skills that will be involved in learning math concepts in the future. Dolls and playhouses can teach cognitive sequencing and language skills. Playing with dolls can also teach empathy, imagination and perspective taking, so there are “downsides” to restricting toy choices to socially constructed and marketing-driven toys.”

How Parents Can Eliminate Toy Box Stereotypes

Choose toys according to the

“Sex toys send powerful cultural messages about what kind of interests boys and girls should have,” says John. “These restrictive gender stereotypes can impact identity development, peer relationships, and brain development in girls and boys.”

As toymakers have made some inroads into degendering their toys, the knee-jerk headlines about the “war on childhood” or the “brainwashing” of children to deny their gender have made some parents nervous.

“It’s difficult for parents to swim against the tide and make deliberate choices for their children that don’t conform to the pressure of societal expectations for a particular gender,” says Dr. Ahmed. “Whether it’s choosing a toy, a theme party or clothing colors.

“There is what can be described as a ‘social cost’ to the child for such choices, in the form of bullying or other well-meaning but negative feedback. So invariably parents play it safe and thus unwittingly perpetuate this myth.”

Parents who want to offer a more gender-neutral approach to play can start by buying toys in neutral colors beyond the ubiquitous pinks and blues. Another way is to focus on the play value of the toy, as opposed to the person it is ostensibly being marketed to.

“For me, the most important thing, especially if you have more than one child, is to have a generic toy space at home,” says Satterly. “Don’t put toys that you think are specifically for that child in their room. Keep them entirely. Look for toys with play value. Toys that have a range of things that do different things Toys for the imagination. Physical and sensory fine motor toys that focus on development, not gender.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 04:19

Comments are closed.