The message we send our kids about gender in 2011...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Nerys Ghemor, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

    Aug 4, 2008
    Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
    Seriously, I thought we were past this kind of stuff.

    I remember when I was little, toys were highly separated in the way they were marketed. If you were a girl, you did not play with GI Joes and other toys like that, or even stuff like X-Men action figures. There was never, ever a girl in the commercials for all the coolest toys. And what's sad is...I almost never asked for the things I wanted most because it was so "clear" to me that I shouldn't. I mentioned that more recently to my parents and they never even knew I was interested in those things...but the message had been so clear I didn't even feel I could say it.

    I remember being disappointed when I saw some X-Men sneakers at a shoe store that I really wanted, and being told those were not for girls and things like that were not made for girls.

    As a matter of fact, Star Trek has the distinction of being one of the first toy franchises where I saw boys and girls enjoying the same toys. Seems the philosophy of gender equality even got into the way the toys were marketed! We should be proud! ;)

    But today I saw something very disappointing and that I thought in 2011 we were past.

    I happened to spot a really awesome birthday card for a kid at Walgreens, with a Clone Wars theme. When you pressed the button, Yoda's lightsaber actually lit up and it played the Clone Wars theme! :D

    When I put it back, I noticed that it had come from a rack labeled "BOY BIRTHDAY" and next to it was a Barbie doll or some other princess with enough pink to make me hurl, labeled "GIRL BIRTHDAY."

    I so thought we were past that crap.

    Granted, at least by 2011 there wasn't a reference in the card to it being for a boy, so at least these days a parent who knew what their little girl really wanted could get it for her without having to do an embarrassing edit job on it...but still. On some level that was just disappointing to find that stereotypes are still going strong, and that's what we're still feeding our kids. :-/
  2. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Admiral

    Apr 14, 2000
    QC, IL, USA
    I don't think it's crap. Not everything should be gender neutral. How many boys out there want to play with Barbies? How many girls want to play with GI Joes and Transformers? Not many, I'd wager.
  3. Cicero

    Cicero Admiral Admiral

    Jan 14, 2002
    I played with both when I was little. Admittedly, I added my Star Trek figures to the several G.I. Joe collections owned by other children at recess, and we all played with those, but the principle is the same.

    I also played with Barbie-like dolls (I think they were either off-brand or some of Barbies friends) that my older sister and I had, and with my own set of three larger dolls, of which I was very protective. I think that having both "boys'" and "girls'" toys made for a richer childhood experience; it may have been the start of my not feeling odd Reading Nancy Drew or American Girl books (my favorite was Molly) alongside the Hardy Boys, Titin, etc. It really never crossed my mind that some of those toys or books were meant for children of a particular sex. What would make a Barbie or a G.I. Joe different from a Fisher Price toy?

    The only devil's advocate argument that I can see in favor of gendered toys is that someone might feel it important to establish a gendered identity for their child. I never really developed one growing up, and masculinity (or femininity) doesn't cross my mind as part of my identity any more today than it did when choosing books in elementary school.

    Occasionally, that's been a problem, but only because of persons who expect me to act in a more macho manner or to think of myself as a man in a situation rather than a person in a situation - which isn't to say that I feel at all feminine, only that I don't feel masculine, like asking me if I felt striped or polka-dotted today, when I've never really liked stripes or polka dots - I like solid colors.

    If that outlook (or, really, lack of outlook) is something a parent would seek to avoid, then, by all means, they should choose boys' or girls' toys. But it has never been much of a problem for me; frankly, I think it's been a positive aspect of my life. I think their children would probably be better for it too. I certainly had more friends in school - instead of only half the class, I thought everyone a possibility.
  4. Spot's Meow

    Spot's Meow Vice Admiral Premium Member

    Jul 1, 2004
    Hotel California
    I guess I didn't really notice this issue as a kid, maybe my parents were just really open about it (though they are very traditional in other respects). My primary toys were Hot Wheels, Barbies, plastic dinosaurs, Polly Pocket, Legos, plastic horses and cats, and Power Ranger action figures.

    I guess I had a good variety of "boy" and "girl" toys as well as books (I loved both Goosebumps and Babysitter's Club). The same gender stereotypes still linger today, but if parents are so inclined, and if the children are taught to be independent and set their own personality parameters, the full range of choices can be available to anyone.

    I mean, I guess I knew what the defined "boy" and "girl" toys were, I just didn't care and didn't let it stop me from having fun. And hey, I still wear men's shoes, they are cheaper and way more comfortable.
  5. Amaris

    Amaris Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Dec 25, 2002
    Gender roles, at least when it comes to playtime, is going the way of the dodo, and I'm glad for it. It's absurd to force children to divide their preferences into a box that may not fit them, and may not be healthy in having to choose. I am a 31 year old male, and I love My Little Pony. Somehow this makes me odd or off kilter. It's no different than when I was young. When I was little, I played with any kind of toy, regardless of whether it was the “right” kind of toy for my gender. I liked Thundercats, Silverhawks, G.I. Joe, and Ghost Busters, but I also liked Barbie, J.E.M., Strawberry Shortcake, and Punky Brewster. I didn't care one bit whether those things were meant for boys or girls. I just knew I liked them, which is as it should be.

    My 4 year old niece loves playing with my ponies, she even gave me a pony. We play “tea time”, “tour guide”, we color in her coloring books, and she always wants me to color in the rainbows because she thinks they're pretty and she likes the way I color them. In her eyes, it's normal that I play these games with her. Yet some people would call this wrong and chide me for it. How foolish they are for limiting themselves to one little box in which to play. How dull their lives must be.

    The fun part is that my niece has her own quirks. When she wanted to play an online game, I found a website that had games for kids. It was divided into two sections: Boys and Girls. I clicked on the Girls section and she looked at the games. So she browses the games and sees that they're all dress-up and make-up, boy crushes, cooking games, and designer clothes games with a splash of dolls in there as well. After a few moments of browsing, she turns to me and says “what is this?”. I replied, “these are games on the girl side of the page.” Her eyes get wide, she huffs and says “these games are stupid. They're for stupid people.” After I stopped pissing myself from laughter, I clicked over to the “boys” games. They had Mario, and Transformers, Spongebob, and battle tanks, and she smiles and says “yeah, this is more fun!”.

    My point is that by assigning gender roles for toys and games, we're telling children they can only fit into the roles we make for them, and that stifles their creativity, their imagination, and it makes them feel outcast if they don't conform to the idea well enough to allay suspicions, because it's really all about the insecurities of adults. It arises from ignorance; the idea that a boy who likes “girl toys” and “girl games” makes him appear weak and effeminate, while girls who play with “boy toys” and play “boy games” appear out of their maternal role and tomboyish. In both cases, fears arise that the child may be gay.

    Hell, I remember when I was in grade school. One year for my class picture, they let us choose a prop to hold while the picture was taken. My brother chose a football. I chose a large stuffed raccoon. When the pictures arrived, my family (not my parents) looked at my brother's pictures and commented on how great the pictures looked, and how he was growing up to be a fine young man. The comments meted out in my direction were more along the lines of “that's strange for a boy to choose” and “Johnny needs to play with action figures and get into sports”.

    It's a foolish, antiquated social concept, and it needs to go away into the past where it belongs. Fortunately, the younger generations are already finding this to be the better path, and are eschewing traditionalism in favor of expanding opportunities for children to grow and mature. Let children have fun playing with whatever toys and games they choose. They're not the ones suffering, at least not until an adult makes them feel bad for wanting to be different.
  6. ITL

    ITL Vice Admiral Admiral

    Nov 27, 2004
    Palace Of The Brine
    Well said, John. :D

    This part stands out:
    Because it's made of pure win. That is all.
  7. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Good post, Cicero. :) I was somewhat similar. My sister and I are close in age and pretty much grew up sharing everything. She was never particularly "feminine" and I was never particularly "masculine"; which, as with yourself, doesn't mean I was ever feminine or she masculine. Nor does it mean we had no concept of the two sexes - I was always quite grounded in a sense of my "maleness", it just didn't come with a condition that I respond favourably to only half the toybox. Boys and girls are always subtly different by nature - they don't need cultural segregation to develop a sense of gender identity, and I don't approve of placing great restraints on a child's self-discovery in a culture that's transcended a base survival-oriented outlook.

    During my time at primary school, it was interesting to note that the children could easily be grouped into three parties. There was a large group of very feminine girls, a large group of very masculine boys, and a mixed-sex group who weren't at home in "their" sex's pack and formed an association of their own. Notably, they (that is to say we) preferred strange imaginative adventure games and odd discussions, where the Girls liked doing their hair or playing family and the Boys liked football. And while the Boys and Girls only responded to others of their sex (regardless if they were part of the group or not), we had friends everywhere.

    I imagine you'll find something similar to my three-way classification in the wider population. There'll always be more boys than girls playing with transformers and cars and more girls than boys playing with pink ponies (excuse the P word...), but there'll also be a large number from both sexes who simply don't fit into the traditionally defined roles, and that shouldn't be an issue. Boys and girls will never be the same, and I'm sure there'll always be, by nature, imbalances in interest and focus, but the range of personalities is far wider in both sexes than has been acknowledged, and strictly defining people of any age by gender doesn't, in my view, work. Oh, there'll be enough people comfortable with the assigned roles to make it a functional division, but far too many falling outside the boundaries to really offer anything useful.

    Of course, well defined masculine and feminine roles is an important part of most traditional cultures, so it's likely a large number of people will make the distinction a little heavy-handed, without any real judgement behind it. But that's never a good thing to set as a universal, for the very reason that Nerys Ghemor notes - it sends unfortunate messages to those children who, for whatever reason, find interests that don't fall exclusively into the assigned category. And there'll be many such children.

    Sometimes it affects us as adults, too. I remember once looking to buy a going-away present for a male friend, a little book with quotations on friendship. However, several of the entries seemed to automatically assume that we'd both be women. Thinking about it, I could see that the particular flavour of friendship I was acknowledging would likely be considered rather feminine. So from the viewpoint of many perspectives it wasn't unreasonable to assume, but it was a bit of a bummer for me.
  8. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Agreed. :) And as a young boy I'd have chosen a stuffed raccoon over a football any day.

    Far more to be done with a raccoon. You can't have adventures with a football.
  9. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

    Jun 11, 2003
    RJDiogenes of Boston
    Yeah, every day I wake up thinking it's the 21st century and pretty much every day something reminds me that it's still 1950. Unfortunately, I come from a family that believes strongly in stereotypes so both my Niece and Nephew have had this forced on them, seriously reducing what's available to them. I do try to encourage them in broader directions and give them gifts that will broaden their horizons, but it's an uphill battle.

    Still, things are getting better, slowly but surely. I'm always happy when I watch science documentaries on TV and the talking heads are female. It's always great to find women who are passionate about stuff like astronomy, paleontology, science fiction, et cetera.
  10. Amaris

    Amaris Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Dec 25, 2002
    Thank you! :D
    I loved that stuffed raccoon.

    Amen! Lots more imagination in that.

    Oh, my niece loves her "Carl Sager". She has to "read" one of his books every time she comes over. Either his, or the book with the pretty butterflies on the cover (Richard Dawkins' "Greatest Show on Earth"). Her 5 year birthday gift from me will be a microscope (her 7 year birthday gift will be a telescope). She has already shown a proclivity for the sciences, and for that matter she's very adept with understanding lingual concepts, and I wish to nourish that.
  11. Sean Aaron

    Sean Aaron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 29, 2007
    Glasgow, Scotland
    The reality is that boys tend to be more aggressive in their play due to testosterone. This isn't just about societal roles. Some girls can cope with that and some can't so as they get older they tend to separate. Of course there's some influence from media and upbringing, but even without that you'd be more likely to see boys whacking people with sticks than girls.
  12. Amaris

    Amaris Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Dec 25, 2002
    What do you do, though, when a boy wants to play pretty princess instead of universal soldier? I'm not saying boys can't be more violent, and girls won't choose to play house, I'm saying that they should be able to choose what they wish without ignorant notions of gender "normality" getting in the way.
  13. Deckerd

    Deckerd Fleet Arse Premium Member

    Oct 27, 2005
    the Frozen Wastes
    Most kids do what they want anyway without parental interference. The only gender differences are the ones which last throughout life, like boys being attracted to kick a ball around more (translates to watching sport on TV) than girls and boys tending to do more dangerous things than girls.
  14. Sean Aaron

    Sean Aaron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 29, 2007
    Glasgow, Scotland
    No I agree. One of my daughter's lifelong male friends liked to dress like a princess until he was three or four. Of course now he plays Transformers and runs around like a maniac like every other boy in the schoolyard!
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2011
  15. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jan 9, 2008
    Well to be blunt, those are all indicators of a sexual predator (interest in kids toys, collection and display of kids toys, interacting with kids using the toys) which why I guess it worries some people.

    Now let's be clear I'm not saying in any way, shape or form that you are a sex predator or anything of that nature but simply that sadly for you, your hobbies overlap with common indicators (and there are a lot which is why it's such a complex issue) that people look for and that is why you are getting this reaction off people.
  16. SiorX

    SiorX Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nov 8, 2007
    On the gendered toys topic - the Toys R Us gift finder is completely fascinating for this. To help you find a gift for a kid, it first has you select gender and age, then subdivides it by the 'type' of kid you're shopping for and by interests. You can see a tally of how many toys there is for each subsection.

    For a boy or girl, aged 8 - 11, the breakdown looks like this:

    Subsection [# For boys] - [# For girls]

    Adventurous 19 - 2
    Creative 25 - 66
    Sporty 35 - 7
    Techie 13 - 8
    Smarty Pants 12 - 19
    Outdoorsy 34 - 22
    Glamour Girl NA - 11 (No equivalent for boys)

    Animals and Nature 4 - 4
    Cars Trucks Trains Planes 23 - NA (Not an option for girls)
    Gaming 90 - 75
    Building 38 - NA (Not an option for girls)
    Cooking 4 - 11
    Music 7 - 7

    A brief snoop around suggests that 'creative' consistently gets more hits for girls regardless of age, and leads to lots and lots of Barbies and Bratz and things which the boys don't get. 'Adventure' means Nerf guns and things which they don't seem to think are for girls.

    If you only select for gender and age, then other weird things happen in the sidebar at the shopping page. Still looking at age 8 - 11, boys get all the same 'categories' that girls do, but also several extras. Both, for example, get 'dolls and stuffed animals', but girls don't get 'action figures', 'building sets and blocks', 'vehicles and radio control', or (weirdly) 'musical instruments'.

    In the 'interests' section, it's the same again. Only boys get "building", "cars trucks and trains" and "sports".

    In "skills", the difference is that girls get an extra option that boys don't - 'nurturing'.

    Now, I'm assuming from the look of the interface that this has to do with tag wrangling. Some things aren't showing up on the girl or boy options because the toys, once gendered, aren't being tagged with those terms. But the result comes across as really unnecessary and limiting gender stereotyping.

    Incidentally, all the toy shops in my town still seem to divide into "toys of type x" and "girls toys of type x" where the latter are overwhelmingly pink and tend to have fewer cool features. But my town is ass backwards in lots of ways, so YMMV.
  17. CommanderRaytas

    CommanderRaytas DISCO QUEEEEEEN Premium Member

    Oct 1, 2006
    Intergalactic Planetary Planetary Intergalactic
    Wow, I had completely forgotten about Polly Pocket. I used to play with that. Where have the early nineties gone to, I wonder....

    I owned about 40 Barbies back in the day. Toy-wise, I was probably as stereotypical as they come, but I used to play space invasion with them, so whaddayaknow....
  18. Itisnotlogical

    Itisnotlogical Commodore Commodore

    Jun 19, 2009
    Shufflin', shufflin', shufflin'...
    I never had gender roles "forced" upon me. My parents and family are actually quite open-minded. The concept of brushing fake hair on a doll that didn't even bend at the knees and elbows just wasn't interesting to me, and I thought it was kind of disquieting that girls would talk to their Barbies and give them individual names. I wanted toys that would either

    A: Shoot missiles at other toys

    B: Challenge my brain with difficult assembly, and THEN shoot missiles at eachother, or as I got older

    C: Toys that would look frickin' AWESOME on my shelf, like the dinky little Furuta Star Trek models. (I still like to move them around and say "pewpewpew" though)

    Barbie dolls just didn't interest me. It's kind of a "What use could I have for this?" sort of thing.
  19. Gov Kodos

    Gov Kodos Admiral Admiral

    Mar 23, 2004
    Gov Kodos on Mohammed's Radio, WZVN Boston
  20. auntiehill

    auntiehill The Blooness Premium Member

    Feb 7, 2006
    When I was a kid, way back in Medieval times, I like Matchbox cars, trains and Legos. Yes, I liked Barbies, but I was more interested in sending the dolls down our steep hill, strapped into my sister's roller skates. And at school, I was teased mercilessly for it. I was "weird."

    I had thought we had advanced some from those times, but after shopping for my nieces and nephew, I can tell you that very little has changed.