Gender Stereotypes in the Marketplace and the Effect on Children
If you have ever walked through a toy section you know there is a huge distinction between toys for boys and toys for girls. The girl section is every shade of pink - oozing with My Little Ponies, dress-up clothes, Barbies and Easy Bake Ovens. The boys section usually has an entire aisle dedicated to super-heroes, Star Wars and G.I. Joe's and walls upon walls of Lego's, balls, trucks, trains and anything else with wheels.
I have two girls and my youngest has always been more interested in the toys that are typically stereotyped as "boy" toys. Even when she was a toddler, she preferred balls and trucks over baby dolls. She loves comic books and will talk superheros with anyone who will listen. I think it's awesome and my husband and I encourage her interest even though it might not be popular. I don't see a problem with her running around in a Batman costume or playing with superhero figures in her sister's doll house. What I do find a problem with are the weird looks I get when I ask stores why they don't have superheros on the girl aisle. I can't even find a girl superhero in the boy toy section! What does that tell girls? That they aren't supposed to play with superheros. This negatively labels our children. Why is toy marketing so gender based saturated? And someone please tell me why Disney princesses and Barbies are pushed so heavily on little girls but not strong female figures like Wonder Woman and Super Girl? Our culture is being brainwashed by this form of marketing that is targeted at our children from a very young age.
It didn't really occur to me how much the marketplace is set up in such a divided way until I became a parent. Do you want a blanket for your new baby? Your choices are pink or blue. And if you choose a "neutral" theme for your baby decor people get really confused. Do you or do you not know the gender of your baby?! Green is not girl OR boy!! I know society has come a long way in this aspect but I still think it could be better.
Don't get me wrong, I love girly stuff and so do my girls. We have tea parties, do our nails and play dolls. I would just like to see toy marketing and manufacturing more balanced so that kids don't grow up thinking, "only boys play with that" and vice-versa. I hope that someday a little girl can wear a Star Wars shirt to school and not come home in tears because the boys made fun of her for liking something that has been stereotyped as "boys only." This happened to my child and now she won't wear her favorite shirts to school anymore. I don't think this is the kind of labels we want being put on our children. They should be able to love whatever they want no matter what. Maybe instead of separating toys by gender, stores could separate them by type. It wouldn't solve all the issues but I think it would at least be a start to bridging the dividing gap between "girl toys" and "boy toys."