A Facebook video recently released by the page ATTN, titled “It’s Time to Rethink Sexism in Toys”, brings to light the issues surrounding the gendered implications that most toys and ads for toys create. The video outlines research done by Dr. Elizabeth Sweet that coincides well with Claudia’s doll play in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Erica Hateley’s keyword essay “Gender”. To complete her study, Sweet watched over 7000 toy ads and analyzed the results. She found that modern day toy ads have become even more gendered, and this is severely affecting how young children grow up. The expected roles that women and men are supposed to play become even stronger due to these gendered toys.
Gender in children’s literature is described in Hateley’s essay as something that “affirmed values of consciousness and experience as distinctly masculine or feminine. Reading not only created literate citizens, it also located them in a gendered social order” (87). While literature is something that has considerably widened the gender gap, doll play can also be applied to the same effect, as demonstrated in the ATTN video.
Claudia’s relationship with her blue-eyed baby doll demonstrates the oddities of the script of doll play. The famous quote, “What was I supposed to do with it?” (20), contrasted with Claudia’s quick realization that she was supposed to “rock it, fabricate storied situations around it, even sleep with it” (20), represents the idea that young girls play with dolls to learn how to be mothers. But Claudia says it herself, “Motherhood was old age, and other remote possibilities” (20). It is strange that a young girl should be expected to act like a mother with her doll, when in reality motherhood is incredibly far off from a young child’s perspective. In addition, this discourages young girls from learning to do basically anything else, and pushes boys to be the ones who build, work, and essentially be moneymakers. Sweet’s study found that Barbie dolls actually make girls believe that they can’t do as many jobs as boys. This type of doll play creates an inequality in the roles of boys and girls that will continue to be upheld as long as dolls are made to be gendered.