Whether it is for a girl or boy…let toys be toys!

Why do parents and stores put limitations on play? Target recently has announced that they will begin to eliminate gender-based descriptions for children’s toys and sections in the store that have been geared towards girls or boys in certain ways. Many parents feel the need to focus on making sure their newborn girl is wearing pink and playing with dolls by the time she knows what a doll is. Same way goes for a boy, parents feel the need to dress him in blue and make sure he is playing with trucks and cars.

As we can see in this picture, from inside Target, they have gender-specific sections in the store. Several customers have complained to Target about the separation in the store.

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When I noticed this gender separation in Target, it was around the time we started reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Claudia’s doll play in this story is something that I feel relates and links with what we are seeing at Target. As soon as Claudia received the doll for Christmas, she stated, “What was I supposed to do with it? Pretend I was its mother?” (20). Claudia was stating that she just wanted to be around and act like people her own age and size. She also couldn’t get any excitement in her to be and act like a mother.  She was taught quickly what to do with the doll…”the motherly things”.

Many girls are pushed to know how to do motherly things, and that is why many parents have their young girls play with dolls; to learn to be nurturing, loving, and caring for children. We have seen this in several of our stories we have read this semester. We saw it in Little Women throughout the story when Marmee is trying to raise the March girls to be motherly. We also see this in Bluest Eye and Little House on the Prairie.

Why is it this way? Do you think gender-specific toys put limitations on girls at play?

4 thoughts on “Whether it is for a girl or boy…let toys be toys!”

  1. I agree with your statement that dolls force young girls into behaving like mothers. Before taking this class I never really realized that’s the point of little girls caring for their doll-it teaches them to nurture an object completely dependent on their care, which is weird to think it’s being forced at such a young age! Although many girls do enjoy playing with dolls, I wish it wasn’t solely considered a “girl activity”. Personally if my son wanted a doll as a toy, I wouldn’t have a problem, so I can definitely understand people’s complaints towards Target’s gender specific toy aisles.

  2. Target has also recently released statements that they welcome their employees and customers to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, not biological sex at birth. Clearly, Target is trying to be progressive, which I think is awesome! But, this is also happening in the context of some southern states trying to pass legislation to force transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex at birth, which is oppressive and moving backward in history.

  3. Hi Brooklyn,

    Nice post! I do think that creating an industry that markets ‘toys for boys’ and ‘toys for girls’ only serves to reinforce gender stereotypes and norms. There is nothing inherently male in playing with trucks or lightsabers, but we market them almost exclusively to boys. Similarly, there is nothing inherently feminine about playing with a cooking set yet things like pretend kitchens or easy bake ovens are marketed heavily to girls. It’s hard to break these gendered playing scripts once they’re established though – I can imagine that many young children would be upset by receiving a toy at christmas that did not fit their notion of “what girls (or boys) play with”. That is, once we essentially teach girls or boys how toys are gendered, they also reinforce this schema by desiring those types of toys and rejecting toys that they don’t see as fitting their self-concept.

  4. I think this blog post raises some very good questions about child play. I think children’s toys are way to gender specific, and parents gets way to concerned about which toys their children should and shouldn’t play with. Growing up with only brothers I played with nerf guns, action figures, and many other toys that would be dubbed “boy” toys. Having grown up playing with boy toys I’d say I turned out pretty fine. I don’t think what toys you play with when your little really effects how one acts when they are older.

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