Many toys are marketed specifically for boys and others for girls. For instance Barbie, which is targeted primarily for girls. When searching on toyrus.com for Barbie this is the picture that comes up. The girl looks like a miniature Barbie. Barbie puts the image of what a “normal” girl should look like in girl’s minds. Girls that play with Barbie may get the idea that they should look like Barbie. In reality, Barbie’s proportions are not even close to the average girl. GI Joe is a toy that is specifically marketed to boys. This image was taken from http://www.hasbro.com/gijoe/default.cfm?page=Products/Detail&product_id=20173.
GI Joe is a very popular military action figure. Most of the GI Joe's are male and could give children the stereotype that only men are supposed to join the military. Also, as you can see from the picture this GI Joe is very muscular, as are most of the GI Joe's. Young boys may get the idea they should look like him when in reality very few men look as muscular as him.
The idea that “Environmental cues set the stage on which the power relationships of the sexes are acted out and assigned status of each sex is reinforced” shows how toys can develop a child’s normative gender roles and stereotypes in childhood (Henley & Freeman,85). As a child most of their environment is going to consist of playing with toys. Some toys like Barbie and GI Joe can display negative stereotypes about men and women. Many people say “aww it’s just a toy”, but is it? People don’t consciously think about the effects a toy will have on a child. Toys develop a child’s identity and their ways of thinking, so it’s important to make sure each toy doesn’t exhibit a certain stereotype and encourage children to play with all types of toys, not ones just specifically targeted for his or her gender. Hall uses the saying, “Little boys like playing rough games; little girls, however, are full of sugar and spice”(Hall, 90) , to explain the ideology of masculinity and femininity and how it’s constructed in society. Toys can also display typical masculinity or femininity.
While looking at the age ranges in toys you see that as the ages increase, there is increase in the amount of promotional toys. Younger children play with most of the same toys until they are about five years old. At this point they are bombarded with promotional toys like spider-man, sonic, and Harry Potter. There are a lot less promotional toys until the age of five years old. Children are watching TV more so they are going to see commercials for movies and TV shows and want these types of toys.
The one toy found that was on my child’s list that was gender neutral was a water gun. Most advertising for water guns include both girls and boys. As a child I remember both girls and boys being in all the commercials and also boys and girls in the neighborhood playing with them. In conclusion, I think its important for parents to consider how the toys they buy for their children will effect them and their personality. Some toys can cause children to develop a stereotype or gender specific role, that we as a society need to break away from.
Hall, Stewart. “The Whites of Their Eyes Racist Ideologies and the Media.”
Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, 2003. (89-93).
Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, 2003. (61-66).