Toys and Its Influence on Gender Socialization
The phenomenon of gender socialization has been developing since childhood. From the moment children are born, their parents start applying to them cultural and social stereotypes about masculinity and femininity. Parents play the role of the first agents of socialization as they choose the toys children play with dividing them into masculine and feminine.
These are parents that create the social stereotype that action figures, building blocks, trucks, and cars are appointed for boys, meanwhile, dolls and cooking accessories are appointed for girls. It is necessary to mention that practically all toys are gender-biased that teach boys of warrior-like roles and girls of housewife and mother like roles. The main issue is that with the help of such gender-biased toys, gender socialization reinforces stereotypical cultural and social gender roles.
Another factor that benefits the development of gender socialization is the domination of patriarchy. It is evident that the latter leads to the creating of the stereotype that a man occupies a leading position more often than a woman. Patriarchy is a negative social norm that is difficult for rooting out, but it gives a birth to gender inequality.
Even in the young age, boys know that they should be defenders and leaders. It results in their independent choice of playing with cars, building sophisticated things, and fighting monsters. At a very early age, boys know that only they are able to do be defenders and leaders as girls are weak and tearful. Playing with dolls, girls are aware of their necessity to be beautiful and well-dressed that is why they think that they are not able to build, fight, or play with sophisticated logical toys.
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The research question to be studied and explained in the paper is, toys and its influence on gender socialization. It is believed that social and cultural stereotypes are increasing because of the phenomenon of gender socialization.
The objectives of the paper are the following:
- to provide evidence of how social and cultural stereotypes appear;
- to explore different kinds of toys and their influence on gender socialization.
From July 12 till July 14, 9 a.m. – 11.30 p.m., the research on gender socialization through toys was conducted at store Dadeland South for studying toy assortment and gender of children who wanted their parents to buy those toys. Data worksheet consists of questions about toys, child’s emotions, attitudes, and behaviors related to these toys. The research is based on the examining of toys at store. The data analysis involved describing, examining, comparing, categorizing, simplifying, abstracting, transforming, and concluding.
Children’s feelings, attitude, and behaviors concerning a particular toy were examined and analyzed as the reasons of gender socialization. In addition, 18 types of toy were examined and described. These were weapons (guns, nuns, chucks), baby dolls, “Barbie” type dolls (Monster High, Barbie), Disney Princesses, cooking accessories (kitchens, tea sets, foods), buildings for living or shopping (houses, bakeries), cash registers, clothing accessories (shoes, dresses), hair accessories, royalty (princes, princesses), make-up, superhero dolls (muscular dolls), blue collar work (police, fire fighters, farmers), white collar work (lawyers, doctors, economists), building blocks (Lego), remote control vehicles, animals portrayed as “scary, mean, or aggressive” and military.
Different types of toys were counted in the aisles for boys and girls and included in the research paper for analysis. This study is based more on the qualitative data rather than quantitative ones, as this strategy can ensure the completeness of the information. In this paper, a descriptive approach and calculation method were used.
Having conducted the research with children, the following toys were found in boy aisles: weapons (number – 31), superhero dolls (number – 24), blue collar work (number – 21), white collar work (number – 13), building blocks (number – 36), remote control vehicles (number – 28), animals portrayed as “scary, mean, or aggressive”, military (number – 22). Such number of toys related to all men’s affairs proves a careful division and distribution of them. Besides, it evidenced that even marketing policy of toy stores is based on gender stratification.
Playing with boy toys, children associated their feelings with power, submission of girls to boys. The latter felt themselves dominant building Lego constructions. In addition, playing with boy toys, children felt themselves brave, strong, capable, intelligent, smart, excited, and courageous. Boys imagined winning their enemies, fighting, competing, repairing, building, serving, working, and protecting people. Children stated that boy toys learnt them to be strong, active, aggressive, creative, brave, and competitive. What is more, boyish toys helped them understand that girls’ roles were cooking and cleaning and boys’ roles were constructing and fixing. Boy toys learnt them to fight, protect other people, and work. Boys supposed themselves to be intelligent and capable; meanwhile, girls were subordinating, inferior, and dependent. Such feelings and attitudes to toys prove that a social image of a man is reflected even in toys.
Having conducted the research with children, the following toys were found in girl aisles: weapons (number – 5), baby dolls (number – 38), “Barbie” type dolls (number – 36), cooking accessories (number – 23), buildings for living or shopping (number – 5), cash registers (number – 2), clothing accessories (number – 24), hair accessories (number – 23), royalty (number – 29), make-up (12), white collar work (number – 5), building blocks (number – 15), animals portrayed as “comforting, pretty, and loving” (number – 25), military (number – 5).
Playing with girl toys, children associated their feelings with calmness, attractiveness, intelligence, and courage. Girls saw themselves as taking care of their children, wearing nice clothes and shoes, taking care about their appearance, cooking, and cleaning. Girls wanted to be beautiful, attractive, well-dressed, become good housewives and mothers. One can conclude that care work is girl’s main mission that is depicted in toys.
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The findings revealed that gender socialization begins since childhood. Toys teach different gender norms to boys vs. girls. First of all, division of toys in girlish and boyish ones leads to gender stratification that is a social inequality between male and female. Imposing of toys to children by parents causes differentiation between men’s and women’s roles in the society, family, and at workplace.
In most cases, women are underestimated and men are dominant. As a result, even at the present time, we face such social negative phenomena as gender discrimination and inequality. Besides, division of toys creates such social stereotypes that a woman should be a good mother and housewife who cooks and cleans perfectly. Meanwhile, men should be able to earn money and be the defenders.
Gender identification is an early process in children, and these are gender-based toys that reveal behavioral gender peculiarities. Even for toddlers, parents use feminine and masculine-typed toys. Feminine-typed toys teach nurturing traits and masculine-typed toys teach mobility and activity. It is necessary to mention that consciousness of a child is able to absorb all parents’ introduction of toys that is why it is important to do that carefully. Masculine and feminine stereotypes are hidden deeply in toys, their history of creation, and appointment. Another negative effect of toys is that they limit children’s outlook. One should stop teaching boys aggression and fighting, and girls should not be focused only on appearance and beauty. All toys have subtle messages that also benefit the development of gender inequality and social stereotypes. For example, in the UK, one creates gender-neutral toys in order to weaken the issue of gender stereotypes.
Sexism is taught through play differently to girls vs. boys. First of all, it is evident in the division of aisles for boys and girls even in the toy store. Besides, these are the parents who teach their children that there are toys for boys and for girls. It is necessary to mention the striking statistics that in girl aisle, there are no blue collar work toys at all and only few toys of white collar work. It proves that the role of a woman is diminished and she is only responsible for keeping house and taking care of family but not for earning money.
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As a result, it is extremely difficult for woman to hold senior posts as men are usually appointed to them. Without a doubt, this is sexism that has been developing since childhood when boys are taught that they are strong, brave, intelligent, and dominant while girls are supposed to be weak, sensitive, and beautiful.
While playing with girl vs. boy toys children are developing differences in the types of jobs, educational degrees, household divisions of labor, and dating expectations. The finding shows that boys want to occupy high-paying position receiving a serious job that is why they are leant to be brave and ambitious.
Girls want to occupy positions related to beauty and fashion; therefore, they are learnt to be easy-going, beautiful, and have good manners. Parents create the beauty myth for them that they should take care more about their appearance rather than intelligence and knowledge. As a result, men receive educational degrees, serious posts (e. g., president or minister) and women give birth to babies and do household chores. It is difficult for them to be ambitious and successful in career because of family life.
From maintaining traditional gender distinctions between the sexes, men benefits and women suffers in society. Gender norms and social stereotypes are difficult for overcoming as their roots are in human’s mind and traditions that are passed from generation to generation. Men benefits from maintaining traditional distinctions because they do not have serious competition with women; they feel themselves dominant as men are leaders in family and workplace.
Women suffer in society with gender distinctions because they are underestimated due to the social stereotypes and parents’ education. They are taught that they are weak and their roles are to be a good housewife, wife, and mother. Parents teach this their daughters since childhood presenting cooking accessories, dolls with beautiful dresses, make-up accessories, etc. It is worth noting that the choice of toys predict what future is waiting for a girl – to be a housewife or a business lady.
There should not be restrictions for girls to specific occupations and in order to deprive of them, it is necessary not to show it in marketing policy of the companies that produce toys, in division of aisles at store, and in education of children. Girls can drive trucks and join the military that is why they should learn how to play with cars and superheroes in their childhood.
Boys can also raise children and do household chores. That is why they should learn how to play with baby dolls as well. Besides, the main role should belong to parents who are supposed to introduce the toys in a proper way. They should not tell that boys cannot play with dolls or girls are forbidden to play with military toys as this is the main reason why children are skeptical about playing with some kinds of toys.
Parents should change their attitude to toys as they shape children views about gender roles. Parents should not forbid children playing any kind of toys as their role are critical and children follow them.
The made findings indicate that children’s toys develop gender inequalities. Toys can teach different social roles, therefore, the attitude of parents to choosing toys is of cardinal importance. First of all, in toy stores, aisles for toys should not be divided into boyish and girlish. It will help children make their own choices and decisions about what toy they want.
Parents should buy their children different toys no matter whether they will be related to their future or not. Girls should know that they can play not only with dolls and take care about their appearance but also play with Lego developing logic. Girls will have a choice whether to become an architecture or model. Boys should know that playing with baby dolls will help them not only become good fathers in the future but also control their aggression.
Modern gender roles are changing and do not restrict to femininity or masculinity. At the present time, women can occupy leading positions and men can take care of children. That is why the change in the toy division is a must for destruction of social stereotypes and gender inequalities. Besides, one should create other kinds of toys that will combine features of both genders.
For example, Barbie doll can not only wear beautiful dresses and high heels but also cook, fight, and put up buildings or vice versa. Superhero dolls can not only fight and protect people but also cook, clean, and take care of babies.
Presenting their children with toys, parents should find a compromise choosing for example, Barbie doll and Lego. Such combination will help raise girls as not only pretty and slender creatures but also ladies with intelligence, logic, and strategic thinking.
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In conclusion, it is necessary to say that toys influence gender socialization, development of social stereotypes, and gender inequalities. Parents are the first agents of socialization as they choose the toys children play explaining them what is masculine or feminine. Another agent of gender socialization is marketing policy of toy stores that divides aisles into boy’s and girl’s ones. The problem of gender socialization is that it is forming under the influence of stereotypical thinking of social roles of men and women. Gender socialization begins since childhood.
Toys teach different gender norms to boys vs. girls. Division of toys leads to the development of gender stratification. While playing with girlish and boyish toys, children are developing differences in the types of jobs, educational degrees, household divisions of labor, and dating expectations. From maintaining traditional gender distinctions between the sexes, men benefits and women suffer in society.
For destruction of gender inequality and social stereotypes between men and women, one proposes not to divide toy aisles into boy’s and girl’s ones. Parents should buy their children different toys no matter whether they will be related to their future or not. Besides, one should create other kinds of toys that will combine features of both genders. In addition, combined toys are a good idea as it will help develop broad-minded personality.