We are doing kids today a disservice. Some people don’t know it, but it’s doing more harm that most people actually realize. The toy industry is harming your children in a way that no one is willing to talk about- until today. Not only is the toy industry teaching kids that boys and girls should have different ideas about what is fun, but it’s also telling them what roles are acceptable for their genders.
Unfortunately, this type of casual sexism can be found at most major retailers- Target, Walmart, the list goes on and on. It’s a struggle to find toy sections that are not separated by gender- whether it’s blue toys and action figures for boys or pink toys and baby dolls for girls, the message is still the same: boys should be the ones saving the world, while girls are meant to stay at home and have babies.
Now, I’m not saying that all toys are gendered and should be thrown away immediately, but take a moment to think about your last stop in the toy aisle, even if it’s been a while. What did you see? Was Barbie in the same aisle mingling with Iron Man? Was there any toy that had to do with a domestic setting (Easy Bake oven, cleaning sets, crib sets) that wasn’t pink? Chances are, the answer is no.
Toy companies come out with countless new toys every year, but somehow they still aren’t getting how detrimental their sexism is to children, especially young girls. As of 2013, 40% of homes in America have a female as primary bread winner. Women also make up 48% of the workforce, but somehow toy companies are still trying to sell the idea that women belong in the home. Come on toy companies, that mindset is so 1950s.
Thankfully however, the public is finally catching on about sexism in the toy aisle- and it’s causing quite a stir. Recently, a seven year old girl named Charlotte called out LEGO for their lack of female characters and disappointing message about gender roles.
Dear Lego company:
My name is Charlotte. I am 7 years old and I love legos but I don’t like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls.
Today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the girls pink and the boys blue. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.
I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!
Her letter is beautiful and bold, but sadly, Charlotte’s absolutely correct. Many toy brands, and even cartoons, are guilty of not having enough female characters. LEGO is just one of many companies that has come under fire in the past for having a male scientist character, but not a female counterpart. LEGO refused to respond to or comment on the letter, but just because they won’t acknowledge the sexism, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Unfortunately, female toy characters of all kinds are less likely to be actively engaged in actions that aren’t shopping, baking, and being with friends. (When was the last time Barbie had a job that wasn’t sun bathing?) However, their male toy counterparts live exciting lives of being super heroes, scientists, and career men. So, basically, males are dominant even in the world of toys too, leaving little room for women. Is that something that we want to engrain in children’s minds before they even turn double digits? I don’t think so.
Children should grow up not having to worry about if the toy they are playing with is for boys or girls. They should grow up with the mindset that no matter what their gender, they are free to be who they are. Toy companies should be more interested in making childhood fun and enjoyable, instead of telling children what they can and can not do because of their gender.
With luck, 2014 and all the years after it will yield more toys that are gender inclusive and promote positive representation of gender, instead of falling back into the pitfalls of gender stereotypes.