Gender specific toys – How boys lose out!

Posted in Equality on 7th September 2013

Toys r Us

This week retail giant Toys R Us has pledged to stop marketing its products exclusively for boys and girls amid concerns about sexual stereotyping. Toys R Us made the announcement following a meeting with consumer campaign group Let Toys Be Toys, which wants to stop gender specific toy marketing. Let Toys Be Toys is group made of 10 Irish and British parents who believe that retailers should let children and their parents decide what toys they should play with instead of having the packaging decide that for them.

Ironing boards not for girls only

When I was a child as I always preferred boy’s toys as I always found them far more exciting but this was in the 70’s and 80’s so why is it that in 2013 science toys are still being marketed only to boys and ironing boards only to girls? Surely girls should be able to play with science kits and remote control cars too while boys are also allowed to play with dolls and easy bake ovens? It baffles me that as adults we are being told by our legislation that we must uphold equality and inclusion when our children are still getting these confusing and frankly sexist messages. Surely this is bound to harm their development?

How do boys lose out?

This discussion usually focuses on how little girls lose out but I want to talk about how little boys lose out. The fact is little boys who see their own dads changing nappies and making dinner are then made to feel ashamed if they want to go near a doll or a play kitchen. I came across a word cloud which shows the words that are being used to market toys for boys and girls. Unsurprisingly, the boys are bombarded with words such as BATTLE, POWER, ARMOUR, MISSION, ACTION while girls are being fed the messages of LOVE, BABIES, MOMMY, GLITTER, PERFECT… firstly, its hugely concerning that none of these word clouds contain important messages such as justice, integrity, equality or good character. Secondly, the toys that are being marketed to boys don’t help them develop a connection to their emotions and to become nurturing or caring… unlike the girls toys that are all practically geared to loving, nurturing and caring. If boys are not thought how to connect with their emotions through their toys what sort of men will they grow up to be? Is this perhaps the reason why young and middle-aged men make up 80% of the people who died by suicide in Ireland in 2010? I believe that the only way we can break down stigma and get people talking about their mental health is by starting with the next generation. We need to get little girls and little boys to connect with their emotions and be able to express how they feel. It is this quality that could actually help them safeguard their mental health and even save their life one day because when life gets tough as it so often does they will be able to turn to someone and ask for help… 

Tonight’s Global Village is being dedicated completely to marking World Suicide Prevention Day as it still quotes stigma being a major barrier to suicide prevention.

So that’s what I think but what do you think? Do you believe the toys children play with influences their development? Or do you think toys are just toys and boys and girls are just different?