Think of toys that young girls would like to play with. You’re probably picturing a lot of pink. Maybe a play kitchen or a fake tea set. Most definitely a doll of some sort comes to mind, whether it’s generic or brand-name, like a Barbie. These are quite stereotypical. Perhaps you thought of something more gender-neutral like Play-Doh or video games. The classification of gendered toys used to be extremely strict, but times are slowly changing. Now, as a society, we’ve gotten to the point where it is generally ok for girls to play with toys originally created for boys; actually, girls are often commended and celebrated as trailblazers, especially through avenues like the internet.
Can you imagine seeing this meme reversed: “In a world full of superheroes, dare to be a princess”? I can’t either!
People don’t praise boys for participating in “girly” things; they usually discourage them from anything to do with princesses, pink, dolls, jewelry, makeup, etc. Toys intended for boys are more about physical activity, innovation, precision, and saving the day as shown by Nerf guns, Legos, remote controlled cars, and action figures. However, taking care of a baby doll is the perfect instance to learn compassion and attentiveness. It takes a great deal of diligence to organize a doll house or play kitchen. I’ve babysat young girls who had very intricate, multi-doll storylines that I could barely keep up with the details (names, relationships to other dolls, careers, hobbies, style preferences, etc.).
Toys facilitate play, and play is an important factor of a child’s development; it is where they learn about the world around them and acquire skills. This is an excuse for why people say they prefer boy toys, and want girl toys to have more meaning. But this still isn’t the root of the problem!
The problem is our society tells us that ‘girl things’ inherently embody traits—fragility, sensitivity, and dependency, for example—that are perceived as feminine flaws. In other words, “less than”. Oh, and it perpetuates the idea that girls should remain in the domestic sphere. However, we could easily flip the script and say that boys’ toys promote violence and antagonism, while girls’ toys promote empathy, dedication, and creativity.
Can’t we appreciate how wonderful girl culture is? Girl toys can be great, and they shouldn’t be taboo for boys. We want kids to grow into well balanced individuals. So, some potential solutions:
- More gender-neutral toys on the market that embody a wide range of traits.
- Let boys play with girly toys, without shame or judgment.
- Teach kids that girl culture is valid and valuable.