Friday, December 18, 2009

Gender Toys: the Video Game vs. the Dollhouse

Christmas is just around the corner but this week, I've been knee deep in the Festival of Lights (more commonly referred to as Hanukkah).

Two days ago on my award winning* Twitter account, I posted this:

Although I was kidding, I realize that this may have painted a picture of me that isn’t completely accurate—that I’m concerned with my son’s gender identity and want to make sure he plays with “boy” toys.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. I really don’t care what toys he plays with. He’s got enough toy cars to open a dealership, but if he wants to play with the Ken doll we have lovingly dubbed “naked” Steve (because of the Bean’s continued and steadfast refusal to keep it’s clothes on) I’m seriously fine with it. I would be hypocritical not to. Growing up, I spent just as many hours playing kitchen or Barbies with my little sister as she did playing ball or knock-hockey with me.

On the other hand, there are some who feel strongly that toys should be divided amongst gender lines. I have a friend who can’t stomach the thought of his boys playing with anything “girly”. He gets seriously bent out of shape at the implication that his sons are anything less than brimming with testosterone. And he has no sense of humor about this. I dunno, maybe he's watched too many episodes of Mad Men.

Keeping up traditional gender lines feels like such an antiquated parenting notion, but surprisingly, it still exists today. Why is there such pressure for boys to like "boy" things. There doesn't seem to be as much pressure for a girl to like "girl" things.

What about you? Do you think toys define gender or the other way around? Do you care if your son or daughter plays with toys of the “opposite” gender?

*Okay, maybe not “award winning” but my mom thinks it’s funny.


Barefoot Dreamer said...

What I do know is that boys can turn anything into a weapon - did you know if you position a Barbie just right she can imitate a gun? I have three boys. The boys play with the girly's toys and she plays with theirs however the WAY that they play with them is so very different. My girly can take the Imaginext Castle stuff and she will start to play house, and while they may battle it is definitely a girly fight. Where as my boys can take the doll house and wage a full out war, with the house being attacked and serving as a bunker.

I don't care what they play with or watch (my boys would die knowing I told you that the Barbie movies are some of their favorites) as long as they don't break the other's toys.

TentCamper said...

Great post. It is funny because sometimes when my boys are here I will find then in their room with our 10 year old playing with a big box of dolls. Though I cringe (not in their sight) I am ok with kids playing with whatever they have fun playing with. On the other hand...I usually will go outside and make a bike jump or break out a big truck (which is great for running over said dolls).
Then I will casually walk by and say that I made a really cool bike jump...if they want to 'go get crazy.'
Gifts from me are 99% gender specific.

SciFi Dad said...

In the words of Homer Simpson, "you gave him the gay, didn't you?"

All kidding aside, my boy loves to cuddle and kiss his sister's dolls and I couldn't care less. (He has a couple of his own, but prefers hers because they are larger. We were going to get him his own, but she has so many she donated one to him.)

ZenMom said...

My two sons are getting a play kitchen for Christmas this year. Does that answer your question? :)

We also took them to Build-a-Bear to make their own bears last week as part of the xmas festivities. Where I noticed a very interesting thing.

I was impressed that most of the outfits for the bears were relatively gender-neutral - especially the "career" bears. But I couldn't help but notice that it was all boys in the career and sports sections. While all the girls were over picking out pretty pink tutus and matching bags.

Not the store's fault. But is it "natural" or is is "learned". I always wonder.

Oh, and my boys? They picked out Darth Vader and Clone Trooper Rex outfits for their bears.

Trooper Thorn said...

No gender issues with "Bag-o-Glass". Evryone likes "Bag-o-Glass".

Missty said...

Since we have just boys, that was all the toys we had, boy stuff. I have never been a stuffed animal person, so they didn't even have many of those. (I don't like cluttery things)

But I noticed when over at friends, they would immediatly go to the kitchen stuff and play. No biggie.

BUT, years ago I had a friend who not only didn't mind her boys playing with her daughters toys, she sewed him his own skirt so he could twirl around in while playing dress up! I kid you not! I said he can play dress up, how about with a cape, etc. like boys like to do. He is now 20 and they have moved away from us, I keep in contact with her once or twice a year, and I wonder about some of the stuff she now says about him. If the things she did when he was 4 yrs old, has influenced how he is now.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Barefoot...It's amazing that boys make guns out of things, even when not exposed to guns. It's in our nature, sadly.

TentCamper...Nice ploy.

SciFi..."Why did you take me to a gay steel mill?"

Zen...It's amazing to me that the majority of professional chefs are men, yet the kitchen set is still deemed for girls. But if it makes you feel better, I spent many an hour as my sister's short order cook while she and her friends played restaurant.

Trooper...I gave them the bag o' glass last year. They lost most of the pieces after the first week. They're probably under my couch.

Missty...WonderWife™ will put the Bean in dresses and take pictures. (She makes kids clothing and needs models.)

Nonflammable said...

I think it is healthy for either gender to adapt their play accordingly. I only have boys but observe that they are very accomodating when they play with girls.

I think it is somewhat revealing however, when a boy "wants to" dress-up in girls clothes; you can't change the DNA but I don't think this play should be 'overly encouraged'.

I agree, boys can creatively turn anything into a weapon.

Aunt Juicebox said...

One of my nieces has gotten made fun of at school for her Spiderman lunchbox and her predisposition for picking the "boy stuff" all the time. (One girl actually asked her if she was a girl or a boy?? while wearing her uniform jumper.) She's only 6, so she doesn't get it at all, she just likes what she likes. She's not ashamed of it though.

Keith Wilcox said...

There is strong evidence that boys to indeed gravitate toward more traditionally acceptable boy toys with or without parental intervention. Likewise, the same holds true for girl toys for girls. The hippie notion that gender differences can be erased through nurturing is completely untrue. However, that doesn't mean there is no overlap. Like you say, your son has plenty of cars and other such things. My sister played with my toys when we were kids and I played with some of hers. The conflict arises when people get the idea that there can't be any overlap in gender based toys.

Jack said...

I don't understand why some people work so hard to try and adopt a gender neutral stance.

It is the same thing with guns. I have friends who won't buy toy guns for their children because they are afraid that something bad will happen.

I owned a million toy guns growing up but never bought a "real" gun. Some times people over think things.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Nonflammable...I don't have any strong issues about playing dress up. Kids are constantly exploring other genders. Playing dress up is natural. I don't think that being encouraged to play dress up or not changes behavior.

Juicebox...She shouldn't be. She keeps this up she's going to be really popular with the comic book nerds in high school (and take it from me, that's not a bad thing).

Keith...True. Boys and girls are totally wired differently. But if kids are gravitating to anything naturally, why try to stop it? That's what I dont' get about the new agey type of parenting philosophy.

Jack...A cap gun was one of my most prized possessions. said...

Kids, by their nature, are curious and impressionable. Anything new and different will more likely interest them. I wouldn't worry about any interest with girl's toys this early.

Just me... said...

Kids can make a stick into a gun, a sword, a doll or a spatula.. I think it's less about the actual toy and more about their interaction with it. And sometimes the same boy will cuddle a doll, then use it as a bomb to blow the others up.. And ditto girls.. I know for a fact that a correctly thrown Barbie will leave a mark!!

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