Monday, January 5, 2015

Toys Don't Have a Gender.

Have you ever been in a department store near the selection of toys and heard something similar to the following?

"No! That toy is for boys. Go find a doll."

I have overheard such nonsense more times than I'm comfortable with.

Being a collectibles and toy retailer, I spend a great deal of time around toy departments. I'm always on the hunt for new merchandise, deals, evaluating trends and such. This means I often encounter families with children. Whether these kids are with their father, mother or a grandparent, the same pattern of ignorance rears its ugly head again and again. Parents regularly chide their children for their choice of toys. Mothers will yell at their daughters for wanting Captain America action figures. Fathers will yell at their sons for wanting doll houses.

This senseless conforment to an antiquated gender binary system must stop.

Every child is different. They are essentially little adults, for all intents and purposes. Their personal interests, tastes and aspirations are as varied as life itself. Your son may want to grow up and be a homemaker. Your daughter may strive to be forester.

No matter what your child wants to do in life, you must do two things as a parent...

  • Love them unconditionally
  • Be a positive source of support

This begins when a child is very young and holds especially true when they're selecting a toy to role play with. How you treat your child when they're little will dictate who they grow into as an adult. Echoes of the past most certainly influence the future.

Parents whom strictly enforce classical gender roles do it less for the benefit of the child and more for their own ego. A parent may be afraid of what others might think if their child plays with a toy deemed "not for their gender". The motivations are quite obvious. Fear is at the heart of this dilemma. Parents are afraid the toys their child plays with could alter their sexual orientation, masculinity or femininity. In actuality, this paradigm is reversed. The toy a child desires to play with is a reflection of their inner selves at that given moment. What catches little Suzie's attention today may not tomorrow. Today might be all about radio controlled cars. Tomorrow might be all about modeling clay. No matter the toy selected, the child will grow to become an adult of complex construction. The toys they play with won't change that.

There's an even darker side to making your child conform to a specific gender of toy (as if toys even had a gender). When you implant such foolishness into their heads at a young age, you're reinforcing age-old sexist stereotypes. Parents aren't the only guilty party here -- retailers and manufacturers have just as much blood on their hands.

I ask any and all parents to step back and reconsider the toys their child wants to play with. Let them play with whatever their little heart yearns for. Give your daughter that Optimus Prime she really wants. Let your son drive Barbie's dream car. Your continued compassion and understanding will do them a favor in the long run. I promise you...

Your child will grow into a well-rounded adult. They will thank you for it.


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