Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gender trends: toys tell us a lot

I first heard of Sweden's new gender neutral pronoun 'hen" on the NPR show Studio Q.   Although I am not sure how I feel about a gender neutral pronoun nor do I have any idea if it would actually lead to more gender equity, it led me to think about the opposite trends I have seen in the United States.

I think it was last year my oldest daughter noticed that Wal-Mart stores have split their toy sections and labeled them "Boys" and "Girls".  Since my daughter often crosses gender lines while toy shopping, she found this development really annoying.  Since I am not a fan of Wal-Mart, I am more than happy to shop somewhere else, preferably a thrift store.

But the toy differences go deeper and perhaps say a little about how far our culture has come on gender equity, or not.  Take for instance Dizzy Dancers and Beyblades.  These two toys are essentially the same platform, a top.  The Beyblade, marketed specifically to boys, have an arena for battles.  The Dizzy Dancer, marketed only to girls,  is cute and plush and comes with a dance studio.

 Then we have Bakugan.  Dragons and insects and other creatures that roll in to a ball.  The balls pop open when they roll across a special magnetic card and pop up, to do battle.  The girl equivalent, Zoobles.  They pop up on their "habitats" or homes to look cute and some of them have babies.  Hmmm, do you see a trend here?

Apparently, Brene Brown's data was correct in this Ted Talk.  Males are admired for violence and winning in our culture and females are admired for looking good and being nice, and although it was not in the slide, raising babies.

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