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The Good and the Bad on Gender Specific Toys

Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday season is in full swing. As parents and grandparents search for quality gifts for the youngsters, the topic of gender specific clothes and toys is sure to arise in some families.

Don’t give my daughter that Bride Barbie Doll, give her a bulldozer was my mantra when she was a toddler.  Actually, I preferred wooden blocks, but you can only have so many.

Until I had both a son and a daughter, I did not really believe in gender differences. I thought they were largely cultural, which they are. Although there are aspects of our culture that I want to protect my children from, such as the commericialization of childhood, there are aspects of our culture that we cannot deny and are not necessarily harmful in the right context.

The definition of culture, according to Live Science, is:

Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Today, in the United States as in other countries populated largely by immigrants, the culture is influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country.

We are part of this culture, with our alternative energy, organic eating values as much as the mainstream HFCS eating folks.  I have to let my children be who my children will be within this culture, yet my job as a parent is to protect them from aspects that are potentially harmful.  Their are no army men in my son’s toy box.  Sorry G.I. Joe.

I no longer fear gender specific toys, yet I don’t believe they should stereotype or box children in.  Take for example the Easy Bake Ultimate Oven.   The Globe and Mail explains:

Now, more than 18,000 people have signed a petition in support of McKenna Pope, a 13-year-old girl in New Jersey, who wants Hasbro to make a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven. Turns out, her little brother wants to be a chef, and McKenna is challenging the notion – as traditional as the little oven itself – that cooking is a female domain.

In the petition McKenna writes: “I want my brother to know that it’s not ‘wrong’ for him to want to be a chef, that it’s okay to go against what society believes to be appropriate.” She cites the talents of “male culinary geniuses” such as Gordon Ramsay. “Unfortunately, Hasbro has made going against the societal norm that girls are the ones in the kitchen even more difficult.”

Hasbro, reportedly, has yet to respond. Though,as the Daily Beast reports , about 10 years ago, they did come out with “boy-friendly” oven, calling it the Queasy Bake Cookerator, which allowed for such culinary creations as Chocolate Crud Cake Mix. It’s safe to assume this is not the solution young McKenna is hoping for. (Her petition includes a video of her brother mixing up some old-fashioned brownies.)

I never had one. My sister didn’t share hers with me.  Even though I always wanted an Easy Bake Ultimate Oven, I wanted a Green Machine more. Did that make me a tomboy?   NO.  It made me a person.  I didn’t want a Pink Machine!  Maybe someone would have gifted me one had it come in pink.

I think that we need to be careful when choosing gender specific toys for our kids.  If a boy wants to play with a doll, make it an organic doll and don’t worry about his housekeeping dramatic play.  Likewise, if your daughter wants a tool set, don’t buy a pink one just because she is a girl.  If your daughter wants the doll, and your son wants the tool set, that’s fine too.  Let our children be who they want to be, let’s just be careful not to box them into roles defined by toy companies.

Image:  Children With Doll On Path In Park on Bigstock


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