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Gender Bias in Buying Toys: Factors That Contribute and What Can Be Done to Break It

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Rham is a vegan who dabbles in writing fiction and poems. She co-founded Penmancy, a writing platform for amateur poets/fiction writers.

It's time to break the long-held belief that cars are only for boys and dolls are only for girls.

It's time to break the long-held belief that cars are only for boys and dolls are only for girls.

Learning is more fun and effective through play. It helps children to grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Parents and toy and game designers aim for that. Various manufacturing and marketing strategies have been planned, thought out and implemented to reinforce the same.

But its purpose is implausible if social issues such as gender stereotypes are not addressed. Hence, a collaborative effort from parents to toys and games designers and retailers to media and advertisers is essential to attain the goal.

Contributing Factors

Here are some factors that contribute to gender bias in buying toys and games and what can be done to break it.

Social Agents

Parents, friends, and relatives are social agents that influence children’s interests in toys and games. They should be the first to acknowledge the fact that all toys, however they look, are for everyone regardless of gender. The more they are aware of the significant role that gender-neutral toys play in children’s overall development, the higher the chances of them buying these toys.

Essentially, awareness is a result of proper exposure to what is going on in the world, especially when it comes to social issues such as gender stereotypes that ultimately leads to a better change in perspectives. So the next time they choose a gift for a child, they are expected to buy items that are gender-neutral. And for this, a few other factors play hand in hand.

Peers

Children have the tendency to play with others to be accepted. If you’re in, good. If not, you’re not one of us! When peers influence children’s choices, the types of toys and games others play either reinforce or break gender bias. How to pass on the latter?

  • By reassuring kids that there is nothing wrong with girls playing with cars and boys with dolls.
  • That it is acceptable for boys to wear pink and floral clothing.
  • That it is perfectly okay for boys to wear skirts or have long hair just like nobody questions a girl wearing jeans or having short hair.

All of these are basic concepts that when instilled in children will have a drastic positive transformation on how they see others and the world in general. Of course, adults have to become role models, for children are excellent imitators. They learn by listening to how others speak and following what others do.

Toys and Games Designers

Most toys have been designed and marketed for decades to attract specific consumers. Not anymore. Major toy companies such as LEGO are re-evaluating their products to get rid of gender stereotypes and biases from them. Other companies must follow suit and become inclusive.

Media and Advertising

In a world where children grow up with easy access to new-age technologies, media and advertising, this undoubtedly plays a pivotal role in developing children’s interests. What toys and games they advertise and promote greatly affect children’s gender-typed toy interests more than any other influencer.

Hence, they have to stop labeling toys for "boys" or "girls" in their contents, depicting boys or girls on the packaging, and assigning colors to identify target consumers. Their toys and games video and billboard ads must be shown breaking these biases.

Toys and Games Shops

How toys and games are arranged and categorized in shops indirectly impacts how the human mind works at accepting gender bias. Since not many people question the things they see, this divide between what’s for boys and what’s for girls or who plays with what become so apparently repetitive that the mind eventually sees it and accepts it as something "normal."

If you have noticed, most shops, even today, sort toys and games according to their target consumers. One section is for girl-related items and another section is for boy-related items. This has to change. Shopkeepers and retailers can organize these toys by theme and function or according to age target, shapes and sizes, material composition or prices, etc.

Biological Factors

Some researchers suggest that prenatal hormones contribute to children’s gender-typed toy interests. Studies on girls with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)1, a condition in which the adrenal gland produces too many androgens, have found that girls affected by this condition have more masculine play interests and styles than their unaffected sisters.

However, the findings do not apply to boys, which suggests that environmental socialization may be playing an important role. In other words, what kind of environment you provide to children matters in shaping their thinking and interest pattern.

If children are surrounded by people who are gender-neutral and exposed to gender-neutral toys and games, they become more receptive to rejecting stereotypes.

Destigmatizing gender bias in toys

Destigmatizing gender bias in toys

Toys and games have long been gendered, categorized to fit social norms because, unfortunately, we have yet to overcome and rise above these norms. Although times are changing, a push forward to destigmatize gender stereotypes every day, in any way, is one step closer to the end of the long gender-equity ladder. But the future is promising so we will get there. Eventually.

References

Weisgram, Erica S. Reducing Gender Stereotypes in Toys and Play for Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder Kids

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.