…and boys toys stay blue.
The ‘problem’ of gendered toys has been discussed often this year, with the likes of The Guardian and The Independent getting on board to discuss campaigns against ‘genderising’ a child’s plaything. ‘No Gender December’ was such a campaign.
Launched by senator Larissa Waters for the political party Australian Greens, the NGD campaign was designed to raise awareness “..about the consequences of gender stereotypes in toys in the lead-up to Christmas.” Waters, L.
In retaliation to this, Tony Abbott, prime minister of Australia, was asked by Nine Network if he supported the campaign. His response:
“I certainly don’t believe in that kind of political correctness. Let boys be boys, let girls be girls – that’s always been my philosophy [..]Above all else, let parents do what they think is in the best interests of their children.”
In response to this statement, the prime ministers’ approval rating dropped dramatically, with only 37% of female voters choosing him as the preferred leader for their country – a five-month low.
Discussing her NGD venture, Waters adds:
“Children shouldn’t have to conform to gender stereotypes. Boys might be interested in toys that are marketed as for girls and vice versa. This isn’t about some toys being off limits. It’s about children being free to play with whatever toys interest them without fear of being judged or bullied,”
“Outdated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”
So, as I’ve written the title of this blog post – does that I mean I am against boys playing with girls toys, or girls playing with boys toys? Does it mean I’m scared that children will become confused, get bullied or be accused of being ‘gay’. Do I think girls have a different role and place in life than men? NO.
I completely, unwaveringly, absolutely believe that gender is not important. It does not matter what body you have, what name you have, what you wear or what toys you played with when growing up.
The thing that makes you a person, is you. What’s inside of you; how you think, how you feel, what you believe – that all came from your mind, not from your anatomy.
However, my argument for keeping gendered toys is this: Say you have a little boy, and you take him shopping and he wants a Barbie doll in a pink box. You tell him ‘No, that toy is for girls, you need to look at the blue boxes’ and carry on shopping. The next day you go into another shop and your child sees the same doll, in a ‘neutral yellow’ colour box. This time you say ‘yes, you can play with that, you can choose anything in the yellow boxes’.
What does this say to the child?
You may think it’s a positive message about the ‘girlie’ doll now being suitable for both genders. However, think about it, you have just told your child that a girls toy is only suitable for him if it is packaged differently, is placed on a different shelf, or is renamed. The toy has had to be adjusted to make it acceptable. Your child has had to be manipulated into choosing a more acceptable version of the toy.
What do they grow up believing? Not that girls toys can be played with by boys, or vice versa; not that they have the same right as any child of any gender or sexuality to play with any toy they choose, no, in fact the original idea that toys are for one sex or the other has been re-enforced. Why? Because now you’re saying that your child can only play with that toy once all types of gender association have been removed.
This does not promote acceptance, raise awareness or encourage girls and boys to be more open-minded. It does not help them grow up into cultured adults with a better view of the world and an understanding of the dangers of discrimination and gender stereotypes. No, it still comes down to the child not being allowed to decide for itself what it wants to play with.
Being offered a ‘safe’ alternative does not work in this world. There is no safe alternative to women who hate on men, who are abusive wives or sexist bigots. There is no safe alternative to homophobes, transphobics or racists. There is no safe alternative to men who have no concept of equality, gender rights or feminism; and there is no safe alternative to any variation of the above.
My solution? Keep the gendered toys. Let the children choose. Let them decide which toy they want, which colour box they wish, which action figure needs to marry whichever cuddly toy.
The toy shouldn’t have to change to be acceptable. What’s construed as ‘acceptable’ needs to change.
Children’s choices and decisions do not matter as much as their parents reaction. Show them you are okay with their choice and you’ve reaffirmed their good intentions. Take away the ‘wrong’ colour box and you’ve taught children the worst lesson they could learn; that people, that genders, are so different that they can never be accepted as one, as just simply ‘human’ because things always have to be altered to be made ‘safe’ and ‘acceptable’.
Changing the appearance of gendered toys is just as deceptive and damaging as a child being forced to pretend they are someone they’re not, just so they can be accepted.