Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.


What came first, the gender or the stereotype

Have a look at the following images of what the most common words in toy adverts are, when split by gender.

First, the boys’ list, available in full size at Wordle:

Common words in ads for boys toys

Now the girls’ list, also available in full size at Wordle:

Common words in ads for girls toys

The result is not really surprising but it really does hit hard and get you thinking.

Does the toy industry reinforce gender stereotypes in their attempts to sell toys?

Is stereotyping pervasive and do parents even recognise how it is ingrained in society? Do parents perpetuate these stereotypes?

Or as one commenter says; What's... "sad about this, is the fact that it is somehow seen to be better playing with fighting toys than with ‘girly’ toys."

Personally I'm going to put my hands up and say YES I play to my* kids gender, by reinforcing all that I know about perceived gender roles. As the father of a young boy and girl I have twice the work in trying to indoctrinate them! I don't see it as a bad thing, because there is a bigger problem out there than whether or not my daughter is a girly girl and the boy is a little rascal.

That problem lies in the way society picks out people who are different. In society anything out of the ordinary is seized upon by kids and like-wise by adults. Some of the time society will put on a pedestal people who are different, but most of the time anyone who is anything but normal will be sought out and laughed at. Being different is a much too arbitrary quality and the treatment that people who are different gets almost never depends on the individual.

Let's face it if they happen to be different and if my son played with girls' toys he would not change society into accepting blurred gender roles. In addition as found by one study, it turns out that even male monkeys prefer boys toys anyway. It could after all be that the Ad-men do all that stereotyping simply because children LIKE that sort of thing and that is the best way to get through to them.

It is for that reason that I pray for my kids to be normal in their infant years, because anything other than that is a risk in terms of will they be admired or (most probably) laughed at. I always try to teach them that there's nothing wrong in being different, but that's only because at their age it's just too hard to explain all the different kinds of different! There's Different DIFFERENT. Different good. Then there's so different you're not one of us and so on. In time they'll get to know all this but preferably not as a result of being laughed at.

In the mean time I'm happy to let the Ad-men play on whatever stereotypes I'm forcing my kids into. I'll also celebrate how ordinary they are, and am even secretly pleased with each one of their very ordinary achievements and milestones. When they are fully grown the only way I want them to differentiate themselves is by having the ability to do something normal much better than anyone.


* 'Er Indoors doesn't read this blog, but she'd kill me if she did for making out as if the kids don't have a mother. She'd probably want me to call them 'our' kids. Women eh?!!

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Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Very insightful.

  2. Thank you Charmaine.

  3. Hi, I’ve been a lurker around your blog for a few months. Well said, I love this article and your entire blog!

  4. Yep, I love your articles!

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