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Toys should encourage gender neutrality

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ChristinaWalking into any store that sells toys, such as Toys “R” Us, Target or Walmart, all seem to be the same.  There are aisles specifically aimed toward boys and others toward girls.  For example, girls get the aisle that is filled with Barbie dolls, and boys get the section with the big trucks.

Back in 1981, a 4-year-old girl named Rachel Giordano was featured in a LEGO ad.  She was wearing baggy jeans, blue sneakers and a blue striped shirt, and was holding the latest LEGO creation that she built.  The colors of the LEGOs were basic:  blue, red, green, white, yellow, black, etc.

Giordano is now 37 years old and was asked to take a picture reenacting the picture of herself from 33 years ago.  She was found by Huffington Post blogger, parenting coach and educational psychologist Lori Day who shared the old picture of Giordano on her Facebook page.  She found out that the young girl in the LEGO ad was a friend of a friend and was able to contact her to retake the photo.

The new photo was supposed to capture modern-day advertising.  Giordano was holding a LEGO set, but this one was from the new LEGO Friends line, which was made mainly for girls.  The set features a pink news van with the description, “Break the big story of the world’s best cake with the Heartlake News Van!”  Inside the van is a makeup table for the newscaster so she can get ready to talk about the world’s best cake.

Giordano commented on the new LEGO set to the Huffington Post.

“In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message,” Giordano explained. “In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”

Judy Lotas, who ran the group SSC&B who ran the ad back in 1981, said that it was not easy getting Giordano to be in it.  She explained that many argued that it was only boys who like to build and there should not be a girl modeling for the ad.

I agree with Giordano’s statement that the toy delivers a message to the child about gender.  It is easy for young children to believe that one type of toy is for girls and another type is for boys.  Television channels which feature shows for young kids have commercials that are constantly advertising toys.  In most of these there are either all girls or all boys in them depending on the toy.

If young kids grow up thinking that certain things are only for one type of gender, then they may be afraid to express their actual interests as they get older.  This might also cause kids to be bullied for likeing something that is aimed toward the opposite sex.

I was a general manager of College Mentors of Kids last year for the first grade class.  Each week I had one of the student’s be the student of the week and if they won, they got stickers.  I gave the girls princess stickers and the boys car stickers.  For the longest time I did not even realize how wrong it was for me to be doing this.  I did not even give them the chance to choose what kind of sticker they wanted.  After this, I paid more attention to the fact that there are not many gender-neutral toys (or stickers) for children, which makes us all feel as if there should be a drastic distinction between boys and girls.

Future teachers:  It is good to know that having items in the classroom for both boys and girls will help all the kids get along and not feel as if they have to live up to the standards and pressure of being a girl or boy.  It will also allow kids to express their personality based on who they actually are rather than by their gender.

Christina Danno is a senior publishing major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to dv_cmdanno@ilstu.edu. 

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Lauren

    It’s true it’s very obvious that from childhood, children are taught to partake in “gender driven” activities. For example: giving girls baby dolls and toy cooking sets, while boys are given leggos and trucks. But that being said, these gender stereotypes for lack of a better term, didn’t just come out of nowhere. There IS (for the most part) a drastic distinction between girls and boys biologically. Women are biologically geared to have and raise children, men are (typically) larger in size more physically able to hunt/do manual work. I don’t think that gender stereotypes will ever completley go away for that reason. But, we do live in 2014 and in regards to teaching, parenting, etc.. a huge part of it comes down to just giving each child the option of choice. I think the idea of adding more gender neutral toys is great in an educational environment to allow children the opportunity to be themselves without feeling wrong or different. They may feel different in the beginning, (we could never take away all of the sturggles that come with growing up & finding out who you are), but teaching them that their choices are acceptable is important, and that they’re completley normal and loved could definatley help the issue. There will always be bullies, we just need raise our children feel good about themselves by being supportive of whoever they want to be. They’ll grow into more confident and strong adults. It might give them the strength to realize in that case, they’re not the ones who are wrong!

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