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The Impact of Gender Specific Toys on Children

Towards the later part of the last century and the beginning of the 21st century, women have closed the gap in education and employment compared to men. They have reached the highest ranks in industries and politics around the world. However, some aspects of the children’s toy sector remains oblivious of these developments as it continues to reflect the values of the early 20th century. For example, baby dolls in Australia were at one time geared towards little girls...

In developed countries such as the United States for example, during the 1970s, there were very few instances of toys being targeted specifically at boys or girls. In fact, a vast majority of toys did not have any gender specific label at that point of time and most toy advertisements specifically chose to flout established gender stereotypes.

However, the situation returned to that which was prevalent in the 1950s by the time that they entered the 1990s. Gendered advertising for toys became a thing once more during this time and it continued to grow. While there are those who blamed the situation on grandparents of a bygone era who want to gift their grandchildren and second wave feminism, a lot of it is down to the fact that marketers realised that gendered advertising could prove to be a shrewd marketing strategy. The reason for the same is that they realised that by taking this route, they can initiate both girls and boys to two different varieties of what is essentially the same product.

In the last few years however, there has been a change. Some of the biggest toy sellers in the world toned down on their gender specific marketing strategies. Some companies said that they were looking to completely get rid of gender based labelling of toys.

The basic logic behind these moves is that there is no specific need to suggest products on the basis of gender as those parents and grandparents and others who go on to purchase the products can make a decision based on their perceptions and on the basis of what a child wants.

Children are more susceptible to fall prey to gender stereotypes than grow ups as it is easier to influence them. As such, such a decision to remove gender labels from toys could prove to be a breakthrough in reducing gender stereotypes. While a lot of girls can identify with baby dolls in Australia, a lot of it could have been a result of the influence that those targeted advertisements on the television. Research on the field suggests that children tend to pay more attention to toys that they believe are meant for their gender.

Although a lot of big companies who compete in this sector have chosen to do away with gender labelling as a whole, while some others have toned it down, the practice continues to exist nonetheless. For example, if you happen to visit a toy store, you are more likely to find dinosaur toys in Australia in the boys section, despite the fact girls love dinosaurs too. This is problematic because children entering a toy store are only likely to go through the section that conforms to their gender and they are unlikely to be ever exposed to those toys which are displayed in the other section.