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From me to you, highlighting challenges faced by girls

Dear Daughters, Toy stores scream societal expectations

Dear Daughters,

I have been very busy preparing for Halloween and your birthday parties and so, on Saturday I found myself shopping – one of my least favourite activities. As far as shopping goes, my trip was very successful. There are only a small number of items left to find and purchase. Surprisingly the most elusive items on my list were the yellow and white pipe cleaners needed to make SpongeBob SquarePant replicas at your, my middle dear daughter’s, birthday party. Have no fear. We will track down the bendable, furry sticks – SpongeBob will not be without appendages!

What I took most from my shopping trip was not incredible amounts of money from my bank account or steps towards a better physique, despite the countless aisles I trod. No, what I took most was from my shopping trip was a sense of disappointment and frustration at the overwhelming messages we are sending our young people, like you my dear daughters.

The toy section in this particular store, and like most stores I have been in, was divided into two sections, separated by an aisle. The first thing I remarked was the differences in colors. The section on my right, where they stored all of the toys marketed towards girls, was where I would ultimately, and not surprisingly, find the gift I was purchasing for you, middle dear daughter. When I looked in that direction I was overwhelmed with a sea of light pink and light purple – colors that often calm people and make them think of innocence and happiness. On my left were all of the toys marketed towards boys and a sea of black, brown, red, dark green and blue – colors that make people think of the earth, the army, power, destruction and evil.

The messages sent by the colors used in the creation of the toys and their packaging are only part of the problem. The store layout creates further problems.

1.     It sends the message that if you are a boy, you should like a certain type of toy, and if you are a girl, you should like a different certain type of toy.

2.     The types of toys found in each section scream what society expects from its boys and girls. In the section marketed towards boys you find vehicles, predatory animals and superheroes. In the section marketed towards girls you find dolls and everything needed to care for those dolls, domesticated animals and everything needed to care for those animals, kitchen sets, princesses and Barbie Dolls. Boys are being sent a very powerful message that they must be strong, brave and powerful. And let’s face it – the toys they are encouraged to play with do not discourage violence either. Girls are being sent a very powerful message that they must be nurturing, beautiful and avoid all conflict – emotional or physical.

3.     The store set up actually deters boys and girls from exploring the characteristics encouraged by the toys in the “other section”. Boys, in particular, seem to have a strong aversion to buying or playing with anything “girl”. Forcing any boy who may want to purchase something that encourages nurturing play, for instance, into a section obviously meant to entice girls, is almost guaranteeing that that purchase will never be made. If your daughter goes to the store looking for a new toy she will most likely end up in the section marketed towards girls, and therefore there is no way she will happen across the latest Bey Blade, Transformer or Lego set (yes I know there are some Lego sets marketed towards girls now but they do not get the same selection marketed towards them that boys do).

I was shopping for quite a few hours on Saturday and was constantly bombarded by these same messages in toy sections, clothing sections and the seasonal section. Shopping for SpongeBob SquarePants t-shirts and Halloween costumes did not protect me from them but only reinforced these same messages over and over again. More on this to come in my next post.

Toy sheep that poops jellybeans

Both boys and girls can appreciate a sheep that poops jellybeans!

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