The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

67° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Segregation leads to real prejudice, sexism”

    Walking into Toys “”R”” Us can be a horrifying experience. Take a step back from all the shiny toys and electronic keyboards that squeak “”A is for astronaut”” in an off-beat chorus, and you will see a highly segregated store. It is not the type of segregation that has been in the news lately; segregation by race. It is the all-too-prevalent, subtle segregation that our society seems to cling to: segregation by gender.

    At Toys “”R”” Us, the epitomical toy store, toys for boys have their own aisles, which are segregated from the girl toys by a central walkway. Gender-specific toys are easily identifiable by their stereotypical gendered colors, blue and green for boys, varying shades of pink for girls. This segregation prevents boys from even browsing the pink aisles since all of the toys specifically marketed toward them are on one half of the store.

    Toys marketed toward boys propagate violence and physical activity. Toy guns and sports accessories are popular among boys. Even the video games that are marketed toward boys are commonly violence-based war simulations. You never see toy guns with Disney princesses plastered all over them and you don’t see G.I. Joe-themed kitchen play sets or even a play set that isn’t mostly pink.

    Advertising for these toys appear on television in between gendered television shows. Toy companies strategically market their toys to a specific gender by airing commercials during what they consider male or female shows. They alienate their audience by only having their target gender star in the commercials.

    For example, if kids are watching the Disney Channel, they are more likely to see a commercial for a mountain bike while watching “”The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”” than while watching “”Hannah Montana.”” Dolls and arts and crafts commercials run during “”Hannah Montana.”” In fact, Hannah Montana has a doll in her likeness, while the male stars of “”Suite Life”” do not.

    Sexism in toys is prevalent even when shopping online. At Amazon.com you can narrow your search by choosing either “”Boy’s Toys”” or “”Girl’s Toys.”” Not surprisingly, advertisements for girl’s toys have female models and vice versa.

    Toys often mimic real life. Female-centered toys are often aimed at preparing girls for motherhood. Baby dolls come with diapers to change; kitchen play sets simulate cooking and washing dishes. Male-centered toys seem to be preparing boys for their hunter-gatherer roles as warriors.

    Children are constantly learning from their environment. Little boys play with trucks because they see other little boys playing with trucks. Girls play with Barbie dolls for the same reason. Children learn how to behave by observing their peers and are bred towards sexism from the day that they are born. Who first decides to give a baby boy a toy truck and not a doll? Adults help instill in children an idea of what’s right for their gender from the very first “”It’s a girl!”” pink balloon that they give a new mother.

    Children are told what gender they are based on their genitalia. I have yet to see a congratulatory balloon that reads, “”It’s a baby!”” Our society puts a lot of importance on classifying and pigeonholing things. It’s not surprising when our children become confused later in life. Inevitably, children will mature exhibiting attributes of both genders but they are pressured into the mold of the gender that matches their genitalia.

    Because our society does not have a high tolerance for the different or unknown, an astoundingly high number of hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals have been committed. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, sexual-orientation bias accounted for 15 percent of hate crime incidents in the United States in 2006. Something as simple as a blue toy for a boy and a pink toy for a girl can escalate to extreme prejudices later in life.

    If a cardboard box won’t do, I suggest allowing children to pick what they want from a catalogue. Give them time to browse the entire magazine and choose what they think would be fun. The toy store environment can help prepare children for their designated gender roles, rather than letting them find their own identity. There are so many highly gendered aspects of our society that we don’t even notice and it is our job as parents to be conscious of this environment and help guide our children through it.

    -ÿAlexandria Kassman is a creative writing and Spanish senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search