An inch at a time, the stark gendering of kids’ toys is loosening, and a new article talks about why.
Feminists call it the Aisle of Pink. It’s the single sharpest visual example of how gender training starts young, something too stark and sudden to deny. It’s when you’re in a toy store and you round the corner to the Girl Toys section.
Your visual field is suddenly overwhelmed with pink, the entire rest of the spectrum fading into nostalgic sepia tones as your eyes frantically try to compensate for the overload. A sea of fashion dolls, makeup dolls, and housework training devices immerses you, the dead hands of 1950s sitcom mothers clutching up at you from the deeps, trying to drag you down into the lightless, stygian pink realm they inhabit.
What I’m getting at is it’s creepy as hell.
Fortunately, that’s beginning to change, according to the New York Times:
Construction sets for girls are a speedy growth category, thanks to Lego’s introduction of its Friends line in January. Despite criticism that those sets were sexist — themes include a beauty shop and a fashion studio — Lego’s chief executive said in August that the company sold twice as many of the sets in the first half of the year as it had expected, and retailers like Amazon and Target have named them hot holiday toys.
She said that a set aimed at girls could be beneficial, if only because it might increase girls’ likelihood of participating in construction activities.
Dr. O’Brien, the consultant on the new Barbie set, said adults had traditionally been “the limiting factor” in why girls have not played with those toys as often.
That’s not the best part. The best part is why it’s changing:
Consumer surveys show that men are increasingly making the buying decisions for families, reflecting the growth in two-income households and those in which the women work and the men stay home. One-fifth of fathers with preschool-age children and working wives said they were the primary caretaker in 2010, according to the latest Census Bureau data. And 37.6 percent of working wives earned more than their husbands in 2011, up from 30.7 percent 10 years earlier.
“Kids are going to grow up with dads that give them baths and drive them to soccer and are cutting up oranges for team snacks,” said Liz Ross, president for North America of BPN, part of the IPG Mediabrands holding company, which recently completed a study on male consumers. “What will go away, albeit slowly, is the image or the perception of the befuddled dad.”
In other words, the more people are freed from limiting gender roles, the more they free others from limiting gender roles. As dads discover that their dicks don’t drop off if they genuinely engage with their children, they seek similar liberation for their own kids. The gendering of toys is being opposed, both for boys and for girls. And that’s as it should be. With time, let pink become merely part of a full spectrum of colors kids can enjoy, rather than the mandated uniform for half the population. Because no joke, the Aisle of Pink is creepy.
Photo: Tony Crider/Flickr