Walk in to any toy section at your local Walmart and you’ll find three or four aisles packed tightly with a sea of pink, attributed with shiny glittering tassles and fairy wands. Walk down further and you’ll see the aisles of neutral colored boys toys, with guns, swords, and bows.
You can look and see this distinct separation and it has become the breeding ground of gender identity and gender roles. Toy expert Richard Gottlieb discusses exactly just how far Walmart’s toy catalogue takes it subliminal gender role influence in this 2011 article. However, the type of toys that boys and girls use is only a small part in what molds a child’s gender identity.
In Julia T Wood’s text Gendered Lives, Wood defines gender identity as “a person’s private sense of, and subjective experience of, his or her own gender” so when you look at childhood and how gender is influenced it is important to consider how social learning and cognitive development come in to play. The development of gender identities can be influenced through the response of others through social learning and the role models that are present in their life, which is cognitive development.
If you look at how boys are brought up around other people it is rare to see them be held regularly by others, instead they can be found to be left alone more to figure out the world for themselves. Where as girls are encouraged to share their feelings and are given closer attention for the most part. I came across this light-hearted Buzzfeed video that emphasizes the gender roles that are put on to children if they were still heavily imposed as adults:
In the video the obvious gender roles are covered but one really captures my attention. When a woman asks her colleagues to clean up compared to a males request for the same action. Because males are left alone more during childhood they are seen to be tough, independent and have a set of leadership qualities unlike girls who are seen to be dainty, innocent, and interdependent on other people.
Gender identity is something that is constantly shifting, it is happening more today than ever before. Understanding what molds these identities and understanding gender identity itself are both important. Having a strong knowledge of gender means that it less likely society will cage males and females in to gender, but to allow for each sex to harness the best qualities from each type of identity. Let’s face it, every girl likes a guy that can cook and knows how to keep himself clean and guys like a girl that doesn’t need to be carried through life and can handle herself.