Careful What You Play With



A couple of days ago, I watched an episode of Friends that called my attention and made me think about some of the things that we are discussing in this class. In this episode, Ross’ son, Ben, seems to enjoy playing with a Barbie, which makes Ross feel very worried because it isn’t really a toy that boys “should” play with. In his efforts to make Ben drop the Barbie, Ross brings a G.I Joe for Ben to play with since he is the “toughest guy in toy land”. I thought this had to do with something I read in Chapter 7 about growing up masculine. One of its themes was to be aggressive, which  involves being tough and not run from confrontations. When I read about it, I thought that of course it would make more sense for a boy to play with a G.I Joe rather than a Barbie, but this shouldn’t mean that it is “wrong” to play with toys that don’t reflect the traditional views of feminine and masculine. I remember that my sister and I used to play with Barbies while growing up but we would also ask our parents for Max Steel’s since we thought they were pretty cool too. But to conclude this thought, I just don’t think that we should be as worried as Ross because we see a toddler play with a toy that is not very “according” to their sex. In the end, a toy wouldn’t make that much of a difference because there are so many other factors that influence how we will decide to perform our own gender.

9 thoughts on “Careful What You Play With

  1. I completely agree with this post, so thank you! Growing up I used to play with “girl” toys such as Barbie and baby dolls, but I also played with “boy” toys as well. I would play with cars, trains, Legos and build toy log cabins with my brother and Grandpa. Playing games like that were some of my favorite memories that I have with my Grandpa. Playing outside with my neighbors meant playing army make believe and shooting games, but it also meant playing “house”. My brother would dress up with me and my sister sometimes as well. So I think it’s all about what you enjoy doing and playing. Whats fun for you?

  2. Great post Maria! This one hits home with me some because I used to play with my female cousins and their Barbies whenever my mom and I would have to watch them when their parents were at work. With communicating my gender, I saw it more as just family hanging out and spending time together. My mom and cousins didn’t have a problem with me playing with their barbie dolls, just as long as we were all happy and having fun. I had my own toys to play with at home, so I would just see it as them sharing their toys with me. I eventually started bring my own G.I’s and other toys with me because I wanted to share as well. For me it was mainly about which toy was the most fun and appealing to me. I grew up masculine by choosing things that would be the most fun and beneficial for me. Granted it wasn’t like I played with my cousins and their barbies everyday, only when we would have to watch them. So I wasn’t exposed to barbie toys as much, but it did happen and for me personally I didn’t see anything wrong. I wasn’t going to try and show this so called “male dominance” with my mom and cousins, instead I rather just enjoy the time with them and share with them as they shared with me.

  3. Hi Maria! Love your post not only because it’s of one of my favorite shows, but that you were able to be casually watching TV while making interesting connections to our class. Something I also thought of while watching the clip is the fact that in many episodes Ross is always the more sensitive man of the three (Joey and Chandler). In being aware of this, Ross always tries to reclaim his masculinity especially after his first wife, Carol, left him because she was a lesbian. I can connect this to my personal life because my stepfather was married to a lesbian before he married my mother. Both my stepdad and Ross remind me of each other because they often joke of their failed marriage to a lesbian, but are angry if others make jokes like, “you turned your wife gay”. Perhaps in this episode, Ross reflected his insecurity of a failed marriage to a lesbian by reinforcing masculinity onto his son. It is possible that Ross fears his son growing up to be gay because of the jokes his friends make on him for his ex wife being gay (not a fear I agree with, but just a thought). In chapter seven we talked a bit about “growing up masculine” and what it’s like to identify as an American man. It is possible Ross will reinforce “don’t be female” to his son by calling him a sissy or mama’s boy if he ever thinks his son is not acting ‘accordingly’ to being a boy. I’m sure this episode was filmed in the 1990’s, so I’d like to hope if it were filmed today Ross would not make a single comment to his son playing with a Barbie.

  4. I think that as children grow up they often go through phases. If a little boy wants to play with a barbie, it probably is because he just wants to play, not nessecarily because he is more feminine than other boys. The parents then have the choice to either accept their behavior or deny it by encouraging them to play with another type of toy that better “suits” their gender. In addition, I have noticed how parents are often much more accepting if their daughter plays with more masculine toys rather than if it was their son playing with more feminine toys. Why is that? I for some reason think it is because parents realize that the girls are going though phases, some parts of their life being more masculine than other parts, but if their son was to go through a phase, the parents would worry about others making fun of them or bullying him. I sometimes think little boys are often exposed to much more criticism from their friends and adults than little girls are.

  5. Hey Maria! I thought this was really interesting. I love to watch Friends and this is a great point. I had watched an episode from the same season a little while ago when Ross found out he was having a baby boy and also saw an episode from another late 90’s/early 2000’s show Everybody Loves Raymond where they show Ray finding out he is also having twin boys. The strange thing about these episodes is that the men. Ross and Ray felt intense pride because the sex of the baby was male. Like they were true men because they could have male babies instead of female ones. I thought this was an odd way to show manhood but it is. It seems that fathers are portrayed at least in those days to have to live up to certain societal standards that we don’t necessarily think about. Like the pressure to produce males to continue on the family name or to make sure they are teaching their sons how to behave in the right way. My final thought is if these shows were made today some 15 years later would they have those same “masculine” story lines?

  6. Hey Maria!
    I love love love Friends and I finally finished watching the whole series!!! However, I never noticed this scene before and now that I am learning more about gender and communication; scenes like these catch my eye and make me think and pause. This is such a prime example of kids and parents exerting gender identity and expected norms. Ross feels very deeply that his son needs to put the Barbie away and play with GI Joe. He thinks that if his son plays with the Barbie doll, he will be grow to be less masculine; and in turn Ross is not as masculine because he is Ben’s father. This episode is very funny and makes you laugh, but when you really think about it, Ben playing with Barbie and growing up with two lesbian mothers is something even more prevalent of an issue today then when it was produced how many years ago! These questions about gender identity and norms, have been around for a long time. It is so interesting to see it being questioned in such a popular show as Friends.

  7. I’ve actually seen this episode of Friends before and I completely forgot about this scene. I think it’s a great example of what we talked about in class last week and it also ties into our trip to Walmart’s toy section. One thing we’ve mentioned a few times in class is the idea of when kids toys start to become gendered by society. Here, Ross’s child is so young and his dad is already trying to change his habits about masculine vs. feminine. Why can’t we mix up genders and sex? Why is it so bad for a boy to play with a girl doll or a girl to play with a boy doll? In real life we interact with the opposite sex all the time. I also think that G.I. Joe and Barbie are extreme examples of gender. I’m going to watch this episode in is entirety later because I want to see how I feel about it now that we’ve discussed this topic in class. Great connection!

  8. I really love Friends, I think it is a fantastic show, and now that you bring this moment up, it really does shed some light on how gender norms really do affect our normal lives. For a lot of parents acting the way Ross did, is a very unconscious action for them to do, our parents grew up in a society where girls played with barbies and boys played with GI Joes. So really I see why this could definitely come off as shocking to some people especially today. But in all honesty, it’s sad to say but it didn’t offend me the first time I ever saw this episode which shows that some of our generation is still in that gender norms mindset.
    Watch this video, its from The Office, start at 33 seconds

  9. As a lover of the show Friends, there have been many instances while watching the show that I have seen different concepts that relate to the course, Gender and Communication. For example, other than the one listed above, Ross’s ex-wife, Carol, is a lesbian. Carol and her wife, as well as Ross, both take care of Ben, their son. The show, Friends, highlights on many aspects of gender and what is considered to be masculine and feminine. Within the scene you are referencing, Carol and her wife actually do not see a problem with their son, Ben, playing with the Barbie. Upon seeing this scene again, I actually found it a little funny that Ross was so against Ben playing with a feminine toy, because he is not a truly masculine or macho type of character at all. Ross always has reminded me of a more gentle type of man. All in all, I agree with you that the toys children play with when they are younger has a minimal, if no effect, however some (like Ross) may disagree.

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