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.
From the excerpt ‘Redefining Girly’: Reconstructing the gender norms of society on the Today Books Website by Melissa Atkins Wardy, it discusses a portion of her book, Redefining Girly, that focuses on how the media influences our societal opinions on gender.
Quoting Wardy, “Media greatly influences children, taking a role in shaping their perceptions and behaviors, and toys are a form of media. Just like the healthy foods we feed our children, toys, too, should be “nutrient rich,” allowing free play, creativity, and exploration in order to boost brain development and self-esteem through play. There should be no room in the toy box for gender stereotypes and sexualization.”
She continues to talk about how it has influenced her own family’s life such as her daughter and son. She says, “Toys are not meant to teach children about gender. They are meant to teach children about life.”
I decided to post about this because it reminded me a lot about our trip to Walmart and how the toys in the aisles have a sense of definition of gender for children today.
After reading about parenting and nonverbal forms of communication, you all will appreciate this funny video of a little girl discussing her opinion of the way toys are marketed to girls and boys!
This is a great example of how people can challenge gendered norms and how parents/other significant role models can help shape children’s gendered identities. I’m sure that someone had been talking to little Riley about playing with different types of toys before this video was shot! It’s a great example of how we can make differences in children’s lives.
If anyone is interested in exploring gendered norms for girls and Disney, this is a great source!