When you walk into most toy shops you will know instantly when you are in the girls’ section and when you are in the boys’ section. They don’t need to be labelled; the abundance of dolls, pink and glitter will mean that more than likely you have stumbled upon the girls’ toys section, and the guns, cars and other motorised gadgets means you are in the boys’ section.
Research is hinting towards the fact that girls and boys prefer different toys based on their biology, and not just because they are encouraged to play with particular types of toys by their parents, peers or advertising, as some sociologists believe.
But then there are always those exceptions to the rule, the little girls who will play with cars and the little boys who might show a penchant for tea-sets.
In Sweden for example, where gender equality is taken very seriously, toy catalogues have been published featuring pictures of boys playing with dolls and girls playing with guns, in order to shift the old paradigm around toys and gender-stereotyping.
I’m interested in this topic because as a little girl I loved dolls, but I was equally proud of my toy car collection (my Barbies always travelled in style). I have been interested in cars all my life, and as an adult I find that writing about cars sits very well with me. And I don’t feel any less feminine for liking cars.
However as an adolescent, I became conscious that most other teenage girls weren’t reading Top Gear magazine and playing car racing video games. Fitting in matters when you are a teenager, so I can see why a more gender neutral environment where girls and boys are not bombarded with images of toys “for them” is a good idea.
Girls may drift towards dolls and boys to cars and guns based on their biological make-up. But for those who don’t, the real deal is about creating an environment where these children do not end up feeling left out.
Nature vs nurture – why do you think cars are seen as “boys’ toys”? Is it right?
10th April, 2014