Toys “R (Aren’t)”Us

Gender-Neutral Toys

A man got on an airplane to fly from Boston to Florida. He was an educational psychologist on his way to speaking at a parent-teacher seminar in Miami. Sitting next to him was an elderly grandmother who had just spent two weeks visiting her: six children, eighteen grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren. She inquired of his occupation and upon informing her of his doctorate in child psychology, he fully expected her to take advantage of some free child-rearing expertise. Instead, she grabbed a magazine, leaned back in her seat and flipping through the pages said, “Well, if there’s anything you want to know, just ask me.”

As we head towards the Christmas season, children’s toys are in the news, particularly gender-neutral toys. Let me explain. Educational psychologists, like the one in the story above, are now teaching that the reason boys generally grow up to act more masculine-aggressive and girls generally grow up to act more feminine-passive is because of the way their toys were marketed when they were little (i.e. fire trucks and guns for boys versus baking ovens and dolls for girls). And so they say that, if you want to eliminate the distinction between boys and girls, you need to eliminate the distinction between their toys.

There are three suggestions how to do such:

Neutral Shades – This means no more hard colours for boys (blue, green, brown) and no more soft colours for girls (pink, yellow, white).

Neutral Shelves – This means no more store aisles that are designated with a sign that say boy’s toys here or a sign that says girl’s toys there.

Neutral Shapes – This means no more pre-made toys (like trucks or strollers), but toys that come in parts (like blocks) and can be built into anything.

Now don’t think this isn’t happening. Target, the big department store chain (second in size only to Wal-Mart) has announced it is removing all gender labeling from its toy aisles. Time Magazine, America’s leading periodical, had a recently headlined issue, The Next Generation Of Kids Will Play With Gender-Neutral Toys. And this past spring the White House had all of the major toy-makers in for a day-long seminar on the need for gender-neutral toys. There, Valerie Jarrett, the President’s senior advisor, opened the gathering by reminding the toy manufacturers, “Changing a culture is not necessarily easy and doesn’t happen overnight, but we can do it if we all work together.” Then activist scholars, committed to gender-neutral play, presented their academic findings. All of this is ridiculous on two counts:

First, the kind of people who obsess about gender-neutral toys don’t, as a demographic fact, have many, if any, children. These days in North America, childbearing tends to be a counter-culture province of people who aren’t social justice warriors.
Second, even if you give kids gender-neutral toys, they’ll gender the devil out of them on their own. And it’s not because someone has taught them to do so, it’s just that, and I understand this is a very radical concept – boys and girls are inherently different.
Christina Sommers, in The War On Boys, writes:

When he was four, our eldest, a boy, discovered that sticks make for highly effective swords. Every time he went outside he made himself a weapon and went off to battle imaginary villains. His sisters, meanwhile, gravitated towards decidedly less aggressive play. They use sticks as fairy wands and carry little Ziploc baggies of glitter which they sprinkle as “pixie dust”. In their games, there are no “bad guys”, only perilous situations where they have to help one another with their “magic”. As well, a few years ago there was a Rainbow Loom craze, where kids took tiny little rubber loops and wove them into bracelets. Everyone was doing it. We bought thousands of the things for our kids. The girls wove bracelets that they collected and gave to their friends. The boy also wove bracelets, until he discovered that he could use the rubber loops to weave a long elastic cord that he was then able to tie to a flexible piece of wood to make a workable bow. He never made another bracelet.

Our politically-correct society likes to pick and choose re genetics. On one hand they say, when it comes to sexuality, you are born that way and nothing can be done about it. On the other hand, when it comes to boys playing with guns and girls playing with dolls, that can all be changed. But as any parent with kids can tell you, that’s a project that’s doomed to failure.