“Boy” toys vs. “Girl” toys – Why do we have to label?

the pink aisle (again)

the pink aisle (again) (Photo credit: zharth)

There has been a lot of talk about “boy” vs “girl” toys lately — from the Huffington post article about the 1981 Lego ad to the story behind the stereotype of video games being for boys. Elly Vila Dominicis recently posted about “girl” vs “boy” toys at McDonalds:

Some days, I was curious, or I just didn’t feel like pretending, so we’d ask for a girl toy. This usually ended in disappointment. We’d open the bag excitedly, only to find ourselves staring deeply into the dead eyes of a doll with crispy blonde hair. The dolls were ignored or discarded almost immediately, but weeks later I‘d feel a pinch on my butt from a hard, pointy doll arm jutting from between the couch cushions — a painful reminder of who I was expected to be. I’m a Girl and I want the Boy Toy by Elly Villa Dominicis

Looking back on the McDonalds toys I used to get from Happy meals, I always asked for a “boy” toy as well.  Except when they were out of “boy” toys (because they were cooler) or the one time they told me I couldn’t have it because I was a girl (what?!??).

I think the real question comes down to: why do we have to label?  Why are some toys for boys and some games for girls? Marketing has created a self-perpetuating cycle where games and toys that are labeled and colored in certain ways appeal to a certain audience. We’ve created an infinite catch-22.

Obviously it’s more than changing the coloring and package design. Making a toy kitchen set in reds and blues doesn’t mean that there may be more girls who are interested in it than boys.  But it does change the equation in terms of expectations.

We’re social creatures that look to our friends and family for clues as to how we fit in.  Instead of trying to fit everyone into the same mold, maybe it would be more worthwhile to be open to diversity.  The human race would stagnate if everyone looked and thought the same — and life sure would be boring.

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