Fred Meyer Toy Section
aisle sections of toys; about 1/3 gender neutral, about 1/2 boys, the rest girls. Themes seemed archetypal: Boys = trucks, guns, action figures; Girls = dolls, ovens, dress ups; Gender Neutral = puzzles, construction, science and art, plush (depending on age). Toys were grouped according to type: plush, art, dolls, etc. Asked for help, there was no one dedicated to toys; asked for a specific product, they "did not know" and "had not idea" if it was a stocked item. Toy section was between housewares, books, stationary and furniture -- almost everyone needs to walk by the toy section to get to any major department, depending on which door they come in.
Gender and Toys
In a sense, toys teach children a number of things: how to imagine their role in society, culture, and gender roles. While it is not as stereotypical as it was in the 1960s and before. Toy and department or specialty stores tend to divide toys into masculine and feminine, and then a section of gender neutral (art, science, etc.). Still, through gender-based toys, boys tend to learn active and warrior roles while toys for girls seem to stress physical beauty and appearance - clearly, abilities vs. looks. Clearly gender socialization through roles both teaches and reinforces what we can view as cultural stereotypical roles (Campenni, 1999).
In the Fred Meyer, though, there were surprisingly a number of gender neutral toys that seemed to say that girls could do other things than play with dolls. There were construction projects (Legos), art projects, science projects, and other investigative toys that had both boys and girls on the cover, suggesting gender neutral. Indeed, some of the action figures could also be seen as gender neutral, even though they were focused on the...
This seems to move more into developmental tools that teach coordination, technical skills, scientific inquiry, and cognitive development. For these toys, problems need to be solved, and the foster mental stimulation, problem solving, and even coordination. Boys and girls both can experiment, and inquiry and play whether alone or within groups. In fact, one opinion is that they "promote activity participation in the outside world, helping to establish a feel for our future world of science and technology" -- which is certainly something necessary for the global child of the 21st century (Swanson, 1999).
What we do not know is whether boys would gravitate towards these toys without parental pushing and pressure. Remember, children do not typically purchase their own toys; instead, they rely on two means for receiving the toys with which they play: advertising and the media and gifts. If parents and other relatives want to stereotype and make sure their small child acts in a certain way, then that is the key to the toys they select. More stereotypical toys seem to be marketed to boys; parents and store personnel seem to gravitate towards the more masculine than gender neutral when asking about something a young boy would be interested in. In a way, some of these war toys seems to reflect a broader problem, though. That is, violence can solve problems and to be active, assertive and a warrior is what society wants in boys.…