Politics & Policy

People Actually Think ‘Gendered Toys’ Contribute to Domestic Violence

Keep on truckin’
No Gender Decembrists want to free boys and girls from stereotypes, and domestic violence.

Australian Greens senator Larissa Waters is throwing her support behind a campaign against “gendered” toys this Christmas, claiming they perpetuate stereotypes that have horrible consequences, including domestic violence.

“Children shouldn’t have to conform to gender stereotypes,” she said, according to an article in the Guardian. “Outdated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”

The “No Gender December” campaign was launched by an Australian organization called Play Unlimited, which claims that stereotyping toys as being for boys or girls — whether directly through sections in a store or indirectly through color schemes on packaging — is super dangerous and terrible.

It keeps kids from playing with the toys they want to play with and even “limits the prospects of children later in life,” in terms of career choices and education. It even, apparently, can cause domestic violence.

For example: Stores “limit” kids’ toy selections by sorting them into “Boys” and “Girls” sections.

“Have you ever noticed the baby dolls and tea sets missing from the ‘boys’ section?” the campaign asks. “Or tow trucks and tool kits missing from the ‘girls’?”

Oh, okay. So if a girl goes to the toy store for a truck but sees that it’s in the “Boys” section, she’s just going to leave the store? According to the campaign, the only way these girls would be able to play with trucks would be to force toy stores to move everything around and re-label things, because apparently it would never occur to a girl to go into another section and grab one. And it will, of course, also impact her “later in life” — if she never has the valuable experience of playing with a truck, she may not think she would ever be able to drive one.

I doubt that a girl’s noticing that trucks are in the “Boys” section would impact her forever or that she would come to believe she’s not supposed to play with toy trucks, or even drive real ones later. It’s very unlikely that her “gendered” Christmas toys would doom her to a life of nothing other than cooking and having babies underneath a house with a pink roof.

But it’s not just the sections. After all, as Play Unlimited points out, “Children recognise the cultural significance of labeling and colour coding of packaging and toys,” and they know that if they pick the “wrong” color for their gender, they might be bullied for it.

So what should we do? Make sure all toy packaging is the exact same color so no kid will never again have his or her life ruined by a toy-packaging design? Or could we have enough faith that someone’s son is just strong enough to not let the fact that he likes something in a pink box “limit his potential”?

But as the campaign points out, what if the other kids bully him for liking a toy that came out of a pink box? Well, so what?

If you’re saying it would be so devastating for a boy to get called a “sissy” for playing with a cooking set that it would negatively impact his entire future, then you’re calling him a sissy yourself by suggesting he would be too weak to handle normal childhood experiences.

And as for “domestic violence,” Play Unlimited cites the World Health Organization’s recognition of a link between “gender inequality in the community and violence against women and children” in one of its reports.

Well, that is obvious. But WHO’s report doesn’t talk about toy inequality. It does talk about women enduring extreme acts of violence, such as the 140 million who have undergone female genital mutilation. How someone could read the WHO report about genital mutilation and child brides and still complain about sections in a toy store is beyond me.

Not to mention that “toy inequality” is not an “inequality” at all. A girl has the same right to go into the “Boys” toy section to get a truck as a boy has to go into the “Girls” section and get a cooking set.

Growing up, I had some action figures, and my brother had some stuffed animals. Children of both genders tend to enjoy playing with each other’s toys. Now, of course, that could be a case for not labeling toy sections so obviously as “Boys” or “Girls,” but this campaign and anyone who supports it loses any credibility when they say we have to stop labeling sections because it’s going to make people beat each other when they grow up.

According to organizations like Play Unlimited and politicians such as Waters, this labeling of toys is single-handedly ruining our children’s minds and unfairly dictating their futures. Contrarily, I trust children to make up their own minds and just play with the toys they want to play with, no matter the labels.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

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