A recent article in the Watertown Patch site stated the following: “Parents who want their daughter to be the next Marissa Mayer are demanding products that reinforce girls’ brains and ambition.”
What are we talking about here? Yes, the idea that Toys ‘R Us has pledged to stop gender-specific marketing of toys.
I remember being at a birthday party when I was maybe four. The party was at a McDonald’s. The employee helping with the party asked each guest if they would like the Happy Meal with the Barbie or the Hot Wheels. I asked for the Hot Wheels. I received a Barbie. I was crushed.
Even today, when I Google ‘hot wheels’, the first two entries are the following:
Hot Wheels – Games & Videos For Kids | Hot Wheels.
Car Games & Racing Games for Boys | Hot Wheels.
When I read the second entry, I heard the sound of my record player screeching to a halt.
A few holiday seasons ago, I went to Toys ‘R Us to get a gift for my cousin, and was actually floored to see how products were deliberately separated by ‘girl’ and ‘boy.’
I’m not an expert on the subject of child development by any means, but when I grew up I definitely felt as though most children would play with a toy if it were around. And then get used to it. And then want certain types of toys.
I had a doll when I was very little, but my parents didn’t flood me or my sister with feminine toys. I didn’t have a Barbie until someone gave me one for my birthday in grade school, and I had a crippling feeling as I unwrapped it. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but was afraid that the guest who had given me the gift would be able to decode the look of terror on my face. The look that said, “WHAT do I do with a Barbie?” One of my second grade friends, a boy, played with Barbie more than I did.
As I mentioned in a previous post, this Barbie then served as part of my toy Iditarod team, and did a lot of martial arts. Had to get her some pants though, instead of the gold bikini she arrived in. Come on, Barbie. You know you’re going to end up getting frostbite and let the other mushers down if you don’t layer up!
Dogs. Legos. Dinosaurs. Dragons. Cars. Art supplies. My Fisher Price Tape Recorder (we had our own radio show and it was neat. We played Batman music). These were some of my favorite toys as a child. Sure, there were domestic type toys, too. I had a toy cash register that I loved. I wish I had loved it as much when I was an actual cashier in high school! When I was four I received a cute little brush and mirror set, which I will always remember because it looked so festive. I also received a hand drum that year along with it.
Standing in that Toys ‘R Us a few years back, I thought about how, if this is what the store had always been like, my parents probably had to frequent the ‘boys’ section for my sister and I. I enjoy going to get gifts for my cousins. Not only do I love it because they’re my cousins and I love making them happy, and seeing how excited they get, but because they like a lot of the toys I had so much fun with as a kid myself. I’m the grown woman sitting in the toy aisle at Target with a light saber and Batman gear, deciding which dragon is the coolest. Yesterday I had to stop myself in the toy section of a convenience store, as I rummaged through dinosaurs. Get a grip, Farah! They didn’t even have a Dilophosaurus. Scoff.
I think this decision by Toys ‘R Us is great, and more companies should approach marketing this way. Many of the toys I had as a child influenced me in a deep way: all of those art toys that I used to make fake film trailers on, toy microphones and recorders, all those comic books I wrote and made my parents put up with… now I am a writer and media producer! I look back on those toys and smile. I no longer have to use a toy microphone, and (hopefully) more than just my parents or sister has to read my writing.
I eventually stopped my elementary school protest to wear skirts. I can be girly. I feel that I turned out to be quite well-rounded in that sense. You won’t see me drinking a cosmo, and I’ve never seen The Notebook, but I enjoy things like getting dressed up or organizing things Monica-style, which may be viewed as domestic or feminine. Yes. I enjoy organizing.
As for the photo below… I have to admit that I participated in a light saber battle with my friends about ten minutes before this was taken. It happens.