For millennia, societies have made boys and girls, these members of humanity who belong to the new generations, understand their gender from the first years of their life. This, among others, this is done through play styles and toys.
For example, until the middle of the 20th century, most toys indicated in their boxes which of the two sexes the product was indicated for, which changed with the advent of second and third wave feminisms between the years. 1970s and 90s. Today, however, toys continue to have a strong gender load. It is natural to associate action dolls for boys and cooking games for girls, For example.
But … does that make toys sexist? Could it be that the existence of this distinction of roles reveals the inequality? There are currently good reasons to believe that yes there are sexist toys, and they are particularly fierce with girls.
Sexist toys and the gender burden
The type of toys used by boys and girls does not obey causal differentiation. In the vast majority of cases, these games they reflect gender stereotypes. For example, girls are given games that deal with baby care, the importance of aesthetics and personal image, or household chores, while boys are given action dolls and games that deal with imaginary situations which, if real, would be frightening, violent or disgusting. Now … is it because there is a genetic predisposition to be of a certain sex attracted to certain games and not others, or is it mainly due to the effect of culture, which the society teaches us during childhood?
From what has been seen, there is evidence that part of these preferences for toys with a stereotypical sexist load is due to biological and non-cultural factors. For example, we have seen that children between one and two years old, a period when they do not yet socialize in groups, already prefer toys associated with their gender. In addition, in the case of certain diseases which alter the hormonal levels of girls making them more “masculine”, their preferences for toys are also more masculine.
however, these differences between boys and girls don’t have to be very deep.
The influence of the environment
It should be borne in mind that in most experiments in which the reaction of children to toys that do not match their gender is explored, they are working with specific toys, with specific properties. In these situations, the effects of hormonal differences, which are broad, can appear very specific and wrongly reinforce overly rigid gender roles.
For example, just because kids prefer to play with action dolls doesn’t mean they feel attracted to them. this category of entertainment that we call “action dolls”But there is something about these objects that they find interesting. The possibility of fantasizing about risky situations is one of them.
But violent situations (those usually associated with playing with action dolls) aren’t the only ones in which you take risks and feel emotion in the face of danger. In fact, it’s perfectly possible that many of them aren’t associated with masculinity.
On the other hand, we have seen that men are generally slightly better than women. in tasks involving spatial processing, And this is also noticeable in the use of toys. Boys tend to prefer more elaborate puzzles than girls, and these toys have to do with cognitive skills related to spatial thinking.
However, it has also been found that parents encourage children more when playing this kind of game, and they do less when they do little. It may seem irrelevant, but if this social asymmetry occurs at such a young age, it can leave a mark on people’s mental development.
So we see that while there seem to be hormonal differences that influence the preference for toys based on the sex they belong to, this is interpreted as the gender load of those games, and not the situations they give rise to. that make them entertain themselves with some things and do it with others.
Girls are at a disadvantage
How does this affect the girls? Basically, it reinforces well-established gender roles that disadvantage women. For example, many of the higher paying professions are closely related to spatial reasoning, and while children are more encouraged to play with toys that promote this skill, these will have an advantage to win engineering positions.
On the other hand, if one assumes that, since children feel a predilection for action dolls, women should be assigned to the “safe” domain of the servant, their existence will be more akin to carrying a pet. company than that of a person’s ability to be independent.
In short, the effect that sexist toys have on girls is the power to classify them in roles created by society and given a priori: it suffices to match certain characteristics linked to this type of role, because that goes without saying. that all the personality of this girl (future woman) can be summarized as “the feminine”. The consequences are, in short, more sexism and more chances that more girls will be categorized in this lifestyle.