Sarcastic Saturday :: a further musing on toy store/aisle gender dichotomies.

13 Apr

I’ve mentioned this kind of thing before; I got into it a bit on tumblr before, it came up a bit around the holidays.  But earlier this week, I was at a Rite-Aid in town and decided that since I am rarely at Rite-Aid, I’d go check their small toy section and see what their selection of small plastic weapons looked like.  (I’m always looking for good inexpensive plastic weapons for my cosplay armory, so.)  The toy section there is really only a few shelves, but they are still sorted into things like games (board games and cards, mostly), then Boys’ Toys and Girls’ Toys.


The Boys’ Toys are largely action figures and a few toy weapons and other “action props” (none needed for my armory, but some small guns and plastic handcuffs and things).  The Girls’ Toys are largely dolls, ponies, and other things packaged in boxes that are pink.  Other purveyors of toys, like Toys ‘R’ Us, sort similarly.  Case in point, on the website:

  • Action Figures for boys features Buzz Lightyear.  Action Figures does not exist for girls.
  • Arts & Crafts is the same for boys and girls (an easel).
  • Bath, Beauty & Accessories does not exist for boys.  Bath, Beauty & Accessories for girls features what looks to be a plastic vanity table.
  • Bikes & Ride-Ons for boys features a little boy dressed like a motorcyclist riding a trike with headlights.  Bikes & Ride-Ons for girls features a thin silver scooter.
  • Building Sets for boys features a Transformer-looking thing.  Building Sets for girls features what looks to be a preschooler’s block table.
  • Dolls does not exist for boys.  Dolls for girls features a baby doll.
  • Electronics for boys features a microphone.  Electronics for girls features a boom box with Hello Kitty on it.
  • Games & Puzzles is the same for boys and girls (a memory game).
  • Learning for boys features something I cannot quite sort out but which I assume is some sort of activity console.  Learning for girls features a carousel of smiling plastic animals.
  • Musical Instruments is the same for boys and girls (a bongo set).
  • Outdoor Play is the same for boys and girls (a plastic lawnmower).
  • Preschool for boys features a smiling green stuffed dog.  Preschool for girls features a board game.
  • Pretend Play for boys features a plastic dog on a leash.  Pretend Play for girls features a plastic microwave.
  • Stuffed Animals for boys features a smiling bear in a blue baby outfit.  Stuffed Animals for girls features a bowling set made of farm animals.
  • Vehicles, Hobby & RC for boys features a set of toy cars.  Vehicles, Hobby & RC does not exist for girls.
  • Video Games for boys features something called Skylanders.  Video Games for girls features Super Princess Peach.

I have said before and I will say again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with little girls or boys wanting the toys in their “section.”  I didn’t have a lot of little boy friends growing up, but I assume they like motorbikes and Transformers.  I know I played with dolls as a kid and I would still buy a boom box with Hello Kitty on it if I needed a boom box.  It’s just that every time I am reminded of it, the weird divide in toys makes me really sad.

The fact that certain of these categories only exist for one gender of child makes me really sad, too.  I am a woman grown, but if/when I buy toys anymore they are usually in categories that are “boys”: action figures, for example (though as per the linked rant about Toys ‘R’ Us, finding action figures of girl characters is considerably harder), or guns (I just entered this into the search bar, because of my cosplay armory, and there are 12 hits under “girls” and 46 under “boys,” and all of the 12 are also under the 46, I think), or dragons (5 for boys to 2 for girls, though the set that I have and modded is in the 2 – probably because it is a set of “mothers and babies”), or swords (65 for boys and 13 for girls; the set of swords I own is only tagged for boys, though there is a Snow White and the Huntsman sword that seems to be tagged only for girls), and I don’t personally buy video games, but the ratio there is 120 for boys to 37 for girls. I don’t buy many “girly” toys anymore, but this is because I still have plenty left from childhood usually my “girlier” pursuits are better purchased at the fabric or craft store nowadays.

The distinction just stinks.  What it does is tell kids that they’re supposed to play at being and therefore what they’re supposed to be, and give them so little wiggle room.  And what that does is limit their creativity, their self-perception, and their notion of societal acceptability overall.  “You aren’t going to be one of those parents that raises your kid to be genderless, are you?” a friend once asked me.  “I’m probably not going to have kids at all,” I replied.  “But if I do, I want the little girls to know that if they want to play princesses that’s okay, but if they want to play swords that’s okay too.  I want the little boys to know that if they want to play dinosaurs that’s okay, but if they want to play dolls that’s okay too.”  I want nothing more than for people as a group to come around to that, too.

–your fangirl heroine.

too dazed to comprehend


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