Consider Suffragetto, a game about police violence and women. Above is the game box and below is the game board followed by the rules. Published in 1908, it focused on the fighting between Suffragettes and police. The point of the game was for the women to make it to the House of Commons without being thrown back by the police.Numerous women were arrested during protests. Some who engaged in hunger strikes were force fed by the police. Others went to the hospital after being beaten. The game attempted to reflect the ongoing conflict by including a hospital area on one side of the board and a police station on the other.
The other day I found myself telling my four-year-old daughter that there’s no such thing as “boys colors” and “girls colors.” My favorite shirt is pink; my favorite shoes have pink soles. As soon as I started reading fairy tales to my daughter I knew that atavistic gender ideas would be omnipresent, but I didn’t realize how much they would come to permeate my existence. She likes pink; that’s fine, I do too. She likes ballet and ballet clothing, that’s great. But it comes freighted sometimes with expectations for who can and can’t like these things. I was wondering where that feeling comes from.
When asked whether boys and girls are either born or taught to like different kinds of toys, Americans in 2017 answered almost identically to those in 2015, with just over half saying that it’s a learned choice and approximately 30% saying it’s inborn. What has changed is how women think toys should be distributed among kids. In 2015, 36% of women felt that boys and girls should be raised with different toys and play activities; in 2017, only 26% of women feel that way. The numbers for men have remained relatively stable.
When we teach boys that there are “boy’s toys” and “girl’s toys,” and that they ought to complain if they get the wrong one, we teach them gender-based entitlement. When we teach girls that it’s okay to play with toys designed for boys and to dress in clothes designed for boys, but we teach boys that it’s wrong for them to wear dresses or play with “girl’s toys,” we erase girls from social relevance. Ultimately, it becomes easier for companies to just make what boys and men are willing to use, because girls and women will be willing to use them, too.
"She wanted to tread carefully, the better to stay true to her mission: creating female action figures, all of them designed with realistic body proportions and tied to character traits, instead of X-ray vision, super strength or the other usual suspects. “More heroine, less hooters,” read the Kickstarter page. In other words, the toys were part of a broader effort to create a platform for imaginative play for both girls and boys, not tied to a particular TV show or merchandising empire."
As calls to end the gendered marketing of toys have gained momentum in recent years — the White House hosted a conference on toys and gender just before President Barack Obama left office, and the U.K.’s Let Toys Be Toys campaign has convinced 14 companies to remove gender labels — each step forward has been hotly debated. Fighting for change are parents who want to see a world in which toys come in a rainbow of colours and are divided by interest and age, rather than gender.
Some volunteers, like Nicole Fitzpatrick of Mt. Lebanon, are skeptical about the process and determined to challenge gender stereotypes. Volunteers have been discussing the issue amongst themselves throughout the morning, she said. "Should we even be dividing by gender?" she said. "[Volunteers] are sneaking a lot of cars and things that are traditionally 'boys' into the 'girls' pile.” And they’re doing the opposite, too. Even if the packaging doesn’t explicitly indicate gender, everyone at the warehouse seems to know that “boys” and “girls” toys have almost always meant dinosaurs and trucks versus dolls and stickers.
While many people will browse the internet, thousands of families still rely on the old paper catalogues distributed by retailers, according to a new report by campaign group LetToysBeToys. The report showed the “majority” of these publications are still presenting play in a gender stereotyped way that suggests certain activities and interests are more appropriate for a boy or a girl.
Reclaiming space for boys to be boys, the Sire campaign asked parents ‘Are You Giving Your Boys Enough Chance to Be Boys?’. The campaign implied that the way parents are being asked to raise boys is more neutering than neutral. Other parents, however, are relieved that non-gender-specific marketing has finally arrived. ‘Tough luck for the ‘women belong in the kitchen and boys don’t cry’ believers,’ says Sanne Botterweg from Amsterdam, an urban developer and mother of two.
Critics have claimed that gender specific toys can shape girls’ career ambitions, while parents and teachers also play a major role in influencing children’s career choices. A study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology found parents’ outdated perceptions of jobs for men and women are discouraging girls from pursuing a future in the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sector. The research showed that parents were more likely to recommend careers in caring and education for girls.