Susan Iverson wrote in to wmst-l about a flier she received from Tonka, whose tagline is “Built for Boyhood”. She writes:
A full page ad promoted that these toys were “built for the 3 stages of boyhood: smashing, crashing, and bashing”. The insert ad is framed around “you know you’re the mom of a boy when…” and it proceeds to describe boys as superheos, detached from peers, less verbal than girls, less emotionally expressive (“let him express his feelings his way”).
She goes on:
My daughter (age 5) looked at the pictures of the toys trucks and pointed to two items she’d like to have. As she continued to look at the insert, she asked “why are all the pictures of boys?” I shared with her that Tonka markets its toys for boys. She looked at me with confusion and said “well maybe if you tell them [tonka] that I am a boy, they’d let you get me the toys”… Yesterday she was playing with her Little People toys and asked “mom, are these toys only for boys too?” I assured her they were for any children.
The good news is that Iverson is exactly right how Fisher Price advertises its Little People stuff– not all toy companies are quite as into traditional gender roles as Tonka, apparently. After (completely by chance) finding a “digger with girl builder” for my son on ebay, I went looking for other examples. Fisher Price does show girls playing with just the sort of stuff Tonka sells for boys only.
Of course, like all these companies, progress is limited. The toys at Fisher Prince are still divided into boys’ and girls’ and gender-stereotyping is, as always, rampant. (Thanks, Mr Jender, for your technical assistance.)