Toys and Gender Segregation: Damaging or Harmless?

As soon as I switched on the news this morning, the very first story grabbed my attention. Considering I hadn’t had my morning cuppa, this was quite an achievement. The reporter was talking about an issue that has often drifted into my consciousness, and makes me consider different viewpoints every time – the debate around children’s toys, gender segregation and the potential damage it can do to a kid’s ambitions.

Let me give you my first thoughts. As a child, I was exceptionally tomboyish. I don’t think I ever wanted to play with dolls – I loved reading adventure books, playing outside and on Super Mario and Zelda (games in which, admittedly, the ultimate aim is to save a captured princess) and pleading with my older male cousin to let me borrow his Action Man. Yes, I loved dressing up with my friends and pretending to be the Spice Girls, but even then I was always Sporty Spice, drawing barbed wire tattoos onto my arms with felt tips.

gender segregation toys children

Yet despite all of these perceived ‘non-girly’ traits, at the age of 23 I now spend my days writing and talking about beauty, fashion and lifestyle. I sometimes wonder how on earth it all came to be, but I’m not complaining. I have a degree in Broadcast Journalism, a professional that was traditionally male-dominated, yet so far my main focus has been on the more ‘feminine’ side of the media world. Saying all of that (and I know you’re going to get angry at me again for being so vague), the secret project I’ve been working on for the past 18 months is very much the opposite, but as I can’t expand on that at the moment I’ll ignore that point for now…

Now, that’s not to say that the beauty and fashion worlds are an exclusive girls’ club – in fact, some of my favourite people from these industries are men. However, my point stands that I have happened to go into an industry predominantly aimed at women despite a very tomboy-oriented childhood (let’s face it, I’m still a tomboy at heart. I’m sure my friends still think it’s hilarious that I’ve ended up doing what I’m doing). I always say that I fell into doing YouTube make up tutorials by accident, and always tried to focus on the form as an art more than anything else, but nonetheless it is what fills my days.

gender segregation toys children

But I’m just one person. One case study, one example. I would absolutely love to know what you think about this, and to hear of your experiences too. In the past, I’ve had all sorts of explanations given to me, the most popular being that I obviously ‘missed out’ on being girly as a kid, so I’m ‘making up for it’ now. Yawn – I was as happy as larry being a tomboy, and wouldn’t change a thing.

As for the general toys debate, there is little doubt that gender segregation is rife. You only need to step into a toy shop, or down the children’s aisle in a supermarket to see that. But as for damaging the future ambitions and dreams of the nation’s kids – I’m not sure. I can totally, 100% see how it could be the case, but personally I haven’t experienced it.

So what’s your take on this? Was your room filled with My Little Pony and Barbie memorabilia as a little girl, or Transformers and Action Man as a boy, and how do you think it has impacted on your future? Have you ever felt pushed in a particular direction, or excluded/dissuaded from pursuing a particular path?

For me, the jury’s out – over to you!

Stay Creative,

Chyaz xox

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5 Comments

  1. February 7, 2014 / 9:53 am

    When I was little I loved Thomas the Tank Engine, I had Barbie’s but I wasn’t really interested, I was definitely a bit of a tom boy. Now I have a book / beauty blog but I also write about Formula One.

    I wouldn’t say any toys I had influenced me because I’ve always felt I could do whatever I want to do. However, that first picture of the two books annoys me and is pretty sexist.

    Rosie x | http://www.eatreadglam.com

  2. February 7, 2014 / 6:16 pm

    It’s not so much that children’s toys are gendered (it’s ridiculous, but I get where they’re coming from), it’s the gender stereotyping. Girl’s toys only seem to focus on certain things like pink, shopping, princesses, etc. Where as boys have more “career” type of toys, like police cars, soldiers, fire engines. It’s not fair to little girls because it’s enforcing the idea that that’s all they can aspire to.

  3. Shannon
    February 7, 2014 / 8:38 pm

    I loved Barbies and other dolls growing up, but I also loved playing with my brother’s toys. I liked to play with his hot wheels and action figures. I think that there’s no need to gender children’s toys anymore. So what of a boy wants to play with dolls and a girl wants to play with toy cars? Big deal! They’re just kids.

  4. February 7, 2014 / 10:46 pm

    When I was growing up, I idolized my Sindy’s, Barbies and My little Ponies! But I was never really a ‘girly girl’ and I’m still not now. I think the ‘influence’ has a lot more to do with school, parents, friends and lifestyle than the toys kids play with but I can also see how that could look. Although little kids nowadays play with a cartoon pig called Peppa, what on earth does that teach them! Lol

  5. Sommer
    February 8, 2014 / 6:45 pm

    I loved playing with dolls, with my sister but more than anything, i loved climbing trees (and sometimes falling down), reading and watching movies about heroes and animals – NOT princesses! I ran around singing Bon Jovi and grew up on the road next to my dad in his truck and loved playing in my grandparents’ garden. I still love cars and am an absolute adrenalin junkie.. Oh, and i’m a 16-year old girl, who yesterday chopped off 30 cm of my blonde, princess-like hair. Screw gender-controlled toys and let people be, who they feel they are

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