Toys Aren't Sexist Unless You Think They Are

Baby 47

I've read a lot of things from friends blogs about how pushing gender-specific roles on children is damaging and should be avoided, and how magazines are totally wrong for breaking things down into "girl" or "boy" categories. I agree that when you're trying to find a toy for both your kids, it can be seriously obnoxious to realize that there isn't a gender-neutral option. But I also love putting pink tutus on my daughter, and buying swords for my son, and I agree that it's wrong to not see little girls pretending to be a knight in magazines and advertisements, or a boy playing with a kitchen.

Thinking about the presents I've acquired for my daughter this year, I realized that I'm almost nervous to post pictures after she gets to open them on Yule -- I don't feel like being told I'm sexist. But it seems to me that someone who would accuse me of being sexist by buying my daughter things she likes that happen to be girly is in fact, the one with the issue.

When Rowan was a child, he decided his favorite color was pink. We're Pagan -- red is the color of the sun and masculine, and blue is the lunar color and feminine. Pink wasn't an issue. However, when it came time to buy him a Power Wheel, I firmly said no to the Pink Barbie Jeep that he said he desperately wanted.

Was it because he was a boy? Heck no. It was because it was an over-priced version, and we needed to go with one of the more expensive ones that could handle the uneven terrain of our backyard, and I wanted one that was pretty image-free and gender neutral, so he wouldn't grow sick of a character, and so if we had more kids, a girl, she could play with it too.

For the record, I would have said no to a Spiderman Jeep, too.

Before his birthday, his father and I discussed whether or not to get him a toy kitchen or tool bench -- when hubby brought home a tool bench, it was settled. I smugly announced after a few months of our son not playing with it, "THAT'S why I wanted to get him the KITCHEN. He never sees you work with tools!" But did my husband buy the tool bench because my son was a boy? Nope. He bought it because our son was fascinated with our screwdrivers and tools on the limited occasions they did come out, and because screws and whatnot, even large kid ones, are great for dexterity. I bought him the toy kitchen next year, which he loves, but my daughter loves even more.

One of my son's toys that went through tons of duct tape and many repairs before we finally had to trash it was a kid-sized broom and dust pan. I had wanted to get him a toy vacuum too, but never did.

This year, my daughter is getting that toy vacuum. I'm going to buy a new broom and dust pan too, which Rowan can use in play or real cleaning since the adult brooms are still way too large. She also absolutely loves baby dolls -- we hear "BABY! Babies! Babies!" all day, every day, and she carries them around, feeds them, kisses them, rocks them, and even tries to nurse them. To go with her babies, I bought her a high chair, and I'm going to take an old (recalled) bag sling and make it her size so she can use the sling for her dolls, too.

So yes, my daughter, who likely will be in pink fairy or kitty jammies, is going to be getting a nice baby doll, high chair, broom and a vacuum. Does it look very gender-specific on the surface? Absolutely. However, she is just as welcome to go outside with her new baby and put it in Rowan's Ford F-150 Power Wheel and drive around too, or she may choose to sit and play with my son's awesome General Grievous and Captain Rex Star Wars toys. I really don't care.

While it may look sexist on the surface, we're providing our kids with what they're interested in. I think it would be more of a problem if I refused to buy her clothes with kitties on them or baby dolls that she loved because I was concerned with looking sexist, than if I just pay attention to the things that my kids love. If those things they love happen to be gender-typical, so be it. But please, manufacturers, at least let me buy a broom that isn't pink and glittery or blue with cars.

Do you think it's hard to find a balance between letting kids play with what they like and not gender-stereotyping?

feminism, discrimination, baby toys, play


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momof... momof3inTN

I have a 9 year old boy who wants an easy bake oven. The oven is blue and gray but all the kits for them are bright pink. My son isn't a pink kid (he likes purple though!). He'd be upset if he unwrapped the kits with little girls in aprons on a pink background. So... no easy bake oven for him this year. Instead I'm fixing him a box of baking supplies (cake mix, cookie mix, brownie mix, measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoons, etc) and giving him access to my pans and oven. You'd think after all these years they could stop color-coordinating toys to typically girls and boys colors. (I won't even start on the pink toy washer and dryer and the little girl ironing on the box... my boys love to help do the laundry but no way would they play with that one... too girly) Stupid.

betha... bethany169

My son started "driving" everything around that he could get his hands on as soon as he started crawling--my camera case, old cell phones, etc.  He's just seriously into cars, trucks, diggers, etc, even before we bought him his first Matchbox car.  My mom made him a Raggedy Andy doll, which I put in his bed with him every night, but he still falls asleep holding a truck or car.  He also really likes playing with food at the moment so he's getting a play kitchen for Christmas.  And now that I'm pregnant with a girl, I figure all the toys will be there and they can both play with whatever they feel like--I'm not pushing it either way, and I'm not gonna be upset about the toys they play with, it is what it is.  I think there are way more important ways that I could screw up my kid and that's what I need to be worrying about :)

Littl... LittleFrogsMama

My oldest had a kitchen that he absolutely loved - very neutral colors, and he played with it all the time, until he actually outgrew it. He played Barbies with his cousin, because she asked him too, so he had a Ken doll - because he didn't want the girl doll. He eventually grew out of all those toys, and headed for the lego aisle and the electronic games aisle, and has never left them (he's almost 17 now). My youngest is totally into Star Wars, spaceships, robots, guns, swords, lego/duplo, cooking, sparkly things, fabric, and his plush animals that he calls babies. He doesn't have any baby dolls yet, but only because I can't afford the ones I'd like to get him. He would probably love a kitchen, so it may be something we look into for his next birthday (when he turns 3 and will be tall enough to reach the whole thing).  I don't worry about colors yet, but will totally base what he gets off what colors he likes. If he hates pink, then I won't buy pink toys. If he doesn't care, then he'll probably get pink stuff if what he wants comes only in that color. That said, it would be nice if you didn't have to choose between pink n sparkly, or blue-grey-red as the color choices. Are there no other colors in the whole world that can be used to create colorful objects for kids to play with? Does it always have to be one camp or the other?

Phils... PhilsBabyMama

I just get my son what he likes.  Last Christmas, we got him a kitchen and he loves it.  We still play with it all the time.  I got crap from a couple people for getting him a "girl toy."  You know, cause men never cook, right? lol.  He also has a tea set because he ALWAYS wanted to play with my tea kettle.  I do LOVE buying super girly stuff for my friends' daughters.  Is that sexist?  Maybe, but my son is just not in to Fancy Nancy or feather boas.

MTNes... MTNester1

My girls had Teenage Mutant Turtle toys as well as Barbies and Rainbow Brite dolls and accessories.  They also had trucks.  I agree it's about what the child wants.

nonmember avatar Domini

Exactly! This is exactly the point I've been trying to make to my gender-neutral advocate friends. My boy likes trucks and balls. My girl is all about princesses and babies. So we get them things that interest them.

Caycee McCallum Jopling

my 3 yr old boy who loves cars, dinosaurs, and all things boys... also loves to have tea parties, cooking and playing with dolls. at a friends place, we usually find the rest of kids playing with the cars and he's wandered into the girls room and playing with the barbie dolls by himself. i agree that telling a child they can't play with something because its for girls/boys, it limits their creativity. And it was not that long ago that pink was for boys and blue was a girls color - seriously ask your grandparents.

Pishyah Pishyah

I think it is easy if you only have one gender.  With my son I constantly wished we had girly stuff around so that he wasn't just playing with trucks, trains, planes, and tools.  When I tried to venture out with my toy purchases, he wasn't interested.  With our daughter, though, she won't ever have any problem with not being able to find a tool or vehicle to play with.  I like it that way but I was shocked when she decided at 9 months old that she was a mommy.  She found the doll that my son never wanted anything to do with.  The babies are well loved already and she has bunk beds for them, a stroller, a high chair, and I've made her a pouch sling for them.  She cooks for them in our kitchen and then feeds them.  She nurses them.  I love it but I love the fact that she came up with all of this on her own even more.  No one pushed her to be girly at all.

Smile... SmileyMoo

I prefer "boy" stuff like Star Wars, Superman and comic things and even power rangers LOL. So...I let my kids play with what they like. I think people are afraid that if they let a child play with toys meant for the opposite sex that they'll get a girly boy or a tomboy for a girl. To me? that is completely SILLY. Perhaps (and I don't mean this offensive, just pointing out what people fear I think) that it will confuse them sexually?


Pish posh. I'm all about loving the opposite sex and I prefer "boy" toys.  It doesn't confuse you sexually to like Superman or GI Joe or Wolverine. And what's so wrong about a boy playing with baby dolls? Chlidren learn through PLAY. They have to learn to be great daddies just like little girls need to learn to be mommies!

nonmember avatar Cami

My 3.5 yr old son got a red kids vaccuum and a pink/blue stovetop set for Christmas at 18months and he absolutely loved it. Finally got him a neutral colored big kitchen at christmas when he was 2.5yrs...loved it again. He also got a baby doll 2 years ago from grandma. It got mostly ignored until he got a baby sister, then he wanted to give the baby bottles and cuddle. He is now in a stage where to loves to cuddle and take care of little things but everything is Pink! Which he doesn't really like. We finally found him a Zooble that is bluish-green, it is round but pops open to become a little animal that he can take care of. I wish they had more neutral or even boyish colors in things like that since boys like to nurture too! My daughter who just turned 1, loves her brothers tool bench and any musical toys, doesn't care a thing for any of the dolls that she's been given. I am perfectly fine with that.

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