Pink and Blue Toys: Perpetuating Gender Stereotypes?


It’s the holiday season and parents are busy clearing the shelves at local and online toy stores. During this time of heightened and competitive marketing by toy brands, shoppers encounter advertisements and in-store merchandising that clearly differentiate and play towards attracting mostly one gender.

Children face an endless barrage of advertisements that subscribe to highly stereotyped needs and identities of the genders. Stuffed animals and dolls, and the young actresses that are shown to be caring for or beautifying these toys, stand in stark contrast to the zooming toy cars, competitive strategy games, and aggressive Nerf guns and the mostly male actors who play with them.  

One significant criticism from developmental scientists and feminists alike is that such advertisements, which are drilled into children’s minds through year round repetition, play a powerful role in shaping the values and constructing the identity roles that the sexes will grow to understand as natural or acceptable.

Some opponents to this view suggest that it is useless to pretend that kids are gender-neutral. Many argue that toy manufacturers are simply playing to natural differences in values and brain functions between the sexes.

As many have asked: Should toys be separated according to gender?

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Elizabeth Laferriere

Elizabeth Laferriere is the Legislative Director at the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. Her research and professional interests include women’s equal right to work, political participation, and social justice, as well as US foreign policy toward South and Southeast Asia. Ms. Laferriere received her MPP in Public Policy from Georgetown University, where she studied international policy as the Wellesley College Margaret Freeman Bowers Graduate Fellow. She spent an exchange semester at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. She received her BA in South Asian Studies and History from Wellesley College, where she graduated with honors in 2010.

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