Babies don’t come into the world with expectations about their future careers or about what their work is worth. Still, marketing, peer pressure, and even parental influences shape the stereotyped attitudes of boys and girls.
Why only give nurse kits, kitchenettes, and dolls to girls, and doctor kits, science sets, and trucks to boys?
Around the turn of the 20th century, toys were rarely marketed to different genders. Then, toy ads from the 1920s to the 1950s pushed the “traditional” roles of little homemaker and the young man of industry.
By the 1940s, manufacturers caught on to the idea that wealthier families would buy an entire new set of clothing, toys, and other gadgets if the products were marketed differently for both genders. And so the idea of pink for girls and blue for boys was born.
But, some girls like blue, some boys like fashion, some girls like physics, some boys like cooking.
There’s a view that traits stereotypically associated with men—such as strength, courage, and leadership—are good; whereas, those tied to femininity—such as vulnerability, emotion and caring—are bad.
Can’t a girl become a strong, courageous, leader… like a CEO? Can’t a boy become a caring, empathetic, and nurturing man… like a husband and dad?
Sadly, a 2016 study found that adolescent men who subscribed to traditional masculine gender norms were more likely to engage in dating violence, such as sexual assault, physical or emotional abuse, and stalking.
For adults, play is a break from life. For children, especially in the earliest stages of childhood development, play is life, and toys are the tools of early learning.
In the 1970s, Lego® had the following note in their sets:
The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls.
It’s imagination that counts, not skill. You build whatever comes into your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dollhouse or a spaceship.
A lot of boys like dollhouses. They’re more human than spaceships.
A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than dollhouses.
The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.
Providing and allowing choices are significant because they can influence the skills children learn and the possibilities they see for themselves. Otherwise, you are limiting their interests and the scope of their futures.
After all, a princess can play with worms. And ninja cupcakes are quite tasty.