For a person’s behavior to be viewed as natural, he or she has to be born that way. However, most of the behaviors that are exhibited by men and women are a consequence of constant influences that they are exposed to during their lives (Michael, 2009). Many roles affect how a person will act during adulthood. Such influences emanate from different settings including the family, toys, and the responsibilities that are assigned to a person during childhood.
Toys and Gender Roles
As an example, a typical young girl’s room may be adorned with a pink wallpaper lined by a princess border, while a boy’s room may be decorated with monster trucks on one wall and sports pictures on another. These differences in decorations reflect the differences in gender, that is, differences between male and female as designed by the society. Gender is a general social framework on which all individuals are placed (Michael, 2009). It refers to socially constructed roles, behaviors, and activities which a given society regards as appropriate for men and women. While the subject of gender stereotypes is open to debate, some people argue that there are prenatal factors that affect gender roles. It is, however, clear that gender has a great influence when it comes to selecting toys for children and in the manufacturing of such toys.
Many toy stores, for instance, have segmented their business based on gender, a situation that is also reflected in toys’ adverts. The effect of this distinction has been teaching children how they are supposed to act so as to be accepted in the society (Borger, 2007). Toys usually promote aggressive behavior in males and submissive attitudes in females. The stereotypical boys’ toys consist of objects like action figures and toy cars. These objects portray vigor, aggression, and masculinity which are the values that men are supposed to demonstrate according to social norms. Girls’ toys are usually dolls, dress up, and toys that imitate household chores. These toys are stereotypical since they show that girls are supposed to be passive and not active. What the toys tell us is that girls belong in the home for their entire lives while boys can strive for higher goals.
How Toys Influence Gender Roles
People’s behavior is affected by their past experience, environment, relatives, and how they are brought up during childhood. The objects given to children have the ability to influence gender roles (Campenni 2009). Giving boys a tool kit, for instance, makes them to start imagining themselves as mechanics. A sand lorry, on the other hand, will make them develop interest in building or vehicles in general.
Conversely, girls are given toys like dolls and tea sets. This influences a girl’s behavior in various ways. For instance, she may become very conscious about dressing up (Huston, 2008). A doll may fit into numerous outfits. With the regular dolls also a girl can learn how to take care of her hair and apply make up. These toys in effect teach girls how to comb their hair, apply make up, and dress.
Basically, toys lay out the social guidelines for boys and girls. The lorries, balls, and tool kits mean that boys should be more boisterous, tougher and resilient. Boys can bring their dump trucks near dirt and hurl it around (Borger, 2007). In contrast, the kitchen kits, dolls, and nursing kits teach girls decency and cleanliness. Girls usually relax with crossed legs round a table pretending to drink fake tea. The two genders imitate gender roles based on what the toys dictate to their impressionable minds. They mimic, play, and could even turn their activities to a play.
The mimicking can become instruction on how to behave in society. According to social standards boys are supposed to behave in a more masculine way, be boisterous, dirtier, and search for jobs that are well-paying like construction, engineering, etc. Girls, on the other hand, are supposed to be decent, cross legged, and passive (Michael, 2009). They should learn how to bring up infants, purchase things, clothe themselves, and maybe secure a nursing profession. The toys instantly differentiate the genders on what they should become socially.
Because toys set apart the genders, they can cause changes in social interactions between the genders. For instance, when males are supposed to play only with cars, then females cannot play with them (Huston, 2008). Similarly, when girls take their tea kits and relax round a table to imitate a tea party, boys cannot play with them as well. Thus, socialization between boys and girls changes as a result of the toys that separate the genders.
Since the roles are differentiated during childhood, gender inequality persists into adulthood. Boys develop the perception that it is their role to get dirty, move about in lorries, perform garden tasks, attend official jobs as well as lead the family. Conversely, girls prepare supper, take care of babies, and could work as nurses or chefs. Toys perpetuate gender inequality since the duties that the toys reflect relate to specific genders. Thus, when a parent purchases a toy for his or her child, he or she is in effect buying a gender stereotype (Campenni, 2009).
The negative effect of toys on males is the development of the perception that boys dominate and have more power over girls. Girls, on the other hand, develop the belief that they cannot strive for other goals in life apart from performing household roles. The best way is for parents to introduce their offsprings to toys both sex-specific and those that are not sex-specific (Borger, 2007). If toys meant for girls are given to boys and toys meant for boys given to girls both at an early age, then it would be possible to avoid the gender stereotypes that arise from gender-specific toys. In this way, children will grow up with an open mind with regard to gender roles.
In order to grasp the effect that toys have on the youth, it is important to understand gender socialization first. People are born without any pre-existing knowledge of the world leave alone a specific orientation. Whatever perceptions that we obtain afterwards result from our socialization processes (Borger, 2007). Children develop perceptions regarding gender roles from parents, teachers, society members, toys, and the games that they engage in. A preference for playing with gender-specific toys is regarded as the starting point of gender role development in children. Moreover, grooming for adulthood involves learning activities viewed as appropriate for members of ones’ sex (Huston, 2008). Learning to be an adult, therefore, becomes learning to be a socially acceptable adult woman or an adult man.
Gender roles are influenced by several factors including ones family, specific responsibilities assigned to a person during childhood, and the games and toys that a person is introduced to as a child. Toys in particular have a significant impact on the development of gender roles. Segmenting toys into male and female categories has had the effect of creating gender stereotypes which in turn lead to gender inequality. It is, therefore, important to expose children to all types of toys so that they can develop an open perspective regarding gender roles. By so doing, it will be possible to eliminate gender stereotypes which are merely unworthy social constructions.