Barbie was initially a person’s name (Barbara). Her mother who was known as Ruth watched Barbie play with some adult female dolls and developed an idea that it was important for young girls to imagine how they will be when they grow up. Barbie’s mother therefore decided to develop a three dimension female adult doll and came up with Barbie Doll. Currently Barbie toy is a fashion doll which is manufactured by an American toy company by the name Mattel Inc. Barbie toy features an adult body with much attention being given to the female body (Maasik and Solomon 85).This toy has attracted popularity as well as criticism a few years after it was made. According to (Maasik and Solomon) Barbie toy has contributed greatly in influencing children towards emulating gender roles in the society.
Barbie toy is seen to perpetuate the conceptualization of the female figure. The toy is so keenly made in that it is a clear elaboration of the female body with female features being manifested. This attribute of the Barbie toy is of particular interest as far as promoting gender roles is concerned. However, the way in which the Barbie toy is made makes people to have a perception that women should be slim in order to appear very attractive (Lee 26).This is one of the points that have raised a lot of controversy as far as the implication of gender roles is concerned. One thing which the Barbie toy seems to glorify is the fact that women are seen as icons of beauty in society. This contravenes the traditional roles of women. As it would be agreed, women in traditional society are seen as icons of care for the whole family. While the man goes out to look for money to sustain the whole family in terms of catering for their needs, it is the role of a woman to stay at home and take care of the children and the husband’s needs as well. In addition, one of the gender roles that traditional society expects from a woman is that of offering emotional support to the family. She is seen as a pillar of hope and a source of inspiration to the entire family. For the women in general to fulfill this socially designated role, there is no any specification to one’s appearance and therefore, the notion created by the Barbie toy seems to move away from the basic interpretation of women roles.
Some concerns have also been raised on postures of the Barbie Dolls. This has resulted into some communities feeling that the toy is helping in propagating immoral values in the society. This is the reason as to why some Middle East countries outlawed the sale of such toys in the country because they felt that they did not conform to the Islamic ideals. This in itself is against the traditional gender roles of a woman. This also seems to go against the traditional roles of women since the issue of using women for sexual appeal is definitely a modern approach to the role of women. However, it is not everyone who has accepted this perception (Lee 26).
It is a mater of concern that children who are key target market for the toys are likely to have a different view on the issue of gender roles due to the way such roles are exemplified by the toys (Devor 36). Considering that the process of socialization starts at a very tender age, it is worth to conclude that interaction with the toy has an effect of affecting the way they perceive the gender roles and obligations.
As it has been deduced, a great percentage of gender specific behaviors can be attributed to the process of socialization. Socialization can be defined as a process through which people learn the norms and values of the society and use them to define their behavior and attitudes. As the child grows up, he or she is socialized into the world where there is a clear division of roles between males and females. It is important to mention that, the family which is the first institution that a child encounters plays a very vital role as far as socialization is concerned. For instance, a girl child is socialized into taking up female related roles from a very tender age and she grows up embracing such roles up to the point she becomes an adult.
The mother figure in a family setup therefore plays a very important role in guiding and teaching the girl child how to embrace her roles in the society. Boy child on the other hand is socialized within the family setup to take up roles that are male designated. A family that has a male adult figure places the boy child in a better position to learn his roles through interaction or being taught of what is socially expected of him. Families which do not have clear role models may end up leading their children in the wrong socialization path and this may impact them on their behavior for the rest of their lives.
From a very young age, parents treat boys and girls differently. And this is very evident even in the way boys and girls are dressed. For instance, you realize that in the dressing of the babies, there are some gender specific colors that are suited for boys and girls, and this clearly sets the difference in the socialization of the two genders. When it comes to buying toys for the children, it is quite evident that a difference in the toys for girls and boys is inevitable. Often, parents prefer buying toys such as dolls to baby girls as opposed to baby boys who in most cases prefer cars as toys. This also shows that the parents as well as the society at large have got differential expectations for boys and girls (Gibson 54). It therefore shows that the parents are playing a vital role of preparing the children at a very young age to roles that await them as they grow up.
As the children grow up, parents encourage them to take part in sex-typed activities. This in girls may include housekeeping activities which definitely prepares them into becoming the best housekeepers in future. This is one of the roles of women which have stood the test of time in that both the traditional and modern society values the role of women as far as housekeeping is concerned (Lee 67). Boys on the other hand are encouraged to play with cars and that is how they are modeled into becoming people who can provide for their family since they are exposed to demanding world from a very tender age.
A child’s sense of self identity is actually as a result of many ideas, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes which he or she is exposed to. Most of the information that is internalized by the child emanates from the family through the process of child-parent interaction, reinforcement, role modeling, or parental approval/disapproval. As the child moves into the larger world of school and friends, a great percentage of his or her ideas are normally reinforced by the people around them.
Apart from the family setup, media also plays a critical role in the socialization of children by influencing the taking gender-related roles (Lee 65). Television in particular which has become an integral part of our day to day life is used as a medium for passing information which has a variety of implications on our life. Therefore, some gender related roles have been reinforced through the use of television.
In conclusion, it can be said that a big percentage of gender specific behavior is as a product of socialization process that children are exposed to at a very young age. This seems as the basic guideline on what he society expects from them. The family as a prime institution in the society therefore has got an important role to play as far as socializing the child is concerned. Parents should act as role models for children to emulate them in their efforts of self- actualization. Therefore, the paper rules out that gender specific behavior occurs as a result of some forces of nature.