Saturday, July 21, 2012

Princesses and Monsters - Principesse e Mostri

I know this will sound like a posting from 1955 but unfortunately, since then, not much has changed. I was thinking about toys, after reading a mom's comment on Facebook and after visiting a few toy stores to find a gift for Tronk's birthday. I was thinking about the long shelves filled with toys, all rigorously grouped by genre: boys here, girls there. Cars, monsters and robots for boys; dolls, dolls' houses, strollers, mini washing machines, and dolls related things for girls. Almost as if they were saying: "You, girls, the ones with the maternal instinct, take care of the children and do the house chores! You, boys, go have fun and play with the cars, machines and gadgets!". All right, all right, this sounds a bit extreme, but you know what I am trying to say. All toys are grouped by genre and are color coded to draw the attention of both parents and children to a genre specific section. I haven't really thought about this until now.

Not for Boys. Sorry.
Not for Girls. Sorry.

Yet, I ask myself how many of these genre specific choices are not also a bit natural. I mean, my three year old boy has played with dolls three or four times in his life; once he put a baby in a high chair and prepared dinner for him, he pushed a baby in a shopping cart a couple of times, and once I saw him intrigued by the look of a naked Barbie that came out of a pirate ship. I would have not stopped him to play with other dolls if he had chosen to do so. But he didn't. Like most boys I know and regularly meet at the playground, he naturally developed an interest for cars and trucks. Not so much for tractors and bulldozers. He has now moved onto legos (which I like much better than cars). His girlfriends? According to their mothers, they are all moving onto dolls and princesses but, as far as I know, nobody imposed this choice to them. So, tell me, what are the boundaries between what has been imposed by society and the natural disposition of both boys and girls towards genre specific toys?

An answer to this has come from the AIJU, a Spanish private, non-profit organization that promotes research on children and play. They studied 1507 children (757 boys and 750 girls). They found that princesses, fashion and personal appearance interest more than 95% of girls while boys are more attracted to sports related things and to the superheroes they watch on TV. They also found that technologies (computers, cell phones, video games and any new technology) interest both boys and girls equally. I am confident the toy companies know this. Yet, they regularly assign genre specific colors and characters to the high tech toys as well.

So, if you have a girl, unless you are willing to spend four times more for the posh version with flowers and butterflies, you are stuck with Cinderella and Snow White for long long time. If you have a boy, you should hope that Cars and Winnie The Pooh are still around, otherwise your house will be taken over by monsters.

No comments:

Post a Comment