Promotion of Gender Roles Before Adolescence
Jennifer Scanlon analyzes four popular board games for preteen girls in her essay, “Boys-R-Us: Board Games and the Socialization of Young Adolescent Girls.” She describes the attributes of each game in great detail and concludes, “these sex-stereotyped games promote damaging stereotypes, passive rather than active play, and skills that fall short of girls’ cognitive abilities” (480). The characters in each of the games are portrayed in limited gender-specific roles and promote male, race, wealth, and heterosexual privilege in our society. Based on the fact that the objective in the majority of these games is to get a boyfriend, Scanlon suggests that young girls are being taught subservience to men and forming a personal identity based on relationships with men. She concludes by stating, “these board games…frame a world of limited possibilities for girls” (480).
I agree with most of Scanlon’s arguments in her essay about the dangers of gender-specific games during the formative years of female adolescence. Games such as these seem innocent to parents and even cool to their intended audience. But the messages that sex-stereotyped games are sending can be damaging to the self and gender-perception of adolescent girls. Gender specific stereotypes can become rooted in a maturing, young girl’s mind and have a negative affect on her sense of self worth and personal abilities. The portion of Scanlon’s essay that I disagree with is the statement, “the least gender-specific toys and games in the stores are, arguably, those in the baby and toddler section” (472). My theory is that children are taught appropriate gender role behaviors through play long before they reach adolescence. Our society labels babies as boys or girls from the moment the pink or blue cap is placed on their newborn heads at the hospital. And from then on society tries to mold them into stereotypical men and women with every toy offered.
To illustrate this point I researched toy retailers on the Internet and chose to analyze the toys advertised at Toysrus.com. Toys R Us has recently opened “The Center of the Toy Universe” in Times Square, New York, advertised as the world’s largest toy store. The company is currently reorganizing, and predicts pre-tax earnings of $25 million in 2002. The home page for Toysrus.com features prominent links for “Great Gifts for Boys” and “Great Gifts for Girls,” setting the stage for gender specific toy selections. The banner headings for each web page category featured photographs of children. I noticed that the photos of boys, on the “Great Gifts for Boys” page, showed active, intellectual play. Two boys were looking at an atlas together and another was shown playfully wearing a ball cap backward. In contrast, the photographs on the girls’ page included only the faces of several pretty girls with long hair, not engaged in any play or academic activity. ...