We as Americans tend to think little about Gender Role Stereotyping and its place in our society, but it is nevertheless an important topic to discuss. Parents, following the cues of society, purchase toys for their children that encourage the stereotypes of males being action and fighting-oriented and females focusing on friendship and child-rearing. Although this may be beneficial in some cases, there may also be repercussions for specific individuals who do not fall under those stereotypes and therefore may feel pressured to be something other than who they really are. To investigate one of the starting points of this phenomenon, I visited my local Kennesaw Toys-R-Us and found some expected and also some surprising results:
Section A: Regarding toys that had to do with adult roles, it was surprising to note that the section of the store with the cooking and shopping toys had a very mixed gender approach as far as the pictures of boys and girls on the products goes. However, with hardware and power tool toys, science toys and soldier-oriented toys, there was an apparent marketing attempt to boys, as the pictures on those products were almost strictly of boys playing with those toys.
Section B: Although there were obvious separate boy and girl sections, it seemed that for the gender neutral toys, the placement was very purposeful. For instance, an aisle of plastic blocks or bicycle helmets would be separated in the middle with girls’ on one side and boys’ on the other.
Section C: The most gender-neutral toys tended to be for infants and included products such as musical instruments. Preschool boys’ toys were already in line with the older boys’ toys, including products such as vehicles and superheroes, though there didn’t seem to be any specific preschool-age girls’ toys. From kindergarten age and up, there was a marked difference in whose toys were whose. This may be because the gender roles become much more strongly enforced around that age by parents, peers at school and society.
Section D: As stated before, the few gender neutral toys tended to be around the infant age. Other than that, there were very few gender neutral toys and it was obvious that the large majority of the toys were targeted to a specific gender.
Section E: The two most common themes for boys tended to be action and fighting.
Section F: The two most common themes for girls were friendship and child-rearing.
Section G: It was surprising to find that there was a huge lack of ethnic-specific toys. There was a small selection of girls’ dolls that were of other races but for the most part, they were heterogeneous Caucasian. One of the few examples I found of an obvious ethnic toy was of a collection of toy sets that featured an African-American girl who was a doctor.
For the most part, the data observed seemed to fall into either the gender schema or the more recent social-cognitive theory of gender role development. According to C. Estelle Campenni (1999), “Gender...