Gender roles and their effects on children
By Mercedes Deutscher, Contributor
As a child, few things were more exciting than when my mom would give me a Kinder Surprise egg. Underneath that unmistakable white foil was delicious milk chocolate. Under that chocolate was a new toy. It wasn’t just any toy either: it was a unisex toy that anyone of any gender could enjoy. I had the same Kinder toys as the boys in my kindergarten, and vice versa.
So what happened?
I was puzzled two years ago when I first saw a Kinder Surprise wrapped in pink instead of the usual white. My first thought was that Kinder was having a campaign for breast cancer awareness. It wasn’t until later that I realized the truth behind these new pink eggs. The toys inside were catered to girls.
I was outraged. What is the point of separating the toys in those eggs according to gender? Sadly, Kinder is not the only company to separate toys into genders. At McDonald’s, it’s common to hear the cashier ask: “Would you like a boy toy or a girl toy in the Happy Meal?” After all, there is little room for tolerance between Hot Wheels and Barbie.
It’s a trend that has been going on for generations. A neighbour of mine once bought a toy tool shop for his three-year-old daughter, who was already growing to be quite the tomboy. When purchasing said tool shop, the cashier mentioned that the store also had play kitchens available. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen parents frustrated at a daughter who wanted to dress up as Spiderman for Halloween instead of a princess or fairy.
Why? Perhaps it’s the latest attempt of conservative parents to “control” their child’s sexuality and gender identity. Maybe it’s another indicator of a misogynistic society, teaching boys that it’s shameful to be feminine and that girls are not allowed to explore their masculine side. It’s downright terrifying that people are so afraid of these issues entering their families that they would deny their own children the chance to follow their interests.
By classifying toys as appropriate for one gender or another, society is teaching children early on that there are borders to being male or female. Children are taught that their interests don’t matter when adults deny them what they enjoy because it’s not expected from their gender.
To families and to friends, there are few parts to life more exciting than the imagination of a child. Please encourage that imagination. Encourage those interests. Focus not on the sex on a birth certificate but rather the individual within. Let your daughters be mechanics and superheroes. Let your sons wear whichever colour they choose.
The future generation will thank you.