Are Gendered Toys Becoming a Thing of the Past?

Annelise Klopp

Everyone has seen it: the blue toys vs. the pink ones. The cars and science kits vs. the barbies. Toy stores seem to have the idea that they can decide which toys are best for which gender. Girls should play with dolls and dresses, whereas boys should play with more “manly” things like action figures and cars. In such an equality-driven society like the one we are living in now, surely there is something we can do about these biases that are present at early ages. 


As of recently, California is trying to put an end to this in department stores across the state. 


The bill was actually inspired by a young girl who complained about not feeling free to choose which toy she wanted to play with. Evan Low, a State Assemblyman, then helped to write the proposal with the girl in mind, saying that it’s important for kids to be themselves, and the bias in gendered-toy sections does little to encourage this. 


The presence of gender-based toy sections has been a thing since over 50 years ago, but recently the contrast between the two sections has been increasingly stark. Boys are being told they should play with muscular action figures and legos that encourage stereotypically “masculine” roles. Likewise, dolls targeted to girls are beauty-oriented and create unrealistic standards. These gender-centered toys aren’t only a problem when it comes to self-expression and individuality, but the values they embody also lead the way to unhealthy, stereotypical ways of thinking in the future. 


Professors and researchers have made it known that kids could suffer psychologically and developmentally if they are shown such biases from a young age. Research has shown that around the ages of 3-4, kids are especially hyper-aware of the gender roles presented in society. If they see that their toys are segregated by gender, that will lead them to think that all girls should like playing with dolls and all boys should like building with legos, which could be upsetting to them, especially if they discover they are more interested in the toys of the opposite aisle. 


Individual brands such as Mattel and Hasbro have already made strides towards more gender-neutral products. In fact, “Mr. Potato Head” is now just “Potato Head”, and Mattel is releasing a gender-neutral doll with interchangeable wigs and clothing that can be customized to what the child playing with it wants. 


Of course, some will argue that such trivial issues should not be taking the priority of states. So the question remains: is this a problem that will soon be resolved, or will it continue to be pushed to the back burner in favor of more pressing issues? 


Whatever the case, a lot of people can agree that this bill is a step in the right direction when it comes to issues such as gender equality and freedom of choice at such a young age.