As Connell (2002) said, “Babies were, from the start, called either male or female – labelled by the famous pink and blue baby clothes. Blue babies were expected to behave differently from pink babies-rougher and tougher, more demanding, aggressive and vigorous. In time they were given toy guns, footballs and computer games. The pink babies, by contrast, were expected to be more passive and compliant, also prettier. As they grew older they were dressed in frilly clothes, given dolls and makeup kits, told to take care of their appearance and be polite and agreeable”.
A new six-year study of gender expectations around the world found that children aged between 10 and 14 years old have already internalised the myth that “girls are vulnerable, and boys are strong and independent” (TIME, 2017). These stereotypes are very easily becoming beliefs for people, especially for the children that are still learning about everything that surrounds them. In a toy store, for example, the shelf on which are toys for the girls is surrounded in pink, full of dolls dressed up in different clothes and having different hairstyles, baby toys with carriage prams and kitchen toys starting from pots and pans to mini toy ovens. Meanwhile, the shelf with toys for the boys is different.
If the impression left from the girls’ shelves is that they are living their lives inside the house, in the park with the kids or at work to brag about their new clothes and haircuts, the boys’ world is more distinct. Just looking at the shelf, a person has already the answer to the question ‘where are the boys going?’. They go in the army, in complicated and courageous adventures, to race cars shows or to build something. A study (Made for Mums, n.d.
) realised by analysing TV commercials for toys came to the conclusion that these commercials use very different words and messages for the boys and for the girls. For boys, the most frequently used words are “power”, “heroes”, “fight”, “adventure”, while for the girls the situation is exactly the opposite. The most common words are “love”, “fun”, “magic”, “friendship”. Therefore, the adverts’ messages are expressing the same concept as the toy shelves.
The important thing to be known is that the major difference between toys develops different abilities for boys and girls. For example, the toys that are usually offered to girls develop verbal abilities, the ability to take care of things and to empathise, while for the boys it develops the abilities of orientation, the competitive spirit and the capacity of assuming risks. Even though in the daily life a person needs both categories of abilities to face certain situations, the different toys, the family, the role models, the night stories and books for kids, the school and the media restrict the personal development of an individual and even his hobbies and leisure activities such as sports or even boys and girls playing together. At first, children do not seem to care about differences between them or the toys, but as the time passes by they find out that dolls should play with other dolls and not cars.
Even though they enjoyed it, they are convinced that this is the normal way of how the situation is supposed to be. The same situation is encountered in sports. It is known that girls should take dance classes and boys should play football or basketball. They are convinced this is the right way of how things should work even though a boy would like to know how it is to dance ballet and a girl would like to learn how to score a point in a game of basketball.