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  1. #1

    The gender gap in toys

    I know I've complained before about how toy manufacturers seem determined to reinforce gender stereotypes. I discovered something today when shopping for Easter presents that floored me, though.

    Y'know how we keep asking for various female figures, even Leia and Padme, and the answer is always "boys don't want girl figures"? Try looking for a male companion for Barbie. At TRU, Target, and Wal-Mart, I only could find one male Barbie figure, from some DVD movie. It didn't look like Ken, nor did it use that name anywhere. Honestly, it looked like this particular doll wouldn't even be interested in Barbie. (Not saying there's anything wrong with that, but, really, the guy was not manly in the least. If not for his bare chest, I would've thought he was a girl.) Okay, I'm not counting the few dudes in the $30 collector dolls, but for a toddler? No.

    You can buy every single Disney princess (aside from Kida, of course, whom they don't like to admit exists, because she could singlehandedly whoop every other Disney character all by herself). You can even buy a few supporting characters, as long as they're girls (I found her a Charlotte LeBouf doll, since she loves the character). But start looking for the dudes--no Prince Charming, no other Prince Charming, heck, not even the stinkin' Beast.

    Then again, you simply can't get a female character in any current Batman line, despite the importance of characters like Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, or Batgirl. (And wouldn't Black Canary be perfect packed with Music Meister?)

    How, really, how, can every major toy manufacturer be so blind to the fact that kids up to a certain age play with whatever they darn well please, stereotypes be damned, and it's simply not fun to have, say, a bunch of Barbies without any dudes to hang out with them? I have to admit, Hasbro is better than Mattel on this; at least we get Padmes and Baronesses and even Arcees. The only cross-gender toys I could find from Mattel were the few women in the DC lines geared toward grownups.

    If you care, I wound up getting her two Rise of Cobra Joes on clearance, since most women I know tell me they always thought Ken was a douchebag or a wuss and had their Barbies go out on dates with their brother's Joes anyway. Too bad there's no way to give her a Catwoman (her favorite Batman character) to go along with her new Gorilla Grodd (her second favorite).
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  2. #2
    Ken was retired a few years ago from the Barbie line, he just never sold that well. I honestly think the problem is that men's clothes are fashionable in the same way. Barbie represents female fashions and there are tons of variations to the theme, shapes that accent busts, shoulders, waists, legs, pretty much everything; meanwhile, Ken represents male fashion which is "square, boring" in different fruity colors and shapes. Hell, Ken doesn't even wear a hat or accessorize. If I were a little girl into Barbies, Ken wouldn't fit in that play pattern for crap. And GI Joe only accessorizes in war or adventure gear, which isn't really the same.

    I've put a lot of thought into this, my niece was into them for a while, and before that my mom collected them when I was a kid.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  3. #3
    Yeah, but if Barbie is going to complain that math is hard and primp for her big date, who is she going out with?

    Luckily for me, Chux Jr likes GIJoes, so she won't mind having two Joes to play with her Barbies (which are mostly Disney princesses, anyway). Her favorite three Joes she named "Guy" (Shockblastwave), "Girl" (Helix), and "Roastie" (Tunnel Rat). I never figured out why a short Asian dude with a bandana got such a weird name. She never bothered naming her Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow for some reason.
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  4. #4
    There is a Batgirl/Nightwing/Penguin pack coming very soon in the JLU line. They're really just BTAS figure repacks but Chux Jr. might enjoy having them.

    Interestingly enough, Mattel has attempted female heavy packouts with the JLU multipacks - Fire, Ice, John Stewart and Huntress, Galatea, Superman. Unfortunately, they're both serious pegwarmers.

  5. #5
    Think of the question at McDonald's regarding Happy Meal toys: boy or girl toy? So, if I say "boy" but don't get the toy the child wants, what do you do then?

    Or the segregated aisles of toy departments? And the color schemes there?

    Then there's the simple questions on the Census form (name, age, race, gender).

    Star Wars didn't have a single different female toy (only Leias) until the 1995+ POTF2 line (and it wasn't until, Mon Mothma in '97/'98 or Oola in '96/'97 I think). And don't try to tell me that EV-9D9 was a "girl," either.
    Last edited by Bel-Cam Jos; 03-24-2010 at 01:20 PM.
    'It is always nice to see you, says the Besalisk at the counter... And instead I pour blue milk...' From "Dex's Diner" by Su-San Vega

  6. #6
    When I was a little kid, I liked having friends to play with, including several of the girls on my street.

    I handled that well.

    When they wanted to play with Barbies, I had no problem with that.

    I used my weapons from my 12" Star Wars figures to "accessorize" all their Barbie figures and then we played with "action figures" the right way!

    Bloody Massacre at Barbie's Dream Mansion was originally my idea.

    I also got those scale sharks and alligators to help bring up the excitement level for Barbie's Dream Pool.

    Inspired by M.A.S.K., I added fighter wings from a model kit to my lady friends' Barbie Corvettes.

    And Barbie's camper van became her "pink Ops" mobile command center!

    It just took some creativity and patience, and I taught the girls the correct way to play with their toys.

    If Barbie depicted domestic life for young ladies, how was it ever going to be realistic without domestic violence?
    BAD Pts Need: R5-C7 lf leg (x2), , R4-P44 right leg BAD Pts Offered For Trade: PM me - I have lots of parts now including BG-J38!. New Kyle Katarn is also available.

  7. #7
    My daughter always wants the boy toy at McDonald's. Sometimes, it gets astonished reactions from the cashier. "But, but, but... she's a girl!" Yeah, and the girl toys always suck. So be it.
    Tommy, close your eyes.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by El Chuxter View Post
    My daughter always wants the boy toy at McDonald's. Sometimes, it gets astonished reactions from the cashier. "But, but, but... she's a girl!" Yeah, and the girl toys always suck. So be it.
    It's none of the cashiers business what toy your kid wants, they're there to get your order, take your money, and try to get you to upsize your order. Having said that, don't you think that's the exception rather than the rule? Obviously, there will be a significant number of exceptions. My wife never played with dolls and apparently had as many tonka trucks as I did. But, if you took 100 boys and 100 girls and asked each of them if they would rather have a toy from pile A (which would be toys generally labeled as girl toys) or pile B (toys generally labeled as boy toys) that a majority of the girls would pick one from pile A and a majority of boys from pile B? Toy companys are marketing to that majority, not to every child. To get the most bang for their marketing and development dollar they've stuck to the gender stereotypes. As much as they spend on marketing and research there has to be something to the fact that Prince Charming and Beast figures aren't as popular and thus profitable as Princess whoever, otherwise they'd be making them to get all the money from us they can get.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by El Chuxter View Post
    Yeah, but if Barbie is going to complain that math is hard and primp for her big date, who is she going out with?

    Luckily for me, Chux Jr likes GIJoes, so she won't mind having two Joes to play with her Barbies (which are mostly Disney princesses, anyway). Her favorite three Joes she named "Guy" (Shockblastwave), "Girl" (Helix), and "Roastie" (Tunnel Rat). I never figured out why a short Asian dude with a bandana got such a weird name. She never bothered naming her Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow for some reason.
    I suspect not every girl gives a crap about the end-result of all the styling they give their Barbies. I wonder if the majority of pre-teen girls don't think much about recreating a dating environment as much as society has placed that stigma upon them in the '60s and '70s.

    I honestly don't think Ken matters to the line, girls will use their imaginations to cover those bases if that's the route they want. There's not a lot of copies of the board game Dream Date selling these days. From what I've seen, pre-teen girls' play seems to be focused on: fashion, princesses (which is often just an offshoot of fashion), nurturing (doll babies, huggable creatures, brushing ponies' manes), crafts, homemaking, and on the outskirts there's collectible friendly adventure (Strawberry Shortcake, Smurfs).

    And honestly, I think a lot of girls' toys are too dead-ended, too much of a brief encounter because they promote too little opportunity to use imagination and to go outside the boundaries of the play pattern. A lot of girls I've known were into boys toys because they're more exciting, more dynamic, and promote more open-ended and empowering play - and that's not just a modern thing, even my grandma talks about reading her superman comics and playing with toy guns.

    At Botcon, I walked into the panel with the writers from the original Transformers cartoon, they were talking about a meeting some of them had with Hasbro about writing the upcoming My Little Pony cartoon as well. Hasbro had looked at their submitted idea and asked why there had to be an antagonist in the story, why couldn't they just prance and play every episode. One of the writers explained that there was this guy named Aristotle who postulated that all interesting stories must have this thing called conflict to drive the protagonist. And therein lies the disconnect, toymakers think girls just want to brush their ponies manes all day, that there's nothing more to the play pattern than simple nurturing. But an engrossing experience means struggling against something and overcoming it, maybe the ponies have to put out a fire in the stable, whatever, but toymakers still are having a hard time seeing girls toys as a gateway to exploring the player's imagination.

    It probably doesn't help that tween girls' brains change rapidly to focus on socializing, thus dropping interest in toys and picking up interest in cellphones and such.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by El Chuxter View Post
    My daughter always wants the boy toy at McDonald's. Sometimes, it gets astonished reactions from the cashier. "But, but, but... she's a girl!" Yeah, and the girl toys always suck. So be it.
    If your fast food employees are anything like ones in my city, it doesn't matter what you ask for. They grab the nearest bag and fill it with food. Last night I picked up Bk for my kids, one girl, one boy. Got home and found out I had 2 boy toys. Luckily one of them was pink. Half the time, I'm lucky to get the food I ordered.

    My daughters new kick is Nerf guns. If they ever made a pink one, I'd be in trouble.
    Nowhere in your incoherent ramblings did you come anywhere close to the answer. Thanks to you, everyone in this room is now stupider having heard you. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul. -Billy Madison-

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