Name: Karl Dent Instructor: Morgen Thomas SP13: SOC 101 Date: Mar 19, 2013 “A Toy’s Story Observation” When you think about toys the first thing that comes to mind is the joy they gave when you were a kid growing up, and the smile they put on your kid’s face when you see them playing with them on a daily basis. What if toys could talk? What information would they give us? What would they tell us? Recently I set out on a quest to better understand what information I could get just by looking at the toys in my local neighborhood toy store and how they shape the mind of kids from a young age.
Unfortunately for me, the day I went to the toy store there were not many people shopping, so this made my research a little harder to complete. I wandered around the store for several hours, going through many different aisles and looking at many different toys. At times I felt like I was being watched; it was so quiet I could hear whispers as if the little action figures were giving me the information I needed. By looking at toys as a way of seeing things from a sociological stand point, I can understand why the manufacturers of toys make certain types and what goals they are trying to accomplish.
By studying different toys, I started to use them as tools to see the world in a new way and to see how they shape society from both nature and nurture. My views of toys were like sociological imagination; I started to see how contextual our lives are. I then realized our individual identities were only sensible in a social context. But how can you look at toys and figure out how humans behave in our society? The only possible answer I found to my question was sociology. Toys help to form one important aspect of our lives which we come to understand as gender identity.
By having toys specific to boys and girls it helps us to understand what it means to be male or female. Understanding gender identity is said to be one of the most important ways we develop who we are and where we belong in our society. With many of the toys I observed, I noticed they would have a specific age group on the box, which is known as the functional age symbol. This helps parents understand the expected developmental growth of their child, being able to compare it with the age of the kids on the toy boxes.
There was a lot of cooking toys for girls, and a lot of police toys for boys, which illustrated to me gender inequality. These toys present the message that men are dominant and above women. By looking at the boxes they showed boys play an authority figure of catching bad guys and there weren’t any girl cops on any of the police toys that I saw. This led me to believe that they saw women as being weak and not able to go out and be a police officer in the community that they would eventually grow up and be a part of.
There were also toys that sent the message that some men were over other men and some women where over other women. G. I. Joe toys are a way of showing boys what they should grow up to be, while a princess doll shows a girl that she is expected to be a pretty lady. This is the process of general socialization in our society. While this process starts at birth, it continues throughout our lives by way of the nurturing of kids through toys. Laser tag toys are more group oriented because they require more than one person to play.
This then teaches group cohesion, this is where an individual would start learning how to work as a team while playing with other people. Looking at a play house princess set you can see how that particular toy prepares girls for the future role that society would proclaim them to have. Society expects our girls to grow up and be wives, the one who is always back at home taking care of the kids and the house and making dinner for the husband. The differences in toys between girls and boys also create gender inequality.
It would lead you to think that girls will grow up doing just domestic jobs and that boys will grow up to be cops, soldiers, firefighters, etc. Gender inequality also creates a wage gap for women in our society because it puts male and female with the same potential on an unequal playing field. NBA toys are modeled after real people. They were of James, Bosh, Williams, Durant and Griffin which are all black male players. There were not any female basketball toys; this showed the separation of race, sex, color and gender, and how sports and athletes are seen in American society.
By giving athletes the achieved status of celebrity and role model, it enables the toy company to create a new market of toys based on the person and not the sport. By not promoting female sports as much as male sports, we are sending a message that male sports are more dominant than female sports and males are more important than females when it comes to sports. There were not any white basketball toys and this was an appeal by the toy company to get whiter kids involve in basketball so they can be famous and one day own their own toy in a toy store.
Separating gender by toys can also lead to other things such as stigma and sanction by family, friends and even teachers. A girl playing with a boy toy and doing boy things will be seen as a tom boy and a boy playing with a girl toy will be seen as s sissy. This can cause serious sanction by parents if they are around friends out in public and society will view this as being deviant because they are going against the norm of what is expected from them. Ranking boys above girls is a form of social inequality and relates to the structure of mobility because it brings about what is called social stratification.
One set of toys that stood out were the Home Depot toys. They showed white males being builders and taking control of the development of buildings and handling tools. This was showing men as being engineers and future bosses and did not show where girls could do the same jobs as men in the future. By not giving girls the opportunity from a young age to do what they want, we continue to limit the ability of women in our society. Toys are a very important way for kids to develop. This is one of the many ways they learn to start sharing things with each other.
Toys help kids to understand their roles and gender. Day-care, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten are very good places for kids to start their venture of learning. This is where individuals and groups get a chance to interact. In this setting, they have the ability to focus on the creation of their personal identity through playing with toys and others. Of particular interest is the relationship between individual action and group pressures. Having this opportunity to be away from their parents and spend time around other kids will help them nderstand what friendship is and learn the difference between boys and girls. We can expand military toys not only to boys but also to girls because women have proven to be just as productive in the military work forces as men. Allowing boys to play with dolls without being sanctioned is a good way of teaching them how to take care of a child and be more loving when they hit adulthood. Making NBA toys for both males and females is a way to promote the WNBA as much as we do for the men and to gain the interest in the sports for more women.
Making white NBA toys will show our kids that white basketball players are as good as black. Teaching girls how to work in construction is not a bad thing because women can also be successful engineers and builders. Domestic jobs such as taking care of the kids should be taught to boys and not just girls. Giving girls more access to the things that are normally set aside for boys from an early age and allowing social mobility will allow them to move from one class to another. If we made these changes we could reduce gender inequality in our society between girls and boys.