Favorite Pastime: Bike Riding
Gift Request: Transformer Action Figure
Relation to Hunter: Cousin
Toys bring so much joy to a child, but shopping for them can be really stressful for everyone, especially when you take into consideration how gendered toys can affect a child and the messages they can send. Since Hunter is my cousin, I knew that his favorite activity was to bike ride, and I thought about getting him a bike as a gift because I knew it would make him happy. I had done some research and was able to find a bike for $79.99. It was the perfect find because it was decorated with the superheroes that Hunter requested for his gift.
Newman explains that “toys and games that parents provide for their children are another influential source of gender information. A quick glance at Saturday morning television commercials or a toy manufacturer's catalog or web site reveals that toys and games remain solidly segregated along gender lines” (Newman 112). While shopping for the bike, it was clear that there are distinctly gendered stereotypes of bikes. Bikes “for girls” were painted with light and soft colors, while the “bikes for boys” had dark colors, or superheroes painted on them. I was unable to find any bikes, that were unisex or gender neutral because the gender stereotypes manifested in the bikes went even beyond the paint. The structure of the bike can either indicate strong masculinity and sends a message of rough terrain biking and adventure or a bike decorated in baskets and ribbons that suggest it is to be ridden with friends around the paved driveway.
Baskets and ribbons are not the only bike accessories that deepened the gendered stereotypes of the bikes. Since safety is an issue for all, I needed to find a set of knee pads and a helmet. The set of items cost $24.99 all together and was an excellent fit into my budget. The helmet and knee pads were silver and decorated with characters from the Transformers. Even the helmet and reiterated the gender roles implied for children and the constant message of alpha masculinity in the toys of young boys.
With that portion of Hunter’s wish list complete and some money in my budget left over, I moved on to find an action figure for him to play with. I was able to easily find a Transformer action figure which I felt was the perfect match to Hunter’s request. I was able to find the action figure at a cost of $22.99. The figure was not of a particular color that represented a certain gender identity, however it definitely portrayed masculine characteristics. The edges were rough, appeared strong, unstoppable, and physically powerful which reiterates the gender characteristics of toys marketed towards young boys. Messner suggests that masculinity in boys is neither completely innate at birth nor developed from influence others, but rather “it is shaped and constructed through the interaction between the internal and the social” (Messner 121). Messner argues that the interaction of these is what develops gender identities for children as they grow up. This Transformer action figure is an example the social component which influences gender identities in children. I was also able to find a Transformer key chain valued at $4.99, which I also included into gift bag for Hunter.
I also decided to buy Hunter a Batman superhero action figure, which also reinforced the message of alpha masculinity sent through a toy. Batman appears as a heteronormative superhero that perfectly defines the hegemonic male with chiseled features and powerful strength. I chose Batman because of the recent release of another Batman movie, and knowing many boys would want to have this toy as a result.
Since the Transformer characters are not actually human but rather machines, the role of race did not come into play when shopping for Hunter based on his request. If Hunter has asked for an action figure such as a Power Ranger, the role of race when choosing which character to get for Hunter would have been present. Batman however does not come in more than one race, so that issue did not exist.
The subject of sexuality does not come into play as much when shopping for young boys as it does when shopping for girls. The way feminine dolls and figurines are dressed can greatly affect a young girl but based on the requests of Hunter, I was able to avoid that issue as well.
After shopping for Hunter and doing extensive search online for toys, it was evident that there is definitely a barrier between gendered toys. There are different approaches in how toys are marketed and appear towards children. There are very few toys that and neutral in gender and restricts enforces a stereotype and ideology on children that they had no input on.
Messner, Michael. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (1990): 120-137. Print.
Newman, David M.. Identities and Equalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality.
Key Chain. Photograph.
Batman. 29 May 2009