How is Toys R Us shaping our Womanhood and Manhood?
We were not born into gender. You and I didn’t come out of the womb wearing pink or blue. Those were the hats we were assigned in the nursery. Our gender is defined by social, physical, and psychological impact (Allen, 2004).
Take a tour of any Toys R Us or other department store and you will find gender communicated from birth. The striking difference begins in the nursery with baby clothes and accessories. You could call them the blue and pink department and people would know the metaphorical meaning behind the color labels. Girl’s clothes are pink, sparkly, and full of frills. The themes are princess and royalty. Boy’s clothes are blue, utilitarian tops and bottoms with the themes of trucks, sports and super heroes.
Femininity and masculinity are further defined in the toy section. The girl’s section is lined with Barbie’s and dolls. The themes are dress-up, princess, care-giving (parenting, nursing and teaching), dream-home and vacation. One thing I found interesting was that Barbie who is blonde dresses in mostly pastel party dresses whereas the doll named, Jaquelle who has brunette hair is dressed more professionally in dark clothes. (Being blonde, I will try not to take this personally.) Across the aisle from the Barbie Collection are the party favors.
The themes for boys are captured in the form of action figures (GI Joe, super heroes…), trucks, sports, and building blocks. Across the aisle from the action figures are the weapons.
But are the department stores to blame for shaping our womanhood and manhood? Barely. They are only a participant in what drives the market – consumers.
After researching how Toy R Us communicates gender, I am sad to say that I am one of those consumers who perpetuates the stereotyping of females and males. For example: I have two sons who I would never dress in pink and I bought them every action figures and Lego set we could afford when they were young. When a friend of mine recently announced she was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to find out the sex in the hopes I could buy every pink, frilly, and sparkly dress I could get my hands on. It turned out to be a boy so I settled for a Seahawks Football outfit instead.
Scholar, Julia Wood defines the themes of femininity and masculinity as follows:
Femininity themes: appearance still counts; be sensitive and caring; accept negative treatment from others; and be a superwomen.
Masculinity themes: don’t be female; be successful; be aggressive; be sexual; and be self-reliant (Wood as cited in Allen, 2004).
Considering these themes and how consumerism and media communicate gender, watch the untouched images from Lena Dunham’s Vogue cover photo shoot and tell me what impacts you the most.
What struck me the most was the first picture taken of Lena posed on the edge of the bathtub. “While Adam Driver’s leg was raised to come up out of the water, his face and body were untouched; the dog was also allowed to appear in Vogue without being altered” (Coen, 2014). Lena’s position on the edge of the bathtub communicates something unspoken as well.
So what is the big deal if girls wear pink and boys wear blue or if my daughter plays with Barbie and my son plays with GI Joe toys? The issue is truly not about the colors we wear or the toys we play with. The issue is in the way these things shape our self-identity and limit us as human beings from being all that God created us to be.
When God created the world, He didn’t create a pink and blue hemisphere for females and males to live in. Scriptures sings, “You are God’s masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10). You are His greatest work of art and you are unique. God did not paint your canvas in hues of blue or pink to be like everyone else. He created this world for each individual to recognize and live out the identity that was created by and in Him, not by Toys R Us.