Girls, Boys, Toys — And Gender

Just in time for the holidays, we’ll look at boys, girls, gender identity – and the way we make and market toys. Plus, we look at new GM CEO Mary Barra, the first female leader of a major American auto company.

Barbie toys are displayed at a Target Store in Colma, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.  (AP)

Barbie toys are displayed at a Target Store in Colma, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. (AP)

So, the new CEO of General Motors is a woman, Mary Barra.  An engineer and now mega-boss.  But stroll the aisles of your nearest mega-toy store, and you will see few signs of girls being encouraged to take that path.  Or for that matter, of boys being signaled they might take the path of super chefs like Mario Batali or Gordon Ramsay.  When it comes to toys and gender, America’s toyland is as segregated and color-coded as it’s ever been.  Maybe more so.  Pink and blue and hyper gender-segregated.  Up next On Point:  boys, girls, gender identity and the way we make and market toys.

— Tom Ashbrook


Abha Bhattarai, Retail, hospitality and banking reporter for The Washington Post. (@abhabhattarai)

Melissa Atkins Wardy, CEO of the online clothing and toy company Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies. Author of the forthcoming “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight The Stereotyping and Sexualization of Girlhood, from Birth To Tween.” Executive director of the Brave Girls Alliance. (@PigtailPals)

Elizabeth Sweet, PhD candidate in sociology at UC Davis, where she focused on gender and children’s toys. (@ElizabethVSweet)

From Tom’s Reading List

TIME: The War on Pink: GoldieBlox Toys Ignite Debate Over What’s Good For Girls — “True, as toy stores have gotten pinker, women have made more progress in the workplace. All those cute little vacuum cleaners and mini baby bottles haven’t discouraged girls from going to college or excelling in academic fields other than science. Women make up the majority of undergrads and are entering law school in equal numbers to men. So it’s clear that gendered toys aren’t entirely to blame for the dearth of female engineers—a myriad of reasons from lack or mentors to childhood development contribute as well.”

New York Times: Guys and Dolls No More? — “If toys were marketed solely according to racial and ethnic stereotypes, customers would be outraged, and rightfully so. Yet every day, people encounter toy departments that are rigidly segregated — not by race, but by gender. There are pink aisles, where toys revolve around beauty and domesticity, and blue aisles filled with toys related to building, action and aggression.”

Washington Post: Forget the next ‘it’ toy: Barbies, Legos are tops this season — “In a year when one toy has yet to emerge as the must-have of the season, analysts say retailers and consumers are reverting to the basics: cars, dolls, Legos and bicycles. But that may not be enough to save what many expect to be a slow holiday shopping season. ‘There are no hot toys this year; there really aren’t,’ said Gerrick Johnson, a toy industry analyst at BMO Capital Markets. ‘We don’t have a Tickle Me Elmo or a Zhu Zhu Pet or a Cabbage Patch Kid — nothing that is approaching phenomenon status.'”

G.M.’s New CEO Mary Barra

Jerome Vaughn, news director at WDET-FM in Detroit. (@jvdet)

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 27, 2015
Josh Baldonado, an administrative assistant at Brown & Brown Insurance, works at a treadmill desk in the firms offices in Carmel, Ind., Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. (AP)

The end of sitting at work. A new call to get up off our chairs. To stand and move! We’ll look at how that works.

Nov 27, 2015
The punk rock band Sleater-Kinney (from L: Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker) (Courtesy the Band)

Feminist punk-rockers, the band Sleater-Kinney, is with us. Reunited. Hotter than ever.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »