Thursday, 20 December 2012

Blip: Christmas toy revolution

Another Christmas is coming and the same issues that arise every year are again surfacing their ugly heads. And to the chorus of collective sighs, I’m more than happy to bring up one of these arguments and make the same points as ever. No matter how many times we express our boredom at these issues, though, they will keep dipping and rising in prevalence, until they are actually resolved and until then we’ll all keep debating them. But enough of an off-topic preamble. To the issue at hand!

As Christmas nears, adverts for children’s toys start appearing; every company starts making their push for the majority share of influence over as many children as they can so that the little cretins will bug their parents until whichever cheap product they’re backing is bought and wrapped. Capitalism at work. My issue isn’t with the soulless profiteering; rather it’s with the gender assigned nature of all children’s toys. There are no children’s toys, only boys’ ones and girls’ ones. And this is signified by their colour: Blue for boys (although this is actually a lie, purely erected as a contrast to the girls; if you actually look at a boys’ toys aisle, you’ll notice many colours; they’re full of reds, blues, greens, just about anything) and pink for girls (if that mind-numbing, migraine-inducing, radioactive glow of a colour could be called pink.)

I actually take a handful of issues over this. I think it’s a problem for multiple reasons. First off, the colour choices are arbitrary. There is nothing in either of the colours that has any actual connection to child’s sex. In the Victorian era, the colours were, in fact, reversed. Pink was the boys’ colour and relatively recently it was, for no obviously apparent reason, switched. Then there is the insincerity that the colours reveal. Girls get drowned in pink, every toy in a girl’s aisle is pink with tiny highlights of pinky purple, pinky blue and pinky lilac; they don’t stray far from the core colour. Boys, however, get told their colour is blue but no actions are taken to support this. In actual fact, the girl’s colour is pink and the boys’ is simply anything but pink.

Aside from that minor issue, there is the problem of how unnecessary it all is. Why is so much effort put in to reinforcing gender divides? I’m not just talking about the whole ‘guns for boys, dolls for girls’ thing, rather the whole divide as a principle. What is it about us that says we need to be separated? There might still be some gender inequality in places, some areas are dominated by men and others by women but I think, by and large, we have moved past any aggressive patriarchy and moved past oppressive and hegemonic feminism. Surely this should be reflected in how the post-natal goblins are brought up.

A common argument is that girls like pink things so they should be allowed them. It’s missing a fundamentally obvious axiom though: They like pink because you tell them they like pink. If we genuinely arrive at independent and un-manipulated decisions about which toys we want when we’re little, why don’t children ever get the need for things they don’t have access to? How come a home-grown American child never asks for a Gamelan drum? Easy. Because they don’t get told about them. Every child’s fantasy toy exists in their local toy shop and just happens to be in the correctly gendered and aged section. This isn’t wonderful and handy coincidence. Its children developing based on what information they have. If given the choice with no arbitrary gender divide placed on it, children would all get a fair mix of toys.

We should rise up against such circular social laws and stop caring about distinctions and labels that have no real world meaning, we should liberate girls from being utterly forced from a young age to be ‘interested’ in everything pink and pitiful and we should liberate boys from having to take a man-card test every time they want to pick a new toy. But of course we won’t. The ‘rising up’ phenomenon we all talk about doesn’t actually happen in polite society; mostly we can all recognise something is wrong with this and together we do have the power to change it (after all, as consumers, we control demand, the shops and corporations just provide the supply) but we’re all too damn lazy to do anything about it. So until this problem is fixed like all first world social problems are (incrementally and above all quietly) this post serves as a gentle reminder to any who read it that one day, the toy aisle revolution will come. 


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