Toys vs Gender

A look at toys, and what gender stereotypes that they reinforce.

“Mr.” Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head is an iconic toy that has been enjoyed by children since the 1950’s. While the toy originally only offered masculine accessories, a Mrs. Potato head was soon added. Today Mr. Potato head still has separate versions, despite the base being the exact same. Taking different accessories from both Mr. and Mrs. can create a few interesting combinations, allowing children to experiment with masculine and feminine features.

Here kid, have a gun.

Toys that are marketed towards boys tend to be more violent in nature.
This Nerf gun is huge. It ways over 7 pounds! Playing “war” is something that is society had pushed on young boys for a long time. (It should be noted that Nerf has recently came out with a line of guns marketed towards girls.) These toys that are violent in nature are ingrained in societies perception of how young boys should act. According to society, young boys should be tough, they should roughhouse, they should get in trouble… Girls on the other hand should learn to cook, to clean to…


When I was growing up, this is what a typical girls toy looked like. Companies didn’t create toys that looked like weapons, or sports toys for girls. Girls toys were about shopping, make up, fashion and cooking. Luckily now we have a little more variety in the toy aisle. Although when you go to the toy aisle you will still see the “roles” the toy companies want little boys and girls to act out.

G.I. Joe vs Ken. Can you spot the differences?

Who’s who? Well here is your answer, Ken is on the right, while G.I. Joe is on the left. The most noticeable difference is the crazy muscles on the G.I. Joe. The Ken doll, a “girls” toy, has a much more realistic body than the “boys” toy. The G.I. Joe has more points of articulation presumably for play and action. The more you look at them, the more you can see how society wants us to do gender, especially at such a young age.

Get them while they’re young

This is one of the first toys I ever owned. It’s a weapon, and a viscous looking helmet. Taking these sociology classes has me questioning how I was raised. Did the toys my parents buy, and the companies that sold the toys to them, influence the way I perceive gender now? I think the answer is yes. Toys are a way for kids to do gender. I think education is important to teach kids that people can like masculine and feminine things, and being different does not make you unequal.
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2 thoughts on “Toys vs Gender”

  • I thought it was so interesting how you showed the differences in muscle with the G.I. Joe figure compared to the Ken doll. I never personally realized that there was a difference until you pointed it out! It is crazy how something as simple as a boy action figure and a girls boy doll can be so different from each other when they are supposed to be showing the “same” gender.

  • Your use of toys and how it does and undoes gender was a really cool approach. The mashup of Mr/Mrs. Potato Head was interesting to just throw together, and may even be something to show as an example of a nonbinary individual. Questioning the toys you were raised with and the companies that sold them to parents and makes us question now on why we continue to do so, besides thinking of capitalism.

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