Barbie for Boys, G.I. Joe for Girls? Toys Evolve
The stay-at-home dad is becoming an increasingly common sight in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, 20 percent of fathers with small children and working wives assumed the role of primary caretaker in 2010. In 2011, nearly 38 percent of working wives earned more than their husbands. Woman now make up 56 percent of undergraduate college students and women accounted for 61 percent of all master's degrees and 51 percent of all PhD's in 2008.
Companies are now starting to understand that men are often the primary shoppers for their families. Proctor and Gamble (PG) plans on adding men's grooming sections to selected retail stores in the coming year since men are now buying toiletries for the home.
Toy companies that traditionally target young girls are now also trying to appeal to their fathers. Mattel (MAT) is introducing Barbie construction sets next week with the hopes that dads will be more motivated to purchase something that appeals to them and isn't emasculating.
Non-gender toys are just the beginning. Harrods of London created a controversy when it revealed a gender-neutral toy department and a Swedish preschool recently banned gendered pronouns.
The Barbie construction sets also demonstrate a growing trend of educational toys marketed toward girls -- blocks and construction sets are said to improve spatial thinking. Increased spatial thinking helps with math, science, engineering, and technological careers, professions that tend to be dominated by men.
Even though toys are becoming gender neutral, cries of sexism still abound. The new Barbie construction sets only include the options to build things like pet shops, luxury mansions, fashion boutiques, and beach houses.
Barbie has certainly evolved since her "math is tough" days but there is still a long way to go until toys stop instilling gender bias in young children.
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