Beach Baby Rentals, LLC of Southwest Florida

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Gender Stereotypes, Baby Rentals, and You

Beach Baby Rentals is a new business, and as such, we are gradually building our inventory beyond the basics (cribs, strollers, car seats) based on customer requests and needs.  One of our offerings is a bag of indoor toys available for rent.  We ask parents for the age of the child, but very often we are offered the age and sex of the child, with the implication that the toys should be gender specific.  And while we are trying to tailor our offerings to customer desires, the gender-specific toy selection is difficult.

Gender Stereotypes and Baby Rentals Typical Doll for a 5-7 yr old

Take a look at the doll on the right.  This is one of the selections that comes up if you search for dolls for 5-7 yr olds on one of the major ecommerce websites. And if you walk through a toy store, you'll see much the same - girls toys are either focused on princesses or hypersexualized dolls that tell our little girls one thing and one thing only - be a princess or be sexy. Continue that walk through the boy's toy section, and you'll find tools, sports gear, trucks, and science kits (and if there are dolls, they are monsters or superheroes).

So what does all this mean for parents?  Here is a nice article that appeared this morning on CNN.com about this very issue and a new book on the topic that might help parents navigate this very tricky issue.  The author, Melissa Adkins Wardy, also has a website Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies that markets t-shirts with positive messages for boys and girls.

She notes in the article, "You have to connect the dots," she said. "With princess culture and all these pink toys that are almost always focused on fashion and beauty and how a girl can please somebody else, either by keeping a nice house or looking like a perfect princess, that all segues into the sexualization side of the market."

"Once you're done with princesses, if you are growing up in that girly-girly culture, the next thing offered to you are these sexualized dolls and you are growing up too fast," she said. "You are being introduced into adult concepts of sexuality that otherwise wouldn't be present in toys and it doesn't allow a girl to develop on her own, and at her own pace."

And this can adversely impact boys too:  "It teaches children there is only one way to be a girl and one way to be a boy," she said. "When you have a little girl like mine who is obsessed with the ocean and giant squids and insect infestations in homes, she's considered weird or odd or a tomboy when in fact, science and things like that should be considered girly."

So this morning, I spent a few hours trying to select age appropriate toys that are non-gendered.   Of course, there are a lot of learning toys that meet that characterization.  But beyond that, it is hard to find gender neutral toys, especially as the age category increases.  While infant toys are generally fine, once you get into the 3 year old category, the genderization takes hold very strongly.

So if you rent toys from us, expect to find a heavy dose of fun toys geared towards learning, coordination, and exercise, and very few gendered toys.  You'll see Sesame Street characters, but not Disney princesses.  As a business, this works for us as our selection of toys can be enjoyed by both boys and girls.  But it also fits in to our view of how little children benefit from play without being loaded down with unhelpful gender stereotypes.

 

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