The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Why is it that women are considered more suited to motherhood than men are to fatherhood? A woman is generally expected to fall perfectly into her nurturing, motherly role when she has a child. A man, however, is under no such expectation to be a nurturing father. If a child grows up with both a mother and father, then why is the mother held to a higher parenting standard when both are responsible for the child? At what point did we give up on the idea that a child needs both parents to care for them equally? I’ve always struggled to understand this concept, but now I think I know why.
Go to Walmart. Go to Target. Go to any department store that sells kids’ toys and then take a stroll down the toy aisles. On one aisle, you see Hot Wheels, Nerf guns, dinosaurs, race tracks, action figures, footballs, and superheroes. On the other aisle, you see Barbie dolls, baby dolls, Easy-Bake Ovens, stuffed animals, bracelet-making kits, clip-on earrings, and beginner makeup kits. Without being told, we know that the first aisle is meant for boys and the second for girls. We know that stores and toy companies market specific toys to boys and to girls because they have for decades. There is still a stereotype that boys like cars and superheroes and guns, while girls like dolls and makeup and jewelry. Though this alone is an issue that many people are being made more aware of, my focus is on the particular message that these toys and toy aisles send to kids.
Beginning at only a couple of years old, kids start to play with toys that have already been gendered and marketed towards them specifically. At such a young age, they don’t necessarily know what they like, but they are told quickly what they should like. When a young girl sees a commercial for a Nerf gun or for Hot Wheels, she does not see another girl playing with them— she sees a boy. When a young boy sees a commercial for a Barbie doll or an Easy-Bake oven, he does not see another boy playing with them— he sees a girl. Kids are told through commercials on TV and pictures on toy packaging that they should like and do the things that other kids like and do. So, we have girls conditioned to play with toys that prepare them for motherhood, but boys are given a wide array of toys that have little or, more often, nothing to do with fatherhood or family. While girls are learning how to take care of children and cook and grocery shop, boys are mostly left to play with toy cars and shoot guns and play sports. Women are taught to be mothers, but men are not taught to be fathers.
Instead of saying that girls shouldn’t have dolls, I say that boys need dolls, too. Even if kids grow up to decide that they do not want children or a family of their own, boys and girls should both be raised with an idea of how to nurture and care for someone. As it is, toys “for boys” do not help them to develop as much compassion or responsibility as toys “for girls.” Dolls, toy kitchens, and even toy grocery carts are all marketed toward young girls to prepare them to be a mother and wife. If we are to continue with this gender-based marketing, boys should also be prepared to be a father and husband. We cannot accept these double standards that lead to expectations for women being higher than expectations for men.