Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Genderrific Toy Preferences

As I've mentioned on another blog, yet another study has enjoyed some news coverage for showing some preference among young males for "boys'" toys. The twist: They're monkeys! Yes, and not just monkeys, but mostly cute little juvie monkeys. That alone is worth the news coverage, for me; if I had my way, my morning Washington Post would just be about monkeys from end to end. With lots of pictures.

I have many questions about the necessity to fund such studies, cover them in the press, and marvel at them in classes. It's not that it's not interesting, and it's not that nifty little studies don't get grants all the time. It's just that I've long been puzzled about the importance of and widespread interest in the toy preference thing. Why toys? What is so fascinating about a small difference in gender preference for toys? Am I the only one stumped at its significance?

Note, by the way, that the toys used were trucks and dolls, yet no mention is made in the coverage in the New Scientist of the fact that an important difference in these two toys is the presence of facial features on one and not on the other. The emphasis of the author is on hard things with wheels vs. soft plushy objects. So the methodological issues abound.

1 comment:

Evelyn Brister said...

My toddler boy's favorite toys usually have wheels or parts that move. But this week he's inseparably attached to a tea set.

There was a famous sociological study in the '70's (Rheingold and Cook 1975) that surveyed what toys kids are provided with. Both get puzzles and crayons. Boys are given vehicles and farm animals but not dolls and stoves.

At a feminist conference a few years ago, I heard a contemporary replication of the study. The researchers found that the toys that kids are given had not changed much. The most predominant type of toy owned by girls was the sort of non-action figure that has long hair to comb.