The Ridiculous Crusade for Gender-Neutral Toys

Gender-neutral toys

Christina Hoff Sommers—who literally wrote the book on the war on boys—notes that there’s a movement afoot to de-gender toys. Target has pulled the “boys” and “girls” labeling from their toy aisles. The White House recently hosted a “summit” on the perils of gender-specific toys. Time proclaims that “the next generation of kids will play with gender neutral toys.”

This is crazy on two counts. First, the kind of people who obsess about gender-neutral toys don’t, as a demographic fact, have many children. In America these days, childbearing tends to be the counter-cultural province of people who aren’t social justice warriors.

Second, even if you give kids gender neutral toys, they’ll gender the heck out of them on their own. Trust me, I know.

In my house, we’re basically hippie parents. We don’t read Dag Hammarskjöld to the kids at bedtime, but we do use a “peace rose” to, as the consultants say, facilitate reconciliation following interpersonal conflict. We favor natural fibers for linens and clothing, occasionally have family meetings where we whiteboard our concerns, and are suckers for the organic food scam. The kids go to a hippie Montessori school where they “choose their own work” and don’t get grades. And we’ve always favored the kind of constructive, creative toys that the non-gender toy people love. Not on purpose, mind you—this wasn’t an ideological decision, it just sort of happened. My son has never owned a single action figure and my daughters own only one Barbie doll, which was a gift from a relative close enough that we couldn’t return it.

Yet it turns out that gender stereotypes exist for a reason. When he was four, our eldest, a boy, discovered that sticks make for highly effective swords. Later he realized that the removable flag from the Safety Turtle was an even better weapon, since it could be used as a sword, spear, or lance. Every time he went outside he made himself a weapon and went off to battle imaginary villains.

safety turtle

His sisters, meanwhile, gravitated toward decidedly less aggressive play. They use sticks as fairy wands and carry little Ziploc baggies of glitter which they sprinkle as “pixie dust.” In their games, there are no “bad guys,” only perilous situations— “Don’t fall off that cliff!”—where they have to help one another with their “magic.”

Over the years we’ve noticed that whenever a “non-gendered” toy is introduced into their habitat, the kids appropriate it along stereotypically gendered lines. Example: A few years ago there was a Rainbow Loom craze, where kids took tiny rubber loops and wove them into bracelets. Everyone was doing it. We bought thousands of the things for our kids. The girls wove bracelets that they collected and gave to their friends. The boy also wove bracelets—until he realized that he could use the rubber loops to weave a long elastic cord that he was then able to tie to a flexible piece of wood. He used the Rainbow Loom to build a workable bow. He never made another bracelet.

rainbow loom

We never taught our kids any of this stuff. They just arrived at it on their own. Because—I understand that this is a radical concept—boys and girls are different.

As I stare at my children’s play room right now, here are the toys I see: A 5-foot-tall cloth teepee; a large set of Magna-Tiles; a Q-Ba-Maze; Moluk Bilibos (which are even weirder than whatever you’re picturing right now); and about 30,000 Legos. Like I said, we’re hippies.

moluk bilibo

Here is what the children do with those toys: All of them use the teepee, the girls as a “fairy house” and the boy as a fort. The girls use the Magna-Tiles to build interesting geometric shapes. The boy most recently used the pieces from the Q-Ba-Maze—which is a modular marble-maze contraption—to build a “laser blaster.”

And when it comes to Legos? The girls spend hours designing princess castles and houses, with intricate rooms for their Lego minifigures. The boy has created a series of fighter jets, each one with more missiles and cannons and bombs than the last.

One of the oddities of modern life is that polite society currently insists that you are “born this way” if you are homosexual or misgendered. But when it comes to boys who like to play with swords and build fighter jets? For some reason, this is viewed as a societal construct that should be eradicated so that they’ll want to play with dolls.

As we’ve discovered at my house, this is a project that’s doomed to fail.

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18 responses to “The Ridiculous Crusade for Gender-Neutral Toys

  1. Quote: “One of the oddities of modern life is that polite society currently insists that you are “born this way” if you are homosexual or misgendered. But when it comes to boys who like to play with swords and build fighter jets? For some reason, this is viewed as a societal construct that should be eradicated so that they’ll want to play with dolls.”
    Add to that the fact that’s is “good” to assist in any change of sexual identity, except that from male homosexual to male hetrosexual. That latter is a crime in California. You are branded “intolerant” if you do that—even if that male homosexual is eager to make the change.

    This madness has a purpose. It’s an attack not just on traditional religious values but on reason, experience and thinking in general. Your article points out that your own experience demonstrates that boys want to be boys and girls want to be girls. And your closing remark points to the illogic of contrary ideas. They are not even consistent with one another. That’s true because the point of all this is to remove any ability to think outside boxes determined by those who consider themselves our betters. That’s why we’re “deplorable” and must be silenced. We insist on reasoning, thinking, and learning from experience.
    My soon-out book, Embarrass Less: A Practical Guide for Doctors, Nurses, Students and Hospitals, may draw fire for that very reason. It’s a useful guide to those who want to make healthcare situations, particularly hospitals, less embarrassing for patients.

    It’s based on my experience as the only male member of the nursing staff on the teen unit of one of the country’s top ten children’s hospitals. I describe in detail what was all too obvious to our staff, that teen boys and teen girls dealt with the stresses of hospitalization very differently, including the issues of embarrassment. I give numerous illustrations and explain why those differences exist. I even point out why, given how hospitals are organized, teen girls typically cope better than teen boys.

    Yes, there’s lots of reasoning, thinking, and learning from experience in the book, so these ideologues are likely hate it. Those who actually care for patients, however, will love it as extremely honest and practical. One of my main points is that teens, since they wear their emotions so openly, can tell us a lot about what’s going on in the minds of adults. That’s why this book should improve healthcare for people of all ages.

    The book itself should be out in just a few weeks and available from almost every book and ebook retailer on the planet. Those who’d like to review it can contact me via Inkling Books. To soften with what at times can be a serious topic, the cover shows two cute kids playing doctor. You can find the cover design hosted by Adobe here.

    The book was a long and difficult labor, but immensely enjoyable to write.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Auburn, AL

    1. Congratulations Jonathan! You are the face of the gender neutral movement! You and your family represents everything the gender neutralists want to achieve (except for your negative outlook, maybe). You took a simple toy like the rainbow loom which is primarily marketed toward a female demographic, introduced it to both your son and daughter, and something amazing came out of it! Your son built a bow!

      Its amazing that both parents are open minded enough to encourage their children with equal play and it’s even more amazing that your kids like what they like because of this, but you have to remember that not all parents think the same way you do. It doesn’t matter that the outcome sees your son liking stereotypical “boy” things or that your daughters like stereotypical “girl” things.

      The point of gender neutrality isn’t to discourage gender or to eliminate it all together. Gender neutral is the inclusion of all forms of gender expression (i know the term is a little misleading). If your son likes to play with trucks and roll around in the mud, good for him! if your daughter likes to do the same thing, then good for her too! Society at large is still very separated when it comes to gender, and children pick up on these images and patterns regardless of if you encourage them with equal play. The point isn’t to protect them from society until the rest of the world decides to catch up. The point is to show your children that while they are at home or at school they are free to play without societal restrictions until the time comes when your child can tell you for themselves who they are and what they like.

      For your children, that time might be now and it might be easier for them, but the simple fact is you didn’t know who they were until they became just that. A child who is naturally deviant from the “normal” portrayal of “girl and boy” shouldn’t have to go through an identity crisis for most of their lives just to realize once they get to college that something is wrong. So maybe your children didn’t benefit from gender neutral play like you thought they would, but i bet you they are going to grow up being more open and accepting to those children who did benefit from it because you were understanding enough not to raise your children in a gender segregated bubble of ignorance.

      So thank you Jonathan for being a progressive and kickass parent! your children sound awesome!

  2. “Time proclaim that “the next generation of kids will play with gender neutral toys.” ”


  3. Feminism is cancer. Gender is not a social construct. Deal with it, feminiazis and social justice retards. Your gender studies degrees are useless….unless you need kindling for a fire.

    1. You don’t understand what the phrase social construct is (it’s not an either/or; basically everything is socially constructed to some degree; the question is to what degree and what other influences it has) and I doubt you understand what the word feminism means.

      1. LMFAO! Wooooaaaahhh duuuude. That’s deeeep, man…girl…shim, whatever you identify as. And you end your comment with a vague setup to regurgitate the dictionary definition of feminism, which does not accurately describe modern feminism at all. Go get your septum pierced.

        1. Sometimes I’m reminded of how certain virtues are necessary (or at least very helpful) for accessing truth.

  4. My experience with my son has been similar. We are definitely not hippies, but I halfway believed the idea that gendered toys were socially-imposed constructs, so I wanted my son to have the option to play with whatever he wanted. What he wanted was anything with wheels, lights or buttons. He is almost three, and he exclusively plays with cars and trains, or wooden shapes or puzzles. He has a pile of stuffed animals, and he has never played with any of them, not even at bedtime. Even as an infant, his favorite toys were the ones that had moving parts he could examine to find out how they worked. I can only conclude that whoever came up with this idea of gender-neutral toys has never actually worked with or parented children.

  5. I agree that boys and girls are different, and when I managed a specialty toy store, I saw examples like yours all the time. But I do think it’s beneficial not to do things like label Legos as a “boy toy” in a store. Many parents don’t buy their daughters building toys because they’re in the boy section, so their daughters never get to build those princess castles. Or craft kits are seen as being for girls, so boys don’t get to experiment with their creative side. Does that make sense? So to me, a gender-neutral toy doesn’t mean that all children will or must play with it the same way. It just means that parents might end up buying their kids toys they might not have before.

  6. Removing gendered labels for toys isn’t for those kids whom you might call stereotypically masculine or feminine, but for those who aren’t. (Or those who would like to be not stereotypically masculine or feminine but are prevented by by the intense gender socialisation kids perform on each other.) Even if the non-gender-typical group are only 1%, removing gendered labels is an admirable policy that leaves the 99 for the 1, if I can quote Jesus for a second. Removing gendered labels will do no harm to the 99% – as you well articulate, those are entirely capable of gendering their own toys without the help of labels in shops. But it will do a lot of good for gender-atypical kids – as well as thoughtful kids like this:

  7. Sorry but this is irrelevant and make not any sense. You only talk about your experiences with your kids which is no bad at all, but this new legalitation gonna affect to our entirely country no just your family lol. You should think out of the box and this article is focused by your side. Resources have shown that kids playing with neutral toys are more like to be thoughful and care to anothers, and also its good because kids can develop many kind of skills when they explore with those toys. Gender preferences for toys only show up after children learn about their gender which is in the age of 3-5 that is what happened with your kids. Since now, parents have to allow their kids think openly to avoid bullying at schools and craps like that.

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