Last night, our dinner table was entranced in a debate on the socialization of children and why there are differences between genders. In order to better understand the debate on social and biological influences, I plan to start off by going through the reasoning from both sides and see how both contribute to how children behave.
There’s no point in denying that society has a major influence on the way children act and what they want. Even from the moment babies are born they are culturally divided. Baby girls are usually showered in pink clothes, toys, and bedroom décor while boys are pushed into liking blue. Yellow and green are often considered the gender-neutral colors, but I would not go on to say they are close to being as frequent as the other two colors.
As children grow up, they face mass marketing of what boys and girls are supposed to play with. It doesn’t take many commercials on a kid’s television program to see how many toys are advertised solely to boys or girls. For example, girls play with, accessorize, and dress Barbies; on the other hand, boys construct racetracks and ride Hot Wheels cars around them. I would even argue that the gender gap worsened when Bratz dolls were introduced in 2001. Although Barbie is a terrible representation of how a woman looks—especially with physically impossible measurements— there were at least several times when she would hold a profession that empowers women, such as a doctor or astronaut. I personally loved the fact that Barbie could be seen as a trendy, fun woman but could have any career she wanted. Bratz dolls are, in no way, role models. They are sassy and fun but lack any redeeming traits. Their eyes and lips are over-sexualized, especially for the young age group they are meant for.
Boys also face a dilemma when choosing which toys to play with. Video games tend to market to boys and men, emphasizing the violence from gameplay and manliness of the characters. In the late 1990s, Nintendo 64 became the game console of choice and Super Smash Bros. one of its most popular games. After sifting through a good number of Youtube videos, I found that most of the commercials had boys playing the games or wishing they could have them. Also, it’s interesting to note how the handheld device Game Boy has “boy” in the name instead of “girl” or “kid”. The target audience of most video games is clear: as much as gaming executives may try to deny it, they are specifically advertised towards boys.
Not every child who plays with a gender-specific toy chooses to be on opposite sides of the pink/blue spectrum. Many of my girlfriends enjoy playing video games as much as other guys and have played them since their childhood. In elementary school, every kid attending after school daycare would vie for Super Smash or Mario Kart, not just the boys. At home, my brother would not hesitate to play “house” with my sister and me or pretend to make food in the play-kitchen. Whether or not my experiences are exceptions to socialization, I think it is a little unreasonable to say it is the only cause of why girls like dolls and “boys will be boys”.
In my next blog, I will look at how nature determines how we are separated by genders. Because I have a lot more research to do and this blog is running long already, I will post my findings in a couple of days. Until then, what do you think? Does socialization have as much of an impact on us as people make it out to?