This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Adya Vac. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Toys That You Choose For Your Kids Might Influence How They Perceive Gender

More from Adya Vac

By Adya Vac:

What is the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when someone says ‘toy shop’? The images would be a panorama of colors you had no idea existed and so many toys and games you wished were available when you were kids. On the other hand, some nostalgia might even prompt you to pity kids today, because they can’t get some things you had when you were young, and for you that makes a world of a difference.

toys gender

So last weekend, I walked into a toy shop at a big mall in a big city with my friend who had to buy toys for his 3 year old niece. For a moment there, we were baffled! Its practically been ages since we were kids, and we had to make some effort to dig into our memories and somehow relate to the countless variety available, most of which didn’t make sense to us at first sight. As we walked by every aisle and shelf we realized there were very few toys or games whose ‘purpose’ we could identify, and thus we had to resort to picking up the rest and reading the instructions. Imagine the embarrassment when the instructions were in a foreign language like Chinese and we had to ask the salesman what it was for. People in their early twenties trying to figure out toddler games. And after it was firmly established by the store owners or salespersons that we were thoroughly lost in this maze, help came, or should I say, prejudice?

A young man walked up to us and asked us if we needed help, ‘Yes’ we replied immediately. His first question, “Is it a boy or a girl?”. It was a seemingly simple and innocent question. And yet, at that point I realized what today I think quite a number of youngsters are recognizing as a pattern. A pattern in the way our society is structured and the way we are brought up. When we told him that it was a girl, he directed us to a small section of the store reserved for toys for the female sex, and what do we see there? I’m quite sure you already know; dolls in different attires, make up kits, jewelry making kits, stitching kits, kitchen sets. Now contrast it with the other toys and games available for the ‘boys’, from superhero puzzles to explorer kits to guns and board games and lego houses to architectural toys and walkie talkies, there was no end to the choices. And with this stroll around that store, and some others as well, one fact was and is very readily stated; girls are meant to stay at home, and boys can choose from a myriad of options.

It is disturbing that the society’s expectations from such young children are biased according to the gender. Do I even need to elaborate on what the child learns from such prejudices? Do I need to point out how children are made to understand their ‘place’ in the world? And while some parents might buy more than kitchen sets for their baby girls, I have yet to come across parents who would buy a kitchen set or a doll for their sons. One side of the coin, this is an example of how some girls may be given more than the stereotyped choices, at least as far as their toys are concerned, but men will always stay at the top, they will not be demeaned by ‘kitchen sets’. The other side of the coin is a bit more complicated.

Today, we see more and more girls getting out of their house, the statistics still being far from satisfactory, but are fortunately moving in a positive direction. Yet men are still burdened with the same jobs. How many of us would let our boys be interested in clothes and recipes? Some of you may point out that today many leading chefs and designers are men. But what about the majority? You may take inspiration from exceptions but you don’t base the reality on them. How many men would even accept in front of their peers that they are not interested in the ‘conventional’ jobs for men? Or worse, how many would know that there are ‘other’ kinds of options available?

My job here was to raise the questions, and I have done that. It is now your job to find answers. And one of the first stepping stones is the toy store. Who are we buying for? A girl or a boy?

This article was originally published here.

You must be to comment.
  1. Prashant Kaushik

    Nice article. I understand your point but still it is quite debatable. I still think that kids choose their toys more by their convenience and liking and less by what society expects them. When I grew up, there were both kind of toys in my home- Dolls type and Cars type. No one told me , my inclination was automatically drew towards Cars, Guns etc. I remember I never cajoled my parents for dolls as much for cars I did. My another fascination was for ‘Kite flying’. But that was also purely natural and no one pushed me for that. Today i can recall, there were very less girls from our street who would fly kites so enthusiastically.

    I think Toys or Games are a manifestation of real world. We pick games as per our fantasies and thoughts, which are, just like the outer body, as we grow bit influenced by the gender.

    Girls love for dolls is not just a phenomenon of so called patriarchal Indian society but rather the whole west also.

    So equality is a nice concept, but don’t push it so hard on the kids. Let them play with what they want.

    1. adya00

      I love the fact that you had both kind of toys in your house, and that’s exactly what I’m saying; the choice should be available, without a bias.
      Further, its not Indian Patriarchy, that I pointed out, it’s the global trend that I wrote about! And also how toys are kept in different sections for girls and boys in the toy stores. I do have issues with that, because by doing that we are stereotyping.

    2. Pragmatic_Dreamer

      I too remember being equally flabbergasted at the options available & the cost!
      Anyway you have indeed put across an interesting point. I have noticed that a child’s choice for their toys are highly influenced by the ads & shows on Television.
      Just hope that “new” parents show their kids all the kinds of toys available & let them choose what they like rather than what the parents think is best…

  2. John A Raju

    This is an interesting observation but like Prashant, it was my choice that determined what i wanted and i usually went for cars or puzzles and building stuff. And my sister would go for kitchen sets nd stuff usually, though we ended up playing with each other’s toys as well. I have never thought of toys as a stereotype setter though subtly that is what demarcating sections for kids toys does in the end, i guess.

More from Adya Vac

Similar Posts

By Ankita Marwaha

By Shubhi Srivastava

By Amrit Mahapatra

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below