If we're going to smash the patriarchy properly for future generations, we're going to have to start early. And, according to a new study, it should begin with what toys we buy our kids.
Researchers at the University of Western Sidney MARCS Institute found via a recent study that little boys tend to prefer playing with dolls over something "masculine" like a toy truck. Which is to say, we as parents breed the preference males have for mechanical technology into our sons as a matter of their rearing. Meanwhile, Junior just wants a dolly to play with.
Consisting of 48 subjects, the study used state-of-the-art eye-tracking technology to determine what young children would gaze at longer: a doll or toy truck. As the logic goes, the longer a child looks at an object, the more likely they are to play with it. The objective, naturally, was to challenge the notion of sex-related object preference—or, in other words, the researchers set out to prove that the notion that sex plays an important role in how we perceive objects is complete malarkey.
And, as it turns out, malarkey it is. With participants aged five months, researchers found that baby boys tended to look at toy dolls longer than toy trucks, meaning that the preference tends to lie in not mechanical interaction, but human. What's more, the babies didn't have a preference for male or female faces, or whether they were doll or human. Or, in study leader Dr. Paola Escudero's words:
"…Using state-of-the-art eye-tracking technology, we found that these gender-specific preferences are not present at five months, indicating that they are the result of physiological changes (e.g., their hormone levels), cognitive development or social pressure,"
Which, of course, means that men are simply boys who have been told what they prefer. But, hey, can you blame us? According to a separate study from researchers in Spain, toy advertising tends to associate "strength and power" with boys' toys and "beauty" and "motherhood" with those intended for girls.
The offerings illustrate that point even more clearly, showing that advertising tends to target toys dealing with spatial skills to boys , and dolls or educational games to girls. It is simply the "manly" thing to do to go for trucks, or so we're told.
So, while it may have been nice to see your boy's face light up Christmas morning when he opened that toy car up, the underlying message—crafted and sold by a multi-billion dollar toy and advertising industry—was "this is who you should be."
Next year, maybe just go for that Lalaloopsy swag instead.