Because Tonka knows all.

While gendering toys is no new thing, Tonka takes it to the next level.

Wowzers.
Hat tip to reader Monica.

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145 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2007 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I saw that commercial and thought “Goddamn, WHAT year is it again?”

  2. Mary B
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    When I have children, I am purposely not going to mention the gender to my family so I avoid gendered gifts like this.
    On that note, anyone know of any good unisex names?

  3. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I remember playing with Tonka trucks when I was a kid. Apparently this was in direct opposition to Tonka’s mission statement and they’ve taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  4. BabyGirl
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Good idea, MaryB. I am 38 weeks pregnant and we know we’re having a boy. Even though everything on my registry was yellow and green, 90% of the clothes, towels, pacifiers, etc. I received as gifts were blue or had a sports theme.

  5. corydalus
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Yeah, how DO you gals learn to walk anyway, being deprived of Tonka trucks as you are?
    I’d love to know how toy guns would be advertised these days, if they were….

  6. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Haaaate this commercial. Fuck Tonka.
    If I ever get pregnant I’m keeping the sex a secret because I won’t tolerate receiving heavily gendered baby gifts. …Though the gendering would begin the moment after birth. Sigh.

  7. Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    While I strongly disagree with drawing gendered behavioral lines, it’s kind of nice that it’s a departure from boys are the implied norm and girls are “different”.

  8. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Gender neutral names:
    Taylor
    Devon
    Morgan

  9. acranom
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I got an e-mail forward this morning called “If Women Ruled the World.” It contained a number of photos of things that had been “girlied up”- like a bowling alley with flowers along the sides, a computer mouse that opened into a make-up case, and a hammer and screwdriver set containing a high heeled show and a knife.
    Isn’t sexism funny?
    Kinda like that cute litte boy who will grow up believing he’s “built different” (read: stronger and free to pull up whatever flowers or knock down whatever furniture he pleases!). Isn’t he adorable?

  10. Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I agree with the previous poster; I won’t be informing anyone in my family what the gender of my child is and will be purposefully requesting “gender neutral” gifts.
    My sister’s having a baby soon, and when she told everyone it was a girl, they flipped out and started buying all this frilly shit.

  11. Rock Star
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I can’t watch the video…can someone give me a rundown?
    Gender neutral names-
    Drew
    …that’s all I’ve got right now.

  12. feminista
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Corydalus, girls learn to walk by pushing strollers! Don’t let them enjoy childhood, make them mothers before they can even understand the concept of motherhood!!!
    Ugh.
    I saw this commercial last night. I was torn though, because at least their being upfront and honest about their sexist marketing schemes.
    Once again.
    Ugh.

  13. Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Any gender neutral names that don’t sound like horrid yuppie last names? My apologies if you’ve saddled your own kid with one of those, but JesusGod.
    I want the Tonka truck thing to have a Paul Harvey construct: “… and that little destructive boy grew up to be… Timothy McVeigh!”

  14. Posted November 1, 2007 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    In the extended version of the commercial that I saw on TV, it shows that the toddler has tracked mud into the house when he gives his mom the flowers with the roots. When I wrote about this on my blog, I said that this has got feature the youngest version of clueless-male ever in the “gee, men are just clueless about the house” genre of commericals

  15. Betty Boondoggle
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Soooooo, Tonka believes that boys are “built different” than girls, and therefore only boys need to learn how to sort colors and walk?

  16. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Unisex names– Sam, Nicky/Nikki, and Jay are all nicknames that work for either gender, but names like Ryan, Bailey, Alexis, Casey, Dana, Jamie… there are whole lists that work for each gender.
    That said… While I plan to get onesies and baby toys that are gender-neutral so they can be handed down, when my kid gets to be a toddler I will buy them the kind of toys they ASK for, not the ones I think they should have to fulfill some agenda. So if my son says “No, Mommy, I don’t want a doll, dolls are for girls” I won’t make him get a doll just to prove a point. I know a guy with a very feminist mother who did that to him, and he had the most miserable childhood imaginable because she raised him “like a girl” and he was tortured by the other boys for it.
    Don’t raise children they way you think children in an ideal world should be raised. Raise them to survive and be happy in the REAL world.
    Though men who get upset because their TWO-YEAR-OLD sons like dressing up in sparkly clothes or playing with dolls drive me NUTS. And toy trucks are fun for girls too.

  17. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I’ve never had a problem with names like Taylor, stuff like that.

  18. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/imagingthebody/Handouts/alexander_2002.pdf
    Check this journal article out re: gender construction. Probably caused by gender specific names and blue or pink nurseries right? Gender neutrality is a naive fantasy, and a blight on feminism.

  19. The Slant
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Darn, I sent you guys an email about this about a month ago; thought I’d get a shout out.
    Thanks for posting about it, though!
    Betty Boondoggle — That’s EXACTLY what I said when I saw the commercial!

  20. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Eh, my child’s going to rely mostly on toys s/he has made, like little houses made of sticks or painted things. I want to try and keep my kid imaginative and creative, and I think the current crop of “Do all your thinking for you” toys is probably dooming the newest generation as far as imagination goes.
    Plus books. There will be as many books as my baby wants. you can never go wrong with books.

  21. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Darwin, *you* are a blight on the human race.
    That journal article admits that children receive cues re: “appropriate gender expression” at a very young age, and subsequently follow those norms while rejecting the opposite sex’s.

  22. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    In the midst of a thread in which every other poster objects to imposing sex roles on children, why did one poster feel it necessary to lecture us about… imposing sex roles on our children? I didn’t see anyone with a problem here.

  23. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Ugh. There was a little pamphlet in some magazine I received awhile back with showing all the fun “BOYS” could have with Tonka trucks.
    Which is funny, since my girls LOVE trucks. I threw the bloody thing out before my oldest had a chance to notice there were no girls on the page.
    We’re fairly gender neutral with our daughters and the result is amusing-one loves any kind of disgusting bug or animal, but LOVES pink, while dressing “boyish”. My younger daughter loves princesses for no apparent reason, and yet is obsessed with cars and anything mechanical. We don’t foist either side on them, and it’s incredible to see what they gravitate to without any pressure.
    Crap like this coming in through the TV and the mail infuriates me. It’s hard enough raising daughters.

  24. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Daughters don’t count, thordora! ONLY SONS. MANLY SONS.

  25. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Good lord, with all of the female truck drivers out there, you’d think Tonka would have noticed them by now.
    And yes, boys are built differently, but when was the last time you saw a guy drive a truck with his dick?

  26. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Because raising children (okay, it’s mostly a problem for boys) to be completely gender-neutral, in our world, is interpreted as raising them to be “feminine.” Thus, by trying to completely eliminate gender roles you are actually imposing them.
    You can’t avoid gender roles. No child is raised in a vacuum. And by trying to make kids gender-neutral, some parents do more harm than good.

  27. Heatherinspring
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Tonka is part of the Playskool brand who…dum dum dum…are also the creators of the Rose Petal Cottage. You know, the toy that lets girls entertain their imaginations by doing laundry.
    *Crosses off another company to stay away from For-ever.*

  28. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    My goodness, my first thought upon seeing the ad was also, “what year is this?”
    Eh, my child’s going to rely mostly on toys s/he has made, like little houses made of sticks or painted things. I want to try and keep my kid imaginative and creative, and I think the current crop of “Do all your thinking for you” toys is probably dooming the newest generation as far as imagination goes.
    I agree, a lot of the modern-day toys are awful. All flashy lights and buttons and plastic, so gender-stereotyped and living little to the imagination. Kids are by nature very creative and good at making up games with simple things. I think the best pre-made toys are construction toys (blocks, legos, etc.) and simple mathematical toys (counting rods, items to sort by shape, size, and color, etc).
    Plus books. There will be as many books as my baby wants. you can never go wrong with books.
    I agree, books are wonderful AND important! But you do have to be careful with books as well; children’s books can promote gender stereotypes just as much as toys.

  29. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I should clarify my previous posts– for some reason, girls don’t suffer when you gender-neutralize them (a victory for the feminists). Only boys. Which is sexist and it sucks, but if you want your son to be happy and successful, you have to let them have SOME gender roles.
    Also, SarahMC, why did you feel that disagreeing with darwin66 meant you needed to insult her or his worth to the human race? I’m seeing that a lot here and I find it worrisome. You can say you think someone is wrong without saying they are worthless scum or a misogynist.

  30. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Basiorana,
    There is a theme in many of your posts that I read as follows: “Yes, but how is this YOUR FAULT?” of “But women are bad too!” or “I have one anecdote that illustrates the following anti-feminist stance.”
    Were you aware of this?

  31. Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Haha, I know books can do bad things too. But there are a ton of really good books as kids grow up, too. I mean, I’m an odd one? As I grew up reading The Hobbit when everyone else in my class was doing “Hubert the Hippo Goes to School”… and I’m hoping to raise my kids the same way.
    Granted, it’s meant some bad things too, but i know my kids can be both social and readers, like I am.

  32. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    DARWIN – “Check this journal article out re: gender construction. Probably caused by gender specific names and blue or pink nurseries right? Gender neutrality is a naive fantasy, and a blight on feminism.”
    As an evolutionary psychologist, I find that to be a really interesting article. Basically, male monkeys seemed to have a sensory bias to prefer items in motion (e.g., balls) while females had a preference for dolls. This fits with interesting studies showing that female monkeys of some species show intense interest in infants – which certainly would be an adaptive feature.
    Could this partly explain why there is a sex difference in toy preference in humans? It could.
    But the question is – what to do about this socially? One option is to build up a really strong social system that reinforces and celebrates these differences. That is what the Tonka ad does – that moving active toys are for boys and not for girls.
    I think that strategy is objectionable, however. First, even if there is a sex difference, there is likely a large degree of overlap between the sexes – many girls would have an attraction to the moving toys as well. Creating social messages that trucks=boys excludes girls from an enriching play experience.
    Second, if our goal is to balance out evolved sex differences, this would suggest that it is MORE important to provide girls with socialization encouraging the use of active toys and MORE important to provide boys with socialization encouraging play with dolls.
    In other words, even if there is a kernel of truth to a stereotype, that doesn’t mean we have to embrace and celebrate it.

  33. Mary B
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    So raising a child in a gender neutral way does more harm than good? How does it do them any more good to raise them under stereotypical patriarchal gender roles?
    It doesn’t mean that I would force my children to play with toys that they didn’t like, but I would avoid buying stuff that I found offensive. As a parent, it would be my prerogative. I can’t honestly see myself buying the latest Bratz doll just because my kid *really wanted* it. Just like I wouldn’t let my kids eat all the candy and junkfood they wanted either.
    Nowadays, even simple LEGOS are gendered! Try going in the Lego store some time and see what they have for boys versus girls. Basically, the “boy” sets are more complex and have more dragons and/or construction equipment. The girl sets are made of simpler, pre-molded pieces, are mostly pink, and consist of fairies and princesses. It’s disgusting.
    I agree with one of the posters above who wants just basic handmade stuff or simple toys for their kids. One of those flashy toys-that-do-everything are fun for a few days, but an actual imagination can last a lifetime. Kids can have just as much fun in a box with some markers and stickers.

  34. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Basiorana, if gender neutrality benefits girls, it can benefit boys too. Saying that machismo / stereotypical “masculinity” must be instilled in little boys is sexist and demeaning to girls (and boys).
    Nobody *has* to force gender roles on anyone.
    If strict gender roles were inate or essential for survival, we wouldn’t have to drill it into children’s heads. It’s just *be* there.
    If a boy wants to play with a truck, fine. If a girl wants to play with a truck, fine. If a boy wants to play with a tea set, fine. If a girl wants to play with a tea set, fine. What’s the problem?

  35. The Slant
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Basiorana,
    I’d like to see the evidence or research indicating that raising boys to be gender-neutral makes them “suffer” or impacts their life in a negative way.
    I really have a hard time believing that, and I think SGZAX is right when he/she notes that your comments often infer a kind of anti-feminist, “boys will be boys” type attitude.

  36. Incendria
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I’m not expecting, but have talked over the options for unisex names with my husband. There weren’t many I liked and virtually nothing that both of us liked. If I go unisex, I think I’ll just make up a name or adopt a word from another language as a name.

  37. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I know I’m a little one-sided but that’s because someone else has already mentioned the other side of the story. The truth is, women ARE bad too, which many people seem to forget. And as for the “How is this your fault” bit, no one person can change the world, but they can change themselves. Saying “Oh, that’s terrible” doesn’t help anyone, but often there are things the individual can do to help.
    I cite anecdotes because no one cares about or believes in data. “Naturally scientific data will be skewed unless it agrees with me!”
    I’m not anti-feminist. I just think that getting rid of gender roles isn’t as valuable to society as, say, educating and empowering women in third-world countries, providing access to birth control, and setting up support systems for victims of domestic violence or rape.

  38. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Basiorana:
    why can’t we do all of those things at once?

  39. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Look, I’ve worked with children, and boys are CRUEL to the lowest boy on the pecking order. Girls don’t get that until later, once most of them can already pick and choose what parts of their personality they will show off to certain people. You raise boys to be gender-neutral and they will be picked on and abused by the other boys who think they are effeminate. Unless you can change other people’s kids too, you can’t prevent that.
    And honestly? I don’t see anything WRONG with gender roles, as long as they can be broken if the person chooses. I just don’t think society is ready to abolish them all together, and it’s too hard on the kids to do it in increments.

  40. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Basiorana, what do you mean by “women are bad too”? That seems like an awfully negative world view.
    I think that getting rid of gender roles is *crucial* to enabling the other things that you say are more valuable. As long as we teach boys/men that they need to be aggressive, hide their feelings, be the provider in the family, that they have a *right* to women’s sexual services, etc., we are going to have a hard time eradicating gender violence and women are going to have a hard time gaining access to education and empowerment in third-world countries. When children learn gender roles, they learn not only their own role, but the role of the other gender as well. When a boy learns from the ad above that “boys are different and therefore they play with trucks”, he is also learning that “girls don’t play with trucks”.
    Gender neutrality benefits both girls AND boys AND all of society by encouraging all people to follow their own interests, be true to themselves, think outside the box, and question the gender stereotypes present in society.

  41. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Okay, so, we should raise boys to be little masculine paragons of gender roles because it’s -easier- on them?
    Childhood isn’t easy on anyone’s kid. It wasn’t easy on me as a girl, it wasn’t easy on the boys in my class who weren’t in sports, it wasn’t easy on anyone I knew except one girl-who is getting all her hard shit -now- and doesn’t know how to deal.
    Gender roles are not what makes elementary school or childhood an easy thing.

  42. The Slant
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Basiorana:
    “I cite anecdotes because no one cares about or believes in data.”
    I care about data and I believe in it; in fact, I asked you for data and you haven’t provided me with any.

  43. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    1. I do NOT include teaching boys that they have a right to women somehow to be part of gender roles. They once were, perhaps, but that was wrong.
    2. It’s all, always, about balance. Teach them to be aggressive but not physically, and they will be successful (also true for girls). Teach them to hide their emotions but share them in a relationship and they will be successful and happier.
    And most boys today manage to accept the fact that while boys and girls are different, and boys play with trucks, girls can do boy things too. The media is good about enforcing that. The major thing is teaching boys that as boys, they MUST learn to hide their feelings from people outside their immediate family, and soon. Because of the other boys.
    And by “women are bad too,” I’m saying that it’s not always a case of “men are the cause of all problems and women are the poor victims.” Men can be victims and women can cause problems.

  44. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    The Slant– when I don’t have a lab report due in two hours I will research and link to some. Unfortunately it’s challenging to find anything that doesn’t have a bias one way or the other, so it will take time.
    pachakuti– Parents should do whatever is neccessary to prepare their children for life. A truly hard childhood, like that which “sissy” boys (as determined by other boys) face, doesn’t teach a kid how to face problems, it teaches them that the world is evil and cruel and leaves them bitter.

  45. Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    No… no, that’s just childhood in general.

  46. Cate
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I started yelling at my TV when I saw this commercial. And then yesterday I saw this in a store window, and I flipped again. Girls can be pretty princesses, but they still aren’t free from kitchen duty! Ugh.

  47. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Good comment, sbsanon.
    So what you’re saying, Basiorana, is that it’s OK for girls to take on “masculine” traits and hobbies, because “masculine” things are superior to “feminine” things. So OF COURSE girls might want to “act like boys,” but if a boy “acts like a girl” he must be a self-hating freak (because girl stuff is inferior & silly).
    You seem to be open to the progress feminism has made re: women’s roles, acknowledging that attitudes have, and will continue to change. But when it comes to the world’s view of “masculinity” it’s impossible and not a worthy effort?

  48. sgzax
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I shudder when I see some of the boys being raised to be little assholes by parents who think they’re doing the world a favor. I love encouraging children to explore their interests and aptitudes while encouraging them to be empathetic and considerate of others. I think this can be accomplished with children of both sexes. If we allow girls to explore all aspects of their personalities but continue to shut boys off from aspects of theirs we will only be solving half of the problem and nothing will ever change. I’m sorry, I’m not cynical enough to participate in raising a boy with a blighted soul just because it will make things easier for him.

  49. DrkEyedCajn
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    As long as we’re discussing child-raising strategies, what do y’all think of homeschooling as an option? I’m strongly considering this when I have children, remembering the hell I went through as a smart girl in school.

  50. SarahMC
    Posted November 1, 2007 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I saw a whole bunch of trick-or-treaters while I was walking my dog last night, and more than half the little girls were dressed up as princesses. Meanwhile, the boys’ costumes had a lot of variation.
    I was never a princess for Halloween. The constant “PRETTY PRETTY PRINCESS” message was definitely not being spread when I was little (80′s). I remember my mom making me into a jack-in-the-box when I was about 2 or 3, being a cat, an Egyptian, a witch…

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