Our Toys are a Reflection of Us

Taking a few minutes while getting ready for our New Years Eve Boardgaming Party. While reading the news over lunch, a number of articles screamed out at me:

  • Dolls Exposing Racism. An interesting video has been circulating in Mexico of late. It shows schoolchildren in a taped social experiment on race.The kids are seated at a table before a white doll and a black doll, and are asked to pick the “good doll” or the doll that most resembled them. The children, mostly brown-skinned, almost uniformly say the white doll was better or most resembled them. People are wondering if this shows inherent racism in Mexican culture. [*] Does this reflect Mexican society? Do peopleDoes this group in Mexican society, for whatever reason, trust lighter-skinned people more? Or, to bring the question back to the subject of the post: Does our choice of skin color in the toys for our children influence how they view people as trustworthy?
    [ETA: The question was clarified to be less broad and to tie to the post better, based on a discussion on LJ]
  • Should Toys Be Genderless? That’s the question posited by an op-ed piece in the NY Times. It talks about a store in England that  recently dismantled its pink “girls” and blue “boys” sections in favor of a gender-neutral store with red-and-white signage. Rather than floors dedicated to Barbie dolls and action figures, merchandise is now organized by types (Soft Toys) and interests (Outdoor).  So the question is: is that store taking the right approach, or should toys be categorized by target gender? Does this reflect society: no matter how much we try to be gender-neutral and inclusive, we are regularly reminded that men and women are different, and often think different and approach problems differently.
  • Reading Too Much Into Things. A number of parents are complaining about a new toy from Toys R Us. They believe this doll, which babbles nonsense words, is really saying “OK, crazy bitch”. Toys R US is stating they won’t pull the doll; they wouldn’t market a doll that says profanity. I think this illustrates our society well: we’re often willing to see malice or bad intentions, especially when the party potentially responsible has deep pockets.
  • Is It Human? Now, I’m not a comic book person, but I do know that X-Men are supposedly mutant humans. But, according to their creators, Marvel, they aren’t humans… at least for tax purposes.  You see, X-Men toys are made overseas, and dolls (i.e., human representations) that are imported have a higher tariff than toys (non-human). So X-Men action figures aren’t dolls, they are toys.  Again, a reflection of society: we do what is convention, irrespective of whether it is wrong or makes sense, to make profit. Greed is good and all that.

Music: Standard Time (Sam Harris): Blame It on My Youth



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