Toys and Colors – How They Relate To Gender

Samantha Murray

Kids grow up in a society where toys are given to them based on gender. Dolls are given to girls and trucks are given to the boys. We also use color to represent gender. Blue for boys and pink for girls. Why is this? 

Parents introduce toys to children at a young age. Studies show that at-home exposure to toys may be influential in the development of toy preferences. The types of toys we are introduced to affect the decisions people make on a day-to-day basis. In our society, boys are usually given more destructive toys such as toy guns and dinosaurs, and girls are typically given toys aimed toward caring for other people, like baby dolls and kitchen playsets. Children are like sponges: they absorb everything around them. This includes behavior, manners, and decision-making processes. If a boy is given a destructive toy, they will most likely grow up to be destructive in their decisions. A stereotype for girls is that they care for other people and think more about the decisions they make; this stems from the toys they are given as young children. 

Where did the “gender colors” originate from and have they always been the same? 

Today we know that society usually connects blue to boys and pink to girls. In the 1920s, pink was decided as a stronger color which was “more suitable to the boy”, while blue was more dainty which connected with females. It’s 100 years later and color is still used to identify gender today, except we’ve swapped them around. Pink is now identified as a “girl color” because it’s closer to red. Red is the color of romance and women are seen as more emotional. Boys were just assigned the other color, blue, and it is now portrayed as being masculine. 

 In the 1940s, a new movement that led people to dress in “sex-specific” clothing hit the ground running. People who took part in this movement thought that dressing young girls in feminine or stereotypically “girly” clothing would limit the girls’ opportunities for success. Many parents began favoring neutral colors. This didn’t last long and the trend continued to increase in the 1980s. It’s almost a cycle we can’t get out of. 

Maleigha Michael from UMKC said it best, “Assigning colors to babies enforces a role that they are supposed to grow and fit into. There are only two colors, also enforcing that there are only two genders you’re allowed to claim. If you’re a girl, you have to like pink, and that also means you’re girly. If you’re a boy, you have to have blue, and you CANNOT like pink, or else you aren’t manly enough. If you’re a girl and you like blue, you’re a tomboy, and you aren’t seen as a strong female, but instead, as a girl who doesn’t know how to be a proper girl.” 

You may be thinking “it’s no big deal”. It is! Colors and toys play a big role in the lives of children who eventually become adults. The way we act can all be rooted back to the toys we play with as kids and the colors of the clothes we wear. 

How can we fix this? If we raise our kids by giving them all options for toys and letting them play with whatever they want, we can start breaking these gender stereotypes. If we give children the opportunity to choose a color to wear based on their preference, kids won’t see gender in color. We have to stop assuming all boys prefer one toy/color and girls prefer the other.