The Weakness of the Toy Debate and Feminism

Consumer affairs minister and Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott has today raised the well wrung out debate about feminism and pink and blue colours. The fact that fewer women are taking up science and engineering jobs is a valid reason for doing so. She reckons that if we all lavished dinky cars and airfix kits on our daughters, then somehow the skills shortage of the future would be solved.

But would it? If that was the case, and girls have been held back in this way because of playing with dolls, we wouldn’t be facing the reproduction crisis.

Today studies show that not only are educated women having children later in life, many are forgoing the experience altogether in preference of a career. It may not be in civil engineering, or industrial research, but anything it seems is preferable in their twenties to pushing a pram around in the rain.

Governments across the world are concerned about this, not to promote the sales of boys toys, but because population growth is slowing. We will soon be top heavy, with not enough young people to help out with ageing parents and grandparents.

But is the gender/toy debate also yet another sign of our generation’s overindulgence? We must not forget that in some parts of the world, toys for children are either still a luxury item or, for religious reasons, banned completely. Maybe we should not take for granted the facility to allow our children to express their innocence in the safety of their homes; whether that be with Barbie dolls or Lego blocks.


About Louise Burfitt-Dons

Writer and social critic
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1 Response to The Weakness of the Toy Debate and Feminism

  1. I grew up playing both with barbie dolls (who became astronauts, surgeons, mothers, and NASCAR drivers), a pink Jeep, lots of legos and “boy’s toys.” In particular, with two daughters and no sons, my dad decided to treat us like his little boys and girls…to share his hobbies and skill set with us even if we were girls. He bought us downhill and cross country skis, took us on weekend ski trips in winter and camping in the summer, taught us how to lay tiles when renovating the bathroom, use a drill, hammer nails and align picture frames, etc. I think the point of the “toy” crisis is to demonstrate the demand for gender neutral toys and girl’s toys that are stereotypically enjoyed by boys. Our girls need to develop stronger spatial skills that are developed more by playing with boy toys than girl toys. If girls come to love building a Lego skyscraper, maybe she’ll have an interest in the mathematics and physics behind buildings and eventually become a civil engineer. In my case, I became fascinated by the body thanks to dad’s medical text books he’d “read” to me growing up. I went to an elite university to study mechanical engineering with a focus on the human body. The point is to encourage girls, just like boys, to explore various opportunities and develop a varied skill set in order to enable them to make personal choice of which career path to pursue.

    On the front of the “reproduction” crisis I say this: every woman has the choice of if and when to have children. We don’t have a crisis when fertility though decreasing is trending towards roughly 2 children/woman in the US.

    I’m in my twenties and have no intention of having children anytime soon. It’s true, furthering my career (which I believe will make me a better parent) is my priority.

    A few thoughts from a 20-something 🙂


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