Back in the 70s, Free to Be You and Me, an exploration of gender equality, pointed out why William should have a doll. Those very same children raised on the songs of Marlo Thomas grew up to lead toy companies that segregated play by sex or gender.
There has been so much written lately on making “boy” toys enticing for girls — from LEGO’s Friends line to pinkifying engineering toys — but much less on why we should be taking traditional “girl” toys and making them enticing for boys.
She asks an important question:
And in fact, the industry was never as heavily gendered as it is today: Children’s toys are now more divided by gender than they were 50 years ago, during an era we like to think of as less enlightened about sexism. If adults’ jobs are no longer segregated by restrictive gender roles, why should our children be taught that some toys are for boys and others for girls — a retrograde idea that limits their creativity and their development of well-rounded skills and interests?
Wonder Crew is trying to do just that: Making dolls that boys will love. Why dolls? Because they’re a toy that promotes nurturing skills. Through play, the child learns how to care for another human being, and in turn, also learns how to care for himself. Dolls build empathy, explore relationships, and are good to cuddle.
The Wonder Crew dolls are a cross between a stuffed animal and an action figure, with changable outfits that allow the two “crewmates” to explore various identities. For instance, both the doll and the child may become superheroes or construction workers. It’s this generation’s My Buddy.
The next step, of course, is to simply have toys. Not “girl” toys or “boy” toys. To stop declaring pieces of fabric or plastic as aimed at only one sex. But until then, I’m glad toy companies are continuing to build bridges.