Trucks and dolls and gender roles, oh my - Mothering Forums
1 2 
Parenting > Trucks and dolls and gender roles, oh my
pookel's Avatar pookel 02:39 AM 06-14-2006
Let me start by saying that I am not a naive idealist who thinks that girls and boys are identical except for how they're socialized. There are real neurological differences - although I like to make the point that the real differences are not necessarily the same as the stereotypical differences (e.g. "girls are bad at math").

But I am still amazed at how consistently my son has gone for the trucks and the mechanical toys, and how completely oblivious he is to dolls and stuffed animals, despite my best efforts to show him how to hold and snuggle them. "Here, pet the fuzzy puppy ... oh, I see you're dumping the legos out again and stacking blocks." And trucks, cars, anything that goes "vroom!" I went to pick him up at day care the other day and he and the other toddler boy were sitting on the floor playing with trucks. He held one up to me and said enthusiastically, "vroom!" (And no, he isn't getting this from daycare - the tendency was there before he ever started going there.)

I was talking recently to two friends who are mothers of girls, who both said things like "we never even owned dolls, but she saw a baby doll at someone else's house and went straight for it ..."

What's your experience re: trucks vs. dolls? Do your kids fit neatly into gender roles, too?

St. Margaret 02:46 AM 06-14-2006
I'm sitting right now with my hips on a pillow trying to brew up my first kid so no actual experience to offer. But I wanted to say--

This at least makes me feel better, like some of the pressure's off-- I agree that there are some innate differences (good qualities we all bring to humanity!) but I feel like there is SO much influence out there it'll be hard to shield kids from it. That's almost reassuring to know some of it is beyond our control. I still think we do right by directing kids to try out different roles, so they get some experience with them all. and make sure kids are kept from most of the implicit messages in various media. But that's a great experience to hear.
trinity6232000's Avatar trinity6232000 02:56 AM 06-14-2006
My dd, who is turning six next week, is very middle ground in this
area. I have never noticed her enjoying "girlie" things more than
boy things. She likes to play dress up. She likes to play in my
makeup. Drawing and running are her passions.
She is very physical and even though she is small for her age was
kicking some serious butt this year on her soccer team. She scared
a couple of the boys on the team, and I know that sometimes girls
are turned off to dd's tough side.
For her birthday she asked for a two baseball mitts, one for me and
one for her. So we could play ball together. :
Many people make comments about dd being a tomboy, but I find
her to be much more well rounded than that. Not even as a baby
do I remember her being drawn more to baby dolls than trucks.
She loved both. But that's my dd.
Justmee's Avatar Justmee 04:33 AM 06-14-2006
Originally Posted by pookel
What's your experience re: trucks vs. dolls? Do your kids fit neatly into gender roles, too?
My girls LOVE cars. SIL passed us all her toys and teh big cars they can push and zoom around are their favorties (bigger than matchbox sized, not like ride on toys). They also like lego / megablocks, and Rena is very good at building with blocks, stacking, etc.

They sleep with dolls (but not always the same ones) and do sometimes talk to them, hold them, but it has to be encouraged ie: if I pick up a doll and start they will often copy, but rarely do they go for the dolls. They go for the cars

ETA: I know you didn't ask about dressing, but Nechama is going through a phase where she prefers a dress to a shorts. If I try to put pants / shorts on her she usually protests "dress." and then Rena has to have a dress too . Monkey see, monkey do. The joys of :
Sharlla's Avatar Sharlla 04:35 AM 06-14-2006
We have both gender type toys in our home and I tell you neither of my sons were ever intersted in playing kitchen or playing with dolls. I just think it depends on the kid, my friend's son loves his "babies"
A&A's Avatar A&A 04:37 AM 06-14-2006
My kids (one boy, one girl) are probably 75% into gender roles and 25% not into them.

My ds will sometimes play with dolls and stuffed animals, but mostly likes cars and trucks.

And my dd will sometimes play with cars and trucks, but mostly likes dolls and stuffed animals.

And my son likes his hair in a ponytail that sticks straight up--he says it makes him look like a "rock star."
FreeRangeMama's Avatar FreeRangeMama 04:53 AM 06-14-2006
After having 2 boys I was kind of counting on my dd being a "tomboy". I am not a "girlie girl" and we really were concious of not putting her into a sterotypical role as that is how I was brought up and it drove me crazy.

Then my dd was born. What a GIRL. She is only 13 months, yet very opinionated on what she likes. What she likes is PINK, DOLLS, SHOES, etc. Its crazy. I really thought they were socialized that way. We swore we would never put her in pink, but when she saw her first fuzzy pink jacket she was in love. We had dolls for my boys and they sort of played with them, but most of those games ended up with the dolls being thrown or kicked like a ball

Dd saw another little girls doll and it was the first time she tried to roll over. Now at 13 months she carries a "baby" around and tries to dress it, wash it, hug and kiss it. She cuddled it to sleep while I nursed her tonight :
karen ann's Avatar karen ann 08:29 AM 06-14-2006
My DS is 5 and he likes both "girl" and "boy" toys -- much to my ex's chagrin. His favorite souvenir from our trip to Disney World is a Little Mermaid doll (barbie-style); he brushes her hair and changes her from mermaid to princess. I have to braid her hair every night so he can cuddle her to sleep. He loves to dress up with playsilks and fairy wings. His favorite color is purple.

But he loves doing "tool guy stuff with Papa" (building, home repair, etc. with my father). He likes matchbox cars. He LOVES Star Wars. He can build for hours with Legos and tinker toys. He has more trains than I can count (Thomas, Brio, GeoTrax, a Monorail).

I'm sure that as he grows older and spends more time with his peer group, he might start to skew more towards stereotypical "boy" things, but for right now he's pretty balanced.
Aura_Kitten's Avatar Aura_Kitten 08:40 AM 06-14-2006
i am very sad to say that yes, for the most part, despite all of our efforts at gender neutrality, our kids are very gender specific.

my daughter is and always has been far more lovey / kissy / cuddly than her brother and immediately took to language skills and caring for other people... my son has always been a little more offish, slower to pick up on language, and very interested in the mechanical world.

he also loves flowers, glitter, and the color pink though. he is very much a girly boy (sensitive, cries easily, and like i said, he loves frills), but most definitely a boy.
mahogny's Avatar mahogny 09:01 AM 06-14-2006
Oh goodness yes. My boy loves trains, trucks, cars, crashes, superheroes, and wrestling. He always has. He got a baby doll when I was pg with his sister, and he played with it once or twice, but just when it was new and novel. It was quickly forgotten about.

DD loves dressing up, loves stuffed animals and dolls, is nurturing, and affectionate. She loves having her hair done and loves wearing my shoes. She has played with cars and trucks occasionally, but it's a rare occurance.
wednesday's Avatar wednesday 09:28 AM 06-14-2006
My son seems to like "boy" and "girl" toys pretty equally. He has cars and trucks and trains, and a baby doll and vacuum and kitchen toys. He goes to a Montessori preschool where there are lots of dolls and "girlie" dress-up items and it is not unusual at all to walk in and see one of the little boys running around in a tutu and a tiara.

In my observation--and I am not saying this about anyone on this thread, but based on what I have seen IRL--most parents who say their child just seemed to naturally prefer gender-specific toys, had not truly made available a full range of choices. I mean, if a young boy has building blocks, and ten toy cars and trucks, and a soccer ball, and trains and tracks, etc., and one doll, by the sheer law of numbers he's going to play with the "boy" toys more than the doll, kwim?

There is also the influence of TV, and of playmates to consider. There are a lot of messages in most toddler/preschooler programming that reinforce traditional gender roles. And of course, children who hear at home that "boys don't play with dolls" or "crying is for sissies" are quick to correct their playmates who aren't conforming.
QDB's Avatar QDB 09:49 AM 06-14-2006
My ds wears one pink shoe and on blue shoe - literally.

But he LOVES things with wheels - he will go to the toy store and on the way there say "I want a toy with wheels"

But he loves pink and purple - and running trucks thru the mud.

I'd say he is pretty balanced.
Hippiemommie's Avatar Hippiemommie 10:07 AM 06-14-2006
As far as toys go my son absolutly prefers "boy" toys. He has a wide variety of toys as he has two nieces who are 6 months older and we get the hand-me-downs. He doesn't watch TV but is very much the typical boy in play. He runs around banging things with hammers and vrooming cars around. I don't know where he gets it. I am with him so much and I always love on things. In fact I got him a Madeline doll when he was younger and all he has ever done is chew on her hat. He does love shoes though. The more sparkly you can get them the better. There was such a pretty pair of ballet shoes at a yard sale he wanted but they were the wrong size
Jennifer3141's Avatar Jennifer3141 10:36 AM 06-14-2006
My son adores dolls and cars and my DD adores dump trucks and dolls. I'm very careful not to reinforce society's ridiculous gender roles and I try like crazy not to let them slip into our home!! But they will eventually.
Nurturing Mama's Avatar Nurturing Mama 10:36 AM 06-14-2006
I was going to say my son fits into the boy stereotype, but reading these replies, I realize that he does some girly stuff, too. Most of his day is spent building things, crashing things, and smashing things (he gets to smash anything that breaks that we can't fix). On the other hand, he does like to dress up, he likes purple, he likes playing kitchen, his bike basket has flowers on it, and he had a baby doll that he fed and nurtured. He's also a sweet, sensitive kid (most of the time). I guess I'm with A&A, he's 75% gender role, 25% not.

He's had equal chances for "boy" play and "girl" play, but he's always been drawn to cars and building. I think it's fascinating that he's wired that way.

It doesn't bother me, though, that he fits into the stereotype. He's exactly who he's supposed to be.
loving-my-babies's Avatar loving-my-babies 10:39 AM 06-14-2006
I've wondered this because our dd is sooo girlie and even though she does play with trains (with her brother) it's pretty much all princesses and dress up stuff. My son, on the other hand, doesn't care for dolls or anything that my dd plays with. He loves his trains (he's obsessed) and making sounds with them.
punkinsmommy's Avatar punkinsmommy 11:03 AM 06-14-2006
I have to say my 3 fit mostly into their stereotypical gender roles, even though we have tried with all 3 to be very gender neutral. DS1 had dolls and such, but always preferred his trucks and balls. DD was surrounded by DS1's "boy toys" and yet she adores Barbies (much to my chagrin), baby dolls, and dressing up as a princess. DS2 who is surrounded by both "girl" and "boy" toys cleary shows and interest in more boyish things. He will snuggle his stuffed monkey, but clearly loves his trucks. Or really, any truck. Or anything with 2 or more wheels.

But I will say, at 8 years old DS1 is much more compassionate compared to his male counterparts at school. He tends to be more loving and gentle, and yet still very boyish. And DD, at 6, can definitely hold her own with the boys. She is very head strong and has no issues with playing "in the dirt". In fact if you were to come to my house you'd be likely to find DD outside with a pink dress on, no shoes, covered head to toe in dirt, and holding a handfull of worms.

I think the fact that we didn't instill specific gender roles for them has helped to balance them out.
sunnysideup's Avatar sunnysideup 11:25 AM 06-14-2006
Originally Posted by wednesday
In my observation--and I am not saying this about anyone on this thread, but based on what I have seen IRL--most parents who say their child just seemed to naturally prefer gender-specific toys, had not truly made available a full range of choices. I mean, if a young boy has building blocks, and ten toy cars and trucks, and a soccer ball, and trains and tracks, etc., and one doll, by the sheer law of numbers he's going to play with the "boy" toys more than the doll, kwim?

There is also the influence of TV, and of playmates to consider. There are a lot of messages in most toddler/preschooler programming that reinforce traditional gender roles. And of course, children who hear at home that "boys don't play with dolls" or "crying is for sissies" are quick to correct their playmates who aren't conforming.
I disagree. I think many children are drawn to gender-specific toys naturally. When I had my first child I thought what you are saying was true, 13 years and four kids later I have changed my tune. In most kids, the gender differences show up in early toddlerhood, long before tv and preschool could have had an effect. I've seen boy/girl toddler twins, with access to the same exact toys every day, choose toys (for the most part) along gender roles. I've seen girls in a house full of trucks and dinosaurs, find the one doll to play with. I think kids have their natural tendencies with this, and there isn't a whole lot a parent can do to make their child be more "boyish" or "girly" than they are. Lots of girls like to play with trucks and balls, and lots of boys like to play dress up and house--I'm not saying that toy preference is always split along gender lines, but when it is I don't think it is because of anything the parent did or didn't do.
wednesday's Avatar wednesday 11:51 AM 06-14-2006
Not sure what exactly you're disagreeing with, since I was commenting on families I know personally and what I have seen in their households.

And as for the influence of TV/other children, my friend for example was raising a boy who for a long time seemed pretty neutral/oblivious to the gendering of toys/clothes/etc. They don't watch any TV in their house...but one day, at 2.5, he didn't want to wear his pink shoes anymore (which he had joyfully chosen himself just a couple months earlier) because "pink is for girls." Where did he learn that? Daycare. He wasn't born naturally believing only girls can wear pink shoes. Society's enforcement of gender roles is more insidious than people think.
Jwebbal's Avatar Jwebbal 01:22 PM 06-14-2006
I'm not saying that toy preference is always split along gender lines, but when it is I don't think it is because of anything the parent did or didn't do.
Oh I most definitely think it can be influenced by parents and have had many of the same experiences Wednesday has had.

My son has had an equal amount of both and has played with all of them pretty equally. Lately he has been playing with his trains more, BUT he also asks for me to paint his nails purple. When he gets around boys that have been what I call "classically raised" he has behaviors that are more "boy like" but when he is around boys who have been raised more gender neutral his behavior is quite different, more like who is is all the time.
boongirl's Avatar boongirl 02:05 PM 06-14-2006
I have a degree in sociology and dh has a masters in biology. We used to have discussions all the time about gender roles, are they born or made. I thought he was full of it until we had a child, a girl. When we were in coop preschool, starting when she was just 1, it was amazing to watch what toys the kids gravitated towards and how they used them. The girls often gravitated towards the toys that were quiet - puzzles, the sand pit, plastic animals - whereas the boys were climbing and making cars go "vroom" and as soon as they were walking well they were zipping around the room. One day, I was coloring at a table with my dd and I looked up and realized that all the girls were quietly sitting at my table coloring with us and all the boys were zooming up and down the indoor climbing toy, yelling at the top of their lungs!

I also remember in new mommy group, when the babies were starting to be mobile, the girls tended to sit back and watch a lot more than the boys who were just all over the place. I have three good friends, each with boys the same age as my dd, and I have watched my them all grow up and the boys are just more physical in their playing than my dd. But, they all tend to play with the same toys but one boy. The other two and my dd play with trains and dolls and blocks and they tend to play similarly with them. They give the trains identities and the trains squabble and bash each other and the dolls run around and talk and the blocks get built up and crashed down. The difference is in the nurturing. My dd will sling her dolls and stuffed animals and coo to them and love and snuggle them. The boys don't do this. The third boy has no dolls and has a father who is a martial arts expert. He turns anything he can into a sword and has lots and lots of toy vehicles and is aggressive in playing with them.

So, reluctantly, I had to concede to dh that some of what makes our personalities is born in us. I watched my dd from day one have the same pensive nature as her parents. From day one! I have listened to her, as her vocabularly grows, finding the loopholes in my logic and reasoning, the same as her parents do. A lot of this is born with her.

But, I do think that socialization does indeed affect play and gender. As coop preschool turned from mommy and me to actual pre-school, I saw the children getting more and more molded to the way that they were expected to play. In a way, I was really glad when my dd indicated she did not want to be in preschool yet. I pulled her out and I am glad because I am not ready for her to be molded into playing the way kids do in school. The parents were treating her like a girl, talking to her more gently, suggesting more girlish play to her. The boys were running around like rude maniacs and they were allowed to "because they are just being boys." They were just barely 2.5-3 years old. I did not like this gender identification.

Also, clothing is so gender identified. It shocked me, when I first started shopping for baby clothes, at how the line is drawn between girls and boys. Why can't girls wear navy or dark green? Why can't boys wear pastels? Why do boys own cars and yucky bugs and animals whereas girls own furry animals, butterflies, and delicate toys? I took my dd shopping once at 4 mos old, wearing a pink top and light blue pants. An old lady called her a girl and corrected her. She chastised me for putting a girl in light blue pants!:
Mama Poot's Avatar Mama Poot 02:16 PM 06-14-2006
My son is 10 months old, and I've never really given much thought to whether or not he likes playing with "girly" toys or "boy" toys. A lot of his toys are gender-neutral, which was through no planning of our own- most of his toys are gifts from people. He'll play with anything he can get his hands on, so he would probably love dolls just as much as his trucks and other more "masculine" things. I think its healthy for children of both sexes to play with different kinds of toys. Hmm.. I think I'm going to get some of my old dolls from my mom's house and give them to my son now!
elmh23's Avatar elmh23 03:25 PM 06-14-2006
My daughter goes from one to the other. One day she's carring around her baby doll and nursing it. The next, she's on the floor crashing her truck into things. I think as long as you give equal access to both sterotypes, they'll just play with what they love. My SIL has 4 sons and will not own a toy kitchen or doll for fear of making her sons "sissys" They were down recently and her son was all over my dd's play kitchen! I feel bad for her kids.
mamabohl's Avatar mamabohl 03:58 PM 06-14-2006
My older son was never interested in "homemaker" type stuff. I got him a doll and shopping cart and play food....he just didn't care for them. He LOVED trucks and blocks. Especially fire trucks. Now my younger son LOVES playing with food and has several babies that he cuddles....Just different personalities.
Jwebbal's Avatar Jwebbal 04:23 PM 06-14-2006
Okay, more time for a response. My son has always loved his dolls and stuffed animals and does indeed "love" them. Put them to sleep, rock them, put them in the stroller. He also has loved puzzles and coloring and other quieter activities. He loves his kitchen, his baby crib, baby stroller, sling, etc. He also loves physical play, jumping, running, etc. We do not encourage "bashing", fighting, kicking, and playing rough with others. Ever. We do not get into the whole "boys will be boys" thing, and in fact I responded negatively yesterday when another mother noticed I was getting very upset at my boy interacting with a group of other boys who were crashing into each other, kicking and generally getting into each others faces. She said "boys will be boys" and I said, but if our girls were doing that, would we tolerate it? Of course not. I don't like the behavior no matter who is doing it because eventually one of them will get hurt and then everyone will be sorry. It did indeed happen. Boys can be nurturing and loving, and girls can be rough and tumble and I DO believe it is reinforced by parents and other adults, and definitely other children (usually older). I do not think it is purely, or in fact majorly attributed to just how someone is. Who is to say that these children in a play group were not be influenced by others? I know the more my son interacts with other boys the more he tends to act like this. I see it even on these boards, people who have a hard time with their kids (especially boys) acting in non gender role ways.
nextcommercial's Avatar nextcommercial 04:30 PM 06-14-2006
I have a daycare. I had two kids of the same age (My daughter, and a daycare baby) they were about 13 months old. They were both playing with hotwheel cars together. Both lying on the floor together with their arms full of cars.

My daughter had chosen all the pink, yellow, purple cars....her cars were kissing and dancing, and talking (about shopping).

Christopher had chosen all the black and blue cars (and a Phoenix Sun's car) His cars were making vroom vroom noises, and he was crashing them into each other.

SHe has always loved pretty clothes, shoes and panties. As a toddler, her favorite toy was a magic mirror that told her "You are the fairest one of all" and a microphone. When she played soccer, she apologised to the other player from the other team for kicking the ball. She dances now.

I am not like this. I never cared about girly clothes, or panties. I was not a "Born shopper" I liked sports, not dance. I didn't teach this to her. She just likes it.
pookel's Avatar pookel 04:52 PM 06-14-2006
Originally Posted by wednesday
In my observation--and I am not saying this about anyone on this thread, but based on what I have seen IRL--most parents who say their child just seemed to naturally prefer gender-specific toys, had not truly made available a full range of choices. I mean, if a young boy has building blocks, and ten toy cars and trucks, and a soccer ball, and trains and tracks, etc., and one doll, by the sheer law of numbers he's going to play with the "boy" toys more than the doll, kwim?
I know that you weren't talking about people on this thread, but I just wanted to point out that I have boxes full of stuffed animals and dolls that I was really hoping my son would play with, and which he just totally ignores. It's kind of sad, because some of them are really nice toys. He did like his glow worm for a little while (he used to suck on its face!), but mostly because of the lights and music, I think.

He didn't have any toy cars or trucks at all until recently - after he showed a strong interest in watching cars go by our house. We live on a major street, so when I take him out to the porch we see plenty of cars go by. He is just fascinated by them. He still won't say "mama," at nearly 15 months and after tons of encouragement, but he picked up "vroom!" after hearing it only once or twice.
chfriend's Avatar chfriend 04:53 PM 06-14-2006
dd1 fits the boy developmental calendar (on the move, talked late, etc) and likes girl colors. More into people than things. Does not play independently. Loves science/math/sports.

dd2 fits the girl developmental calendar (sits and focuses, talked early). More into things than people. Plays independently. *Loves* balls and dolls.

Storm Bride's Avatar Storm Bride 05:24 PM 06-14-2006
I don't know, because I honestly don't pay much attention to what fits which gender role. But, in snapshot:

DS1 as a child: He talked very early, and developed a huge vocabulary at a young age. He's very talented at painting and drawing, and even moreso at sculpting (with modelling clay - he hasn't done anything else yet). He's very, very creative and verbal. He loves babies, and has always been a very kind child...full of hugs and kisses and cuddles. His favourite toys as an infant/toddler/preschooler were swords, blocks, stuffies, anything that made noise (drums, rattles, etc.), books, baby dolls, crafts (drawing, colouring, painting, etc.)...I don't really remember what else. He loved having me sing to him. His current (age 13) favourite activities/playthings are stuffies, juggling, toy weapons, guitars, drawing, books (fantasy novels, largely), modelling clay, video games and running around playing "make up your own rules" games of tag, hide'n'seek, and battles (ninjas, warriors, wizards, etc.). He's never been very interested in cars and trucks. He's always been a very, very active child, but not terribly aggressive. He likes to wear bracelets and necklaces and rings, and was painting his nails at school last year. He's never much cared for pink, but I think he picked that up from me.

DD: She talked even earlier, and has an extensive vocabulary. She's becoming more cuddly and affectionate, but that didn't happen until she was about two. She's active enough to make ds1 look as though he was in a coma as a child. She's very argumentative and aggressive. She loves dressing up - not just in "girly" stuff, but also in costumes. She likes toy weapons (takes her brothers from his room), baby dolls, stuffies, colouring, books (she has to "read" them herself, though), her play kitchen (she just brought me a plate of "lunch"), noisemakers. She doesn't let me sing to her very much - insists on singing herself. She used to attack the cat a lot...even after it scratched her twice.

Both of them have wanted to help me with cooking, cleaning, etc. They're both very intelligent and quite creative. So far, dd seems to have the advantage in math (I'm a math brain, and so is dh - ds1's dad wasn't), and ds1 is the creative genius around here. DD is the aggressive one.

I have no idea how/where any of that fits into typical gender roles. I don't really think about it very much. I believe there are some "hard-wired" differences between the genders...generally. I don't mind that. What bothers me is when they become iron-clad rules. If only one man in a million wants to be a nurse, and only one woman in a million wants to be a mechanic, then neither of them should have a problem with pursuing those choices. That's all I care about with respect to gender differences.
sweetest's Avatar sweetest 05:50 PM 06-14-2006
One of the biggest problems I have with gender role discussions is how we put activities and likes/dislikes into gender categories: trucks are for boys, dolls are for girls. If one child gravitiates toward what we have deemed to be for the opposite gender, the child is somehow variant. Based on our conceptions.

It has been a long time since I got my undergrad degree in Cultural Anthropology, but I do remember case study after case study of societies where they did not have the preconceptions we (Western society) do about gendered roles and the (white, usually male) anthropologist made a point of describing "feminine activities" engaged in by the male. They are only feminine because we have made them so, for the most part. Some things are a direct outcropping of biological realities, like childbearing and nurturing. So the woman is less likely to go hunting because she is too valuable to the offspring to get killed. So hunting is male and cooking is female.

But pink and going vroom these things we give thier gender signifigance to. They are not fundamentally gendered.
1 2