Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.42 14 Dec 2020


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A national campaign in the UK is encouraging toy manufacturers and retailers to drop what they call 'lazy stereotyping' by segregating toys according to gender.

A similar approach is also being rolled out across France.

Dr Debbie Ging is associate professor of media studies at Dublin City University (DCU).

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She told Newstalk Breakfast it's as much about the marketing as the toys themselves.

"The real push here, certainly in the French charter, is that they're focusing really on the advertising of toys and the way in which toys are marketed to children as either boys or girls toys."

Dr Ging said toys teach children early learning.

"It's really not a question of PC wokeness at all - it really does matter, and there's very sound research underpinning this.

"There's really three reasons: the first is cognitive development or reasoning skills - so toys are effectively the tools of early learning.

"So how we play affects, as we grow, how our brains develop".

She said people also internalise messages about social roles by playing with toys.

"The hardwiring thing of the nurture versus nature debate is defunct here - because in fact what's happening is the things that we're doing over and over are actually helping our brains to develop."

"So if we're restricting in this gender apartheid or extreme binarism, if we're limiting children's potential to access certain toys... then we're limiting their potential in loads of different ways".

"What the research shows is that at both ends of the spectrum, toys that are strongly gender stereotyped in either direction... are less supportive of cognitive skills."

Dr Ging said certain counties, like France, are taking it one step further.

"What we're seeing is a big push - and you'll see this in the French charter - where there's an explicit emphasis on getting girls into STEM.

"This is all quite orientated towards future careers."

Dr Ging added that toys and games with a STEM focus are being encouraged to use both boys and girls in their advertising, "but there's no move in the other direction".

Main image by Markus Distelrath from Pixabay 

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Children's Development Dr Debbie Ging Dublin City University Gender Stereotyping Gender Stereotyping Toys Newstalk Breakfast STEM Toys

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