When the Greens began an Australian Senate inquiry into children’s toys, opinions throughout the media and population were strong and diverse.
There is an increasingly strong argument that traditional “gendered” kids’ toys promote unhealthy ideas of the roles boys and girls play in the world – and that this, in turn, ultimately contributes toward a culture of domestic violence.
Today, many of these inquiry submissions were made public, offering a fascinating look into two passionate sides of a surprisingly complex debate.
To get a better understanding of the matter, news.com.au recently spoke to advocates from either end of the debate.
“If we want to fix our domestic violence problem, we have to work towards gender equality,” said Sue Phillips from Junction Australia, an organisation supporting DV victims.
“These gendered toys are a part of that.”
“We have to start that national conversation. People need to get over the ‘It wasn’t like that when I was a kid’ argument and start to face the facts,” she said.
“Seeing Barbie looking beautiful and thin in a short dress, or playing with a doll in a toy kitchen, that reinforces the idea to girls that this is what women do.”
“And sure, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a girl wearing pink and loving princesses and boys wearing blue and loving trucks.
“But the segregation does perpetuate those gender stereotypes, which is what this is all about – gender inequality. It’s saying that women are in a different space in terms of their influence in our communities than men are.”
“If you’re separating out the gender and saying ‘Girls do this and boys do this’, knowing that men have more power and control in our society as a whole, what you’re doing is perpetuating the essence of domestic violence.”
On the other side of the debate, Gabby Anderson of the Australian Toy Association told news.com.au a child’s behaviour is “far more influenced by their family environment, school life or mass media, rather than the toys they play with.”
“ It’s too great a stretch to think there is any link between domestic violence and toys.”
“We believe there is an ongoing problem between domestic violence and gender inequality, and it’s definitely worth investigating. But we strongly reject any link between these behaviours and playing with toys.”
Do you believe toys play a role in shaping unhealthy – and dangerous – attitudes toward gender later in life?