The toy industry is more gender-divided now than at any time in the past 50 years, according to Elizabeth Sweet, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Davis. She’s a noted authority in the sociology of gender-based toy design and marketing. Analyses of historical toy catalogs show that in the 1970s more than half of toys were not designated as being specifically for one gender, whereas now, very few toys are marketed as gender-neutral, according to Sweet.
Marcotte points back to the deregulation of the advertising industry in the 1980s under Pres. Ronald Reagan as the origination point for the gender-division trend. “Once that happened, toy manufacturers realized they could increase sales by designing toys to be more narrowly targeted. Instead of having just a ball, you could make it pink and put a princess on it; or, paint it blue and put GI Joe on it. Now parents have to buy two sets of toys, one for their daughter and one for their son.”
But that long-term trend has had significant sociological impacts. “Girls and boys do not play together as much as they used to,” [John] Marcotte said. “These gender divisions are hard-coded into their toys and it informs their behavior in ways that has lasting results on their presumptions.”
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