It is clear to see how the soccer balls of Toys R Us resemble young boys more than young girls. Out of all the balls listed, 42 were for boys and only 30 for girls. In addition, the ‘girl’ soccer balls also did not resemble Helga’s age. The animated characters on the soccer balls would most likely appeal to very young girls. For example, the character, Dora the Explorer, was featured on one of the balls. The average age for children who watch the show, “Dora the Explorer, are between the ages of 4 and 7. Clearly, my daughter does not fall in that age group. There was also a Disney princess soccer ball. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the soccer balls resemble 17 year old Helga.
After browsing for Helga’s soccer ball, I began to search for her other toys on the wish list. First, I looked at the selection for footballs. Again on the left side, I was able to narrow my search so I decided to look through gender again. Immediately I saw that there were 266 types of ‘boy’ footballs I could have purchased and only 80 ‘girl’ footballs. I found this to be pretty shocking. Messner stated in his article,
“Thus sex-segregated activities such as organized sports as structured by adults, provide the context in which gendered identities and separate “gendered cultures” develop and come to appear natural” (128).
Toys R Us has more footballs for boys than girls. It can be assumed that the manufacturers of these footballs do not believe that girls may play football. Instead, however, girls can play soccer; as soccer is sometimes seen as a less dangerous sport than football. After seeing this, I decided to search for basketballs. To my surprise, I found that there were 293 types of basketballs or basketball related toys for boys and 161 types of basketballs or basketball related toys for girls. Although, the number of toys for girls in this search was still lower than boys, the difference is not as big like the football related toys.
For roller-skates, I found more ‘girl’ skates than ‘boy’ skates; 32 for girls and 20 for boys. Although there are finally more items for girls than boys in any sport, it should still not be unequal. Even the colors for the skates were different. There were lighter colors, like pink and yellow, for the ‘girl’ skates and darker colors, like blue and black, for the ‘boy’ skates. The same was true as for as colors for the bicycles. ‘Girl’ bicycles were usually pink with pom-poms on the sides of the handles and ‘boy’ bicycles were red, black, or green without pom-poms and sometimes a bell on the handlebar.
As far as price, my budget is $168. The most expensive soccer ball I found was only $16.99. Because I would have money left over, I would buy Helga soccer cleats. The most expensive cleats I found on the Toys R Us website were for $79.99. After buying the soccer ball and the cleats, I would have $71.02 remaining. To help Helga practice, I would also buy soccer training goals that costs $59.99. After all these purchases, I would still be within my budget of $168 which is good. Unfortunately, however, Toys R Us does not ship toys anywhere outside the United States.
I strongly believe the toys I found definitely promote gender roles. Through my findings, I realized these toys have the potential to teach children about gendered social norms. Like Newman stated,
“Toys and games that parents provide for their children are another influential source of gender information…Decades of research indicate that “girls’ toys” still revolve around themes of domesticity, fashion, and motherhood and “boys’ toys” emphasize action and adventure” (112).
If a young girl wants to play a sport, there would not be much support from the toy store nor will there be much support from the external influences around her. There will be a limited amount of toys she would be able to get for any sport. And as seen on the Toys R Us website, even if there are toys for a sport or related to a sport, the toys are still gender separated by featuring a female or male character on the toy. So although there is a soccer ball a young girl can play with, there is still a reminder that she needs to be a “nice, cute little girl” by placing a picture of a princess on the ball.