Societal Constructs Often Result In Sub-Optimal Leisure Options


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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29 Responses

  1. mark boggs says:

    Ummmm….the Barbie Corvette?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to mark boggs says:

      See, this may be merely a matter of taste because that’s one of the things I thought of when I thought about cruddy girls’ toys.Report

      • mark boggs in reply to Jaybird says:

        If you’re playing as Ken in this childhood playdate, the Barbie Corvette is cool. And of course, having Barbie at your side, in the Barbie Corvette with her abnormally proportioned body? Well… that’s super cool.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to mark boggs says:

          So as a least-worst alternative in a “play with your sister/the girl next door, or else!” scenario, the Corvette ain’t so bad?

          I struggle to find common ground with this.Report

          • mark boggs in reply to Jaybird says:

            In these little playtimes with my older sister, Ken got to be a professional football player. He was able to use those little plastic football helmets that came out of gumball-type machines that you bought for a quarter. For me, this was the coolest thing ever. Go out all day to battle other NFL stars in their plactic 25 cent helmets and then come home to top heavy Barbie by the pool. Sure, I just as much enjoyed playing with my Adventure People stuff outside in the dirt, but at night, when it was too dark to play outside, this was a portion of my entertainment.Report

  2. Chris says:

    Beyblades? They’re spinning tops. They’ve been around for thousands of years, and somehow toy makers have convinced us to buy them for $8 a pop because they have relatively crude (mostly mythology or astrology-related) decals on top.

    Granted, I say this as someone who has forked out far too much money for these things. But seriously, they’re tops! That run into each other.Report

    • BSK in reply to Chris says:

      At least they’re better than POGs.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

      Dude, they’re *BATTLE* tops. They’re modular! You can modify and tweak and figure out which tops tend to beat which tops! Until you get the best top!Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I have played with these for hours upon hours (I’m having flashbacks right now; I think I might have a little bit of PTSD), and I can say with certainty that: a.) 95% of the differece between any two tops in a given battle is a result of the launcher, and b.) with the same launchers, it’s mostly about weight: the heavier tops will win about 80% of the time.Report

  3. BSK says:

    Not to nerd on the parade here, but it has a lot to do with how the different sexes GENERALLY (obviously not true in every case) develop. Boys operate in a world of verbs, girls in a world of nouns. The theory goes back to hunter-gatherer days and has to do with out the eye develops in the different sexes. Boys are more focused on movement (hunting) and girls on the details center-frame (gathering). As such, the toys that appeal to boys are largely the ones that do things or that you can do things with (cars/trucks, guns, balls) while the ones that appeal to girls needn’t do anything but must be purposeful and nuanced (dolls, stuffed animals, flowers).

    It is the same reason that a 4-year-old boy drawing will take a crayon, race it around the paper, and shout, “The rocket ship is blasting off! VROOM!” A 4-year-old girl drawing will use multiple crayons, creating detailed drawings of people and things. Boys draw verbs, girls draw nouns. The same is true for toys.Report

    • BSK in reply to BSK says:

      This is all an overcomplicated way of saying it’s genetics. I won’t make the leap to saying that girls genetically suck. But I’ll leave that to someone else… 🙂Report

      • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

        My third draft of this essay touched on that issue but I realized that since it’s *NOT* the case that girls suck, I didn’t want to open the question in the first place.Report

    • David Cheatham in reply to BSK says:

      Boys operate in a world of verbs, girls in a world of nouns. The theory goes back to hunter-gatherer days and has to do with out the eye develops in the different sexes. Boys are more focused on movement (hunting) and girls on the details center-frame (gathering). As such, the toys that appeal to boys are largely the ones that do things or that you can do things with (cars/trucks, guns, balls) while the ones that appeal to girls needn’t do anything but must be purposeful and nuanced (dolls, stuffed animals, flowers).

      I think another way of saying that is that boys roleplay problems and them being fixed, whereas girls roleplay ‘normal’ situations. To see this, hand them both a box of legos. Not one of the pre-collect boxes for specific things, just a random pile.

      Watch what they do with them. The boys will make vehicles to attack each other or crash or save people, or they will make some situation where things need fixing, like people attacking somewhere.

      The girls will make things, but those things seem to be just fine as they are. It’s a house, or a car, or whatever, but it’s how it’s supposed to be.

      Now, I have no idea if this is social or genetics, but I suspect genetics, because adult men and women do sorta the same thing, so much that good general advice to men is ‘Sometimes your girlfriend/wife isn’t expecting you to try to solve her problem, so just shut up and listen and don’t make suggestions until she asks.’.

      Of course, the things girl imagine seem fine from mine, a male POV. I suspect what’s actually going on is that women solve problems in non-physical ways, and if I watched a little girl play house with legos, there would be just as many problems, all of them solved by talking.

      In fact, I sorta suspect that it’s inherent sexism that doesn’t let us see ‘caring for a toy baby’ as ‘doing something’. Maintaining an imaginary social environment with a bunch of dolls and stuffed animals, having conversations with them and making them happy when they get upset with each other, is probably as much work as rescuing someone from the clutches of evil.Report

    • Elia Isquire in reply to BSK says:

      I had heard about this theory/research before, long ago, but had totally forgotten about it. Assuming it’s not all airy theory and there’s something at least pseudo-empirical about it, I’d say it makes a lot of sense. Totally fascinating, too.

      But aren’t there more girls’ toys nowadays that are action-figure-y? I’m just assuming since, in general, there are more girl super heroes and the like (Sailor Moon and the Power-Puff Girls were the only real ones — besides Wonder Woman, of course — that I recall from when I was a child).Report

  4. Kolohe says:


    (I think I saw this on fark, but may have seen it here and forgot y’all have already seen it)Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    I raised two girls. The oldest had her Barbies and My Little Ponies and the usual stuff but started getting into cooler goth stuff fairly quickly. The middle girl appropriated her little brother’s Batman stuff, especially the car, causing him to respond by enslaving several of her Barbies. Grandchildren are still too small to play with much.

    Girls love goofy plush toys. The latest bunch is Zombie Zoo. The tamagochi fad of years gone by has been replaced with other virtual pets. Making friendship bracelets has never gone out of style. Stickers, well, I’m not sure if they qualify as toys, but little girls collect them and put them in notebooks.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Plush toys are somewhat neutral, aren’t they? I mean, the animals, anyway.

      Friendship bracelets are cool girl toys.. Maribou pointed out earlier that girls also get to do (are downright expected to do!) crafts like cross-stitch or crewel or latchhook stuff. Which, I suppose, has upsides.Report

  6. Boegiboe says:

    Basically, the toy companies will market toys in a way that makes parents (and uncles, etc) feel good about buying them. The main gender rule in this is parents are afraid that letting their boy play with girls toys will make him a sissy or turn him gay. If a toy appeals to both boys and girls, it’s marketed as a boy toy or as gender-neutral, because there’s no problem with girls playing with boy toys (as Maribou said). The only toys that get branded as being “for girls” are the ones that toy companies don’t expect boys will like.

    They’ve occasionally been wrong over the years, and when that happens, they release a boy version to cash in on that market. Fashion Plates were a good example. Enough boys were caught playing with their sisters’ fashion plates that the company that made them (Mattel?) released Masters of the Universe plates. My brothers and I had a set of those, boy-branded for the safety of our masculinity.

    I had a pretty cool toy as a kid that, though I didn’t realize it at the time, was mainly a girls toy. It was a bubble-gum scented giant hula hoop, and I LOVED it. So did my friends. OK, so it wasn’t pink, but it smelled like bubble-gum–definite girls toy. Besides the skill game of doing the hula with the hoop, you could fling it out in front of you with spin to get it to roll backwards (this eventually wore off the bubble-gum smell), or you could play tag with it by trying to ring people with it. It was big enough to jump “rope” with, too. Great girls toy.

    Those realistic horses and their trucks and such are cool girls toys (I think only people in the horse industry would not think of them as being principally for girls). And while not all kids like pretending to be parents, my brothers and I all did, so we didn’t see anything wrong with realistic dolls. My youngest brother even had a baby doll in yellow pajamas, which I guess made it somewhat a gender-neutral toy.

    But these exceptions prove the rule, because in each case there’s some marking that allows a boy’s parents to say to themselves “It’s OK that he likes it, because it’s not REALLY a girls toy.”Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Boegiboe says:

      The dolls that have zippers and buttons and loops and shoelaces and velcro qualify as good gender-neutral dolls.

      Though I had a Raggedy Andy when I was a toddler and it disturbed my Grandfather to no end. My parents, being pretty progressive for the 70’s, explained “it’s his little man!”

      Eventually I was able to irritate my Grandfather because I did nothing but play “those video games”.Report

  7. Sam M says:

    I am not sure if girl toys are cool or not. But I do know that my wife was VERY excited when we had our first daughter because she got to buy a cabbage patch doll. “It’s just a doll,” I said. “No, it’s a cabbage patch doll,” she said, in a way meant to convey the difference between, say, a top and a BATTLE top.

    Another thing I notice now that I have a bajillion kids is that the girls might have crappier toys, but they get more real stuff. Combs and brushes and vanities. (Sorry to be sexist, but that’s what my wife lines up for them.) The boys get guns and cars, but they are of course FAKE.

    Generally, people tend to treat my female kids like small adults. They treat the boys like kids. When our first daughter was born, her godmother bought her an entire nativity set. A real one. Not a fake one with Boo Boo Kitty figurines. It’s what she will use when she has her own family. Ever since, she has gotten her crystal christmas ornaments, a jewelry box she will use one day whe she has… jewelry. In short, they are preparing her to be a woman and giving her things she will actually use at that time.

    The boys generally get toys that feel like snot. And regardless of what it is, they thow it until someone bleeds.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      Generally, people tend to treat my female kids like small adults.

      This is a really good point.

      I originally had a paragraph about how boy toys are ways for boys to sublimate the instinct to go to war and girl toys are training for girls in the art of boy management and thus society gets perpetuated.

      It was really overwrought, though, and I deleted it.Report

  8. Plinko says:

    I’m glad to know that all that time I spent with fashion plates as a young lad should not have caused my parents any worry. I turned out fine, and they certainly were one of the best ‘girl’ toys out there.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Plinko says:

      Searching Amazon for the next best thing, it looks like the version from the 70’s and 80’s was better. People keep complaining about the quality and how it’s not as good.

      This is a bummer.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

        Every boy should be given loads of girl’s and women’s fashion magazines to read, before he gets a grip on porn. They were an education for my youngest, my son, who learned early what girls wanted, what made them feel beautiful, such as they understood it.

        He quickly concluded girls were just as insecure as boys, long before the other boys worked this out for themselves. He became a romantic, a boy who grieved so hard over his tempestuous little romances other girls were drawn to him in an endless cycle which made Hugh Hefner look like a filthy old pimp. A strange, beautiful child he was, so different from his parents both questioned if we’d brought home the right baby.Report

  9. mark boggs says:

    I always liked the goodies that came out of the EZ bake oven. Never had much urge to use one, but enjoyed its fruits. Does that count as a cool girl toy?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to mark boggs says:

      This ties into Sam M’s comment. It’s a mini-grownup tool more than a toy… but the fruits of the EZ bake oven were, theoretically, not bad.

      The stuff *I* had was bad but I suspect that that was more due to the makeshift recipes kids tried to come up with after the three included packets of cake mix disappeared.Report