I forgot to share the following post during the Internet blitzkrieg over Target's decision to remove gender-specific decor from their toy section. It comes from research I completed for a gargantuan college essay on gender stereotypes a few years ago. Keep it in mind as you start (or finish) your Christmas shopping this year. :)
Gender-stereotyped children's toys are more prevalent today than they have ever been before. The primary reason for this is money (because it's always about the money). You can't just buy toys; you have to buy a Barbie for Sally and an action figure for Bobby. Twice the shopping, twice the cash, and there's still a 99.9 percent chance they'll end up
The reason this is a problem (besides the fact it lines the already-overflowing pocketbooks of corrupt corporations) is NOT because of the only thing anyone ever seems to think about these days (hint: it starts with an 's' and ends with 'x'). It's NOT about transgenderism or inclusiveness or the "gay agenda" or the breakdown of America's values. There are NO studies linking the types of toys children play with to their sexuality choices later in life, and people who say so (on both sides) are not only drinking the Koolaid of their media outlet of choice, they're injecting something as innocent as child's play with scuzzy undertones.
The reason splitting children's toys up according to traditional gender roles is bullshit is two-fold. First, society has changed dramatically over the past few decades. There are now stay-at-home dads and engineer moms and this is a good thing. Teaching and reinforcing 'traditional' gender roles with toys because we're trying to control our child's future is futile and irresponsible. We are supposed to be preparing them for the world they'll be living in, not clinging to the past because we're afraid or unfairly biased.
Second, children learn primarily through play. Cutting out half of the "tools" of their trade does nothing but destroy learning opportunities and stunt development. Art, science, dramatic play/dress up stuff, sports equipment - these things are all marketed to specific genders and there is no good reason for it.
Do you want your son to be a good dad? Let him play with dolls. Does your daughter love to build? By all means, get her some Legos (not just the pink and purple ones).
Let your sons make friendship bracelets. Let your daughters blow stuff up with chemistry sets. Let your kids be kids. It's not going to hurt them. In fact, they'll probably thank you for it.