The fact that eating disorders cross all gender, race, age, culture and socioeconomic lines has been clear for decades. Somehow, the fact that there is increased pressure on boys has escaped much of the spotlight.
A recent study published in Pediatrics yielded statists that show both boys and girls engaged in muscle-enhancing behaviors (e.g.: changing eating habits, increased exercise, used protein powders/shakes, used steroids, used another muscle-building substance), the large majority of which were boys.
Beginning in childhood, heroes like G.I. Joe and The Incredible Hulk model bulging muscles. If G.I. Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep. In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. Seems like in this, and many other ways, buff is the new skinny!
We continue to creatively perpetuate new and unrealistic ideals and expectations for our little boys and girls, who grow up into our men and women (and us!), and in some ways shaped by these confusing paradigms. You may have heard about 13y/o McKenna Pope’s petition to Hasbro asking them to make gender-neutral toy ovens. Ultimately, McKenna was saddened by a pushback by Hasbro explaining that boys do play with their products but never addressed the fact that these toy ovens are marketed towards girls.
And what is Barbie doing these days? Saying nothing about her unrealistic shape (in real life she would stand six feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips), she’s still hanging out in her Dreamhouse, tho, she has upgraded to 3-stories, has a beach house and a castle (in the country?). She goes camping now but sports high heals and a denim mini while doing so. The “Barbie I Can Be…™” series is impressive however, again it seems that Barbie can be anything she wants so long as she wears her high heals and a mini skirt! It would be great if they made a “Barbie I Can Be…™” ME doll.
I can go on and on about gender specific toys and the impact of them on the psyches of boys, girls, men and women but you get the idea. I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts/experiences (in “comments” below). Since the holiday season has already begun, I encourage you to be a little more mindful and aware of the toys that stock the isles (and your shopping cart) and form an opinion about it! What do you think and feel about what you see? About what your kids (or children in your lives) see? You can empower yourself, like McKenna Pope and many others, to take a stand and push back. If not by creating a petition or writing to these toy makers, by choosing where you spend your money and on which toys fill up your playroom!