How Infant and Toddler Girls Learn to Beautify

Illustration for article titled How Infant and Toddler Girls Learn to Beautify

I'd love to draw your attention to The Alpha Parent, a blogger who has collected a stunningly large number of toys for infants that socialize girls into preening.

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Some of the toys are purses/handbags that include pretend lipsticks, compacts, and related-items. My Pretty Learning Purse (above) includes a toy lipstick and a mirror; the Gund Sesame Street Abbey Purse Playset includes a compact and powder brush; the Lilliputiens Liz Handbag includes an eye shadow compact complete with three shades and an eye shadow applicator.

Illustration for article titled How Infant and Toddler Girls Learn to Beautify


In case you were wondering if this is a trend, the Alpha Parent post features TWENTY examples of purses filled with such toys.

It also includes examples of toy make-up bags. Going beyond the inclusion of beauty items in infant toys, these make beauty the sole point of the play. Here are just two of the NINE pretend make-up bags she collected, the Oskar & Ellen Beauty Box and the Learn and Go Make-Up and Go:

Illustration for article titled How Infant and Toddler Girls Learn to Beautify

Since we wouldn't want a baby to miss the point, companies also produce and sell vanities for infants. The Alpha Parent's post included FOUR; here's two, the Perfectly Pink Tummy Time Vanity Mirror and the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Magical Musical Mirror:

Illustration for article titled How Infant and Toddler Girls Learn to Beautify
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The Alpha Parent goes on to cover real nail polish made for infants, beauty-themed clothes for little girls, and a common category of dress up: beautician outfits. I counted a surprising ELEVEN of these:

Illustration for article titled How Infant and Toddler Girls Learn to Beautify
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The latter reverses into a nurse's uniform.

The Alpha Parent concludes:

Makeup toys prime girls for a lifetime of chasing rigid norms of physical attractiveness through the consumption of cosmetics and fashionable accessories.

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They are also generally non-sex-transferable, meaning that parents are often loath to allow their boys to play with girl toys. Gendered toys, then, increase the rate of toy purchasing, since parents of a boy and a girl have to buy special toys for each.

It's a win-win for corporate capitalism. Socialize the girls into beauty commodities by buying these toys now, plan on reaping the benefits with the real thing later. Brainwash the boys in an entirely different way (the Alpha Parent notes tools and electronics), do the same with them simultaneously.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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This post originally appeared on Sociological Images. Republished with permission.

DISCUSSION

Sabelotodo
Sabelotodo

So, my boyfriend's daughter is 6 years old and she is really into the girly stuff, which I suspect has to do with the way she has been raised. Her 8 year old brother is encouraged to play sports and be active and engaged. He gets toys for his birthday, she gets clothes and makeup. He gets sent to school in tennis shoes to run around at recess, she gets to wear impractical flats or sandals. I would really like to give her a Christmas present that is gender-neutral in order to not push her further in the "girls can only do a limited number of things" direction, but I feel like at this point she tends to shy away from anything that isn't pink or a beauty product. I want to get her a present she will like and use. Any good suggestions?