Any conscious parent must have come across these thoughts at times, if not debated over it. The subject of gender biased toys has been discussed over and over again across the platforms. So we are not repeating it, rather we would like to put it under the lenses of Shastra today.
There are two things while considering toys, kids and their gender. First, that toys used to be aggressively marketed and classified based on the kids gender that sellers believed (driven by social trend) is more suitable for a particular gender kids, e.g. construction kit for boys and paper quilling for girls. This trend is somewhat slowing down. Second thing is very new to all of us, that the toy itself is being made gender neutral so that it can be played by either gender. This post is about the later case and we afraid if it may become a trend.
Recently (September, 2019) Mattel launched Creatable World, a customizable doll line that according to them is the world’s first gender-neutral doll. That means the doll can be a boy, a girl, neither or both. There is a big difference in gender-neutral toys and neutral-gender toys. The two things that we already considered above. If it would be the case of developing a toy line for niche market of transgenders, there is no issue with that. Since it’s about providing those toys to mass market, this needs to be addressed. The whole saga of gender-neutral toys is to expose children to the things and roles which are typically considered suitable to a particular gender, e.g. playing with doll house is a girly thing and driving vehicle is a boyish thing. It was a good thing to try gender-neutral toys/plays, that allowed a child to develop those faculties which were not otherwise experienced. However, this new concept of gender-neutral-doll is basically a neutral-gender-doll, as it has been consciously designed to include characteristics of both the genders and none of them at the same time. This would not have harmed much if there were no existence of gender specific dolls. Since they do exists, the immediate observation of any child on perceiving them together would be to learn about a third kind of personality other than male and female. This definitely is not the correct time to introduce them to third gender. Shastra teaches to respect every single living being, including transgenders. Creating an entire toy range out of such sensitive topic supported by convincing advertising is not something acceptable to masses, but Mattel has a history of making such news. No wonder if we happen to see dolls based on criminal characters, considering they (criminals) are also part and product of our society only. So why kids should be kept isolated from the reality? The point here is to give right thing at right age and not giving any-thing with stupid justification, specially when it comes to early childhood years. Also to present a higher perspective of analyzing a toy, that what a child learns from it (toy/play) at consciousness level rather than clinging to typical shallow level of physical skill development and safety.
Be informed, that Shastra do not belittle this third gender i.e. neutral-gender. There are ample evidences to show recognition and respect for all forms of gender identities in ancient texts. One must have heard of Lord Shiva’s avatar (incarnation) in the form of half-man and half-woman as Ardhanarishvara. There are enough of references about transgenders (Tritiya Prakriti) in Kama Sutra, one of the available texts on much wider and older subject of Kama Shastra as recompiled by Vatsyayana in 300 AD. In contrast, one should be surprised to know that very recently (in year 2006) our so called advanced world thought of drafting an international framework called Yogyakarta Principles to address the discrimination of gender queer persons.
Fortunately, a lot of toy critics internationally have criticized this gender-neutral dolls, we respect and loud their opinion. The intention to give this much importance to a modern day toy launch and write this post is to spread the awareness about what a conscious parent must strive for, and not to criticize any toy or toy company.
The modern concepts of gender-neutrality and gender-equality are septic focused efforts anticipating equality but the real equality and harmony can never be established without understanding the underlying thread that binds not only humans of different genders, but all the living beings. In this context, would like to conclude this post with following Bhagavad Gita verses from chapter 14,
मम योनिर्महद्ब्रह्म तस्मिन्गर्भं दधाम्यहम् ।
सम्भव: सर्वभूतानां ततो भवति भारत ॥ ३ ॥
सर्वयोनिषु कौन्तेय मूर्तय: सम्भवन्ति या: ।
तासां ब्रह्म महद्योनिरहं बीजप्रद: पिता ॥ ४ ॥
“The total material substance, prakṛiti, is the womb (source of birth). I impregnate it with the individual souls, and thus all living beings are born. O son of Kunti, for all species of life that are produced, the material nature is the womb, and I am the seed-giving Father.”
Image credit, Mattel, Inc.