Childhood is a time of innocence, and it's easy to dismiss children's media as harmless because of the simplicity with which most of its audience will approach it. The truth is all media is created with a message, and the messages we send to our children may be the most important of all. The same innocence with which they approach the world leaves them less equipped to analyze the underlying intentions. As an offshoot to my main blog, See Jane Juggling serves as a place for some analysis on the messages children's media send. My perspective is admittedly biased toward gender and race concerns, but I would love to hear from you about your other viewpoints as well. Rate the media (explanation of ratings to the right) and leave a comment, and together we can shed some light on these complicated decisions.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

B. Toys

Battat, Inc.
Rating: Y

Finding toys that aren't firmly situated in a gender binary can be difficult, especially if you're buying those toys as gifts.

Thats why I was happy to find B. toys, a line of toys designed to "inspire individuality." These brightly colored toys represent a diverse range of interests and age groups.

This line includes everything from remote-controlled cars to interactive abstract sculptures to electronic guitars shaped like a dog.

The Good
Unlike most toys, the B. toys are not divided into a gender binary of "girl" and "boy" toys. On the website,  the toys are instead divided by thematic category (ex. "B.Curious" or "B.Smart").

The toys themselves are all bright without falling into stereotypically gendered color schemes. Take these toy cars, for instance, which manage to use a combination of green, pink, orange, red, and blue to create a toy that is inviting for any child. I also appreciate that, though they're anthropomorphized, there are not any gendered features in the car's faces.
Must of the toys avoid falling into gender stereotypes by simply avoiding any gendered representations. There are a few toys, however, that have human figurines associated with them. These figurines demonstrate both men and women as active agents.

Again, there aren't that many human characters presented in the toys, but there is some racial diversity present in the few human beings that do appear.

This Fire Flyer, for instance, features both a black male and white female firefighter.

The Bad
The only races that I see represented are black and white, which presents a limited view of racial diversity. A few characters that represent other racial identities would be nice.

Bottom Line
I would have no problem giving these toys to my child (in fact, I've already purchased some as Christmas gifts for my own daughter, nieces, and nephews). These toys do an excellent job of avoiding a gender binary in their marketing, color scheme, or thematic categories. Even when the toys themselves fall into a category that is traditionally gendered (like the toy cars), the design is carefully crafted in a way that avoids giving into those stereotypes.

B. toys can be purchased at Target.

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