Friday, July 29, 2011

Sports and Toy Gun's Influence on young boys


This weekend is my younger cousin, Mike’s birthday and I thought it would be nice to surprise him with a gift so I started to look online for some toys for an eight year old boy. I figured searching online for toys for mike wouldn’t be that difficult because Mike is a typical little boy, he is into sports, cars, video games and toy guns. The first site I visited was and I immediately noticed that you could search for toys according to age groups, and more importantly, toys were divided into gendered categories: “boys” and “girls”. makes shopping for toys relatively easy; however, the toys that are most frequently marketed are sports equipment and toy guns. Combining the marketing and how toys are gendered for young boys, they both create a strong influence of masculinity on the boys buying these toys and introduce them to our strongly gendered society at a very young age.

Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific gender.  Gender roles have been applied to mostly every aspect of our culture and sadly it’s even being represented in children’s toys.  Regarding toys, young boys in normal societies are suppose to be playing with toys like race cars, toy guns, sports related toys, and etc. On the other hand girls usually have kitchen sets and Barbie dolls, however when either the boy or girl branch away from their social norm of toys it is often considered inappropriate based on the gendered society we live in.
Scrolling down Toys ‘R’ Us list of recommended toys for a eight year old boy I realized that almost half on the toys they had for sell was from Nerf. For those of you that don’t know, Nerf is a toy brand created by Parker Brothers, and their toys consist of foam-based weapons and foam balls such as footballs and basketballs. Based on the gendered roles in our society, you won’t see many girls running around with Nerf guns or throwing around Nerf footballs, the entire company is geared towards selling to boys. Wanting to know more about how Nerf toys are marketed, I went to their company’s website and the first thing that pops up is a short video of about 5 young boys have a mini battle with the Nerf guns. Adding the tons of pictures of young boys with these guns on their website, it wouldn’t be hard matter fact it’s quite effortless for Nerf to persuade young boys into wanting their products. So at a young age boys are introduced to our gendered society by companies like Nerf because of the way they market their products.

    Companies like Nerf who are producing these toys based on gender should take full blame for how they are influencing young children into the highly powerful gendered society. According to Newman, “a toy manufacturer's catalog or web site reveals that toys and games remain solidly segregated along gender lines. Decades of research indicate that ‘girls' toys’ still revolve around theme of domesticity, fashion, and motherhood and ‘boys’ toys’ emphasize action and adventure” (Newman 112).  This statement from Newman relates directly with what I was saying about how Nerf is geared towards making toys mainly for boys that revolve around their foam guns and action. Nerf’s website/catalog contained many pictures of young little boys advertising their products making their product a typical “boy” toy. Also I found that in the 11th Annual Toy of the Year Awards, which is held at the American International Toy Fair in New York City, one of Nerf’s products was awarded “Boy Toy of the Year”. This award given to Nerf’s strongly shows how toys are strictly gendered from the manufacturer to the people selling the toys in the store.

    Not only do today’s toys for young boys introduce them to our gendered society at a young age, it also strongly influences their masculinity. Even at the age of eight, like my younger cousin Mike, boys are starting conform to gender constraints imposed by society while simultaneously building their masculinity. I believe the toys that are out there for young boys have a big impact on these little boys are forming their masculinity. Likewise, toys such as guns, sports balls, and video games are society’s way of instilling masculine characteristics into young males. Society and its gender roles have a detrimental effect on the outlook of children and how they view themselves and their peers. Males are expected to be tough, strong, superior and powerful, and they start to fit into these character troupes even at a young age with playing with toys like Nerf toy guns.

    To talk more about how masculinity is developed by young boy’s toys, I want to compare it to the use of sports and how boys are very likely to be involved in sports at a young age. The two go hand and hand, young boys a expected to be tough by usually playing a sport like football, or baseball and also have toys such as Nerf guns and footballs that they would play with on a daily basis. Messner states “A boy, for instance, may have amazingly dexterous inborn hand-eye coordination, but this does not predispose him to a career of hitting baseballs any more than it predisposes him to life as a brain surgeon” (Messner, 123). Messner is basally trying to say that for a young boy born with natural good hand-eye coordination, is more likely to use it on hitting baseballs than using the skills as a brain surgeon because the boy will be introduced to sports and at a very young age. Boys will be introduced to things like sports and toy guns because some parents think that these things will help turn their boys into men one day, and based on the gendered society we live in these parents are right and probably don’t know any better.

    In conclusion by the end of my shopping I decided to get Mike a Nerf toy gun anyway because I figured he is already old enough to know what he wants and that he has been already introduced to our gendered society anyway. A kid being introduced to our society at a young age is just a social norm now and probably buying Mike something out of his preference just to stereotypes and norms would have spoiled his birthday. So even though I realize toys are may or may not be having a negative influence on kids today because of how they are so gendered, I guess I’m still going along with what is socially accepted in our society.
Works Cited

Messner, Michael A. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Gender Socialization. Print.

Newman, David M. "Chapter Four Learning Difference Families, Schools, and Socialization." Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.

Photograph. NERF N SPORTS WEATHER BLITZ Pro All-Conditions Football. Web. 29 July 2011.

Photograph. NERF N-STRIKE BARRICADE RV-10. Web. 29 July 2011.


  1. This was an interesting post. I liked how you decided to look at products from one toy-maker, especially one that has a history of making gender-based toys like Nerf. You did a good job of making your arguments clear throughout this post. However, I feel that if you had mentioned a product listed on the Toys 'R Us website made by Nerf, it would have improved your argument. It would have been a good example of how Nerf markets their products to young males. Besides that, I think you did a very good job in your blog post.

  2. Please read the updated "Welcome" message on SOCS for the detailed reason for why it's taken me so long to comment on, and also grade these assignments! I rather post it there instead of here :o)

    I hope you'll understand that, in the interest of getting your grade submitted to PAWS by tomorrow, the commenting will have to be skipped and all feedback will be on SOCS in the rubric for this assignment under "Assessments."

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