There is a huge segregation between male and female.
People suffer when they trying to escape away from these restrictions of genders.
I believe one day, for the male and female, the gender is nothing but only a biological difference.
Unisex is a reaction to the restrictions of concrete concepts of sex and gender roles.
The process of shaping gender stereotype is complex, it starts even when we are still kids.
Toy is one of the most important elements that helps shaping gender stereotype in our early age.
The environment of toys market is a disaster, it keep reinforcing the gender stereotype.
Toys manufactures design and produce toys based on the demand of market.
Adults’ gender concept leads to the gendered toy market and this generates gendered demand for toys.
Manufactures produce more gendered toys and reinforce the gender concept on toys, which forms a vicious circle.
How to solve this problem
My idea is trying to engage kids into the toys that traditionally not suitable for their genders. This does not mean to force boys play with barbies and girls play with robots. I need to try some less aggressive methods.
Toys Combining Test
My first try is to combine the toys with strong gender direction together to see how people and kids react to these combinations.
Creepy is what most people said about these combinations but kids are actually show great interest on this half fairy half drill toy.
Then I trying to give kids more freedom when playing with these combined toys. By involving the concept of Building blocks can give them most of the freedom.
All the blocks have cretain gender features. I was trying to see how kids gonna react to the blocks which are not traditionally for them.
White color makes them more gender neutral, this can eliminate the influence of color.
Most of the blocks that the boy used are more masculine such as strong legs and muscle arms. Blocks with more adorable features were also been used but not as much. Boy did not completely avoid the parts with feminine features. He started this test with regular buildings and gradually become more creative. He even involved the parts that do not belong to the test.
Girl did not used the feminine blocks except the heads. She didn't show much interest to this game.
Father did this test quite creatively. He also gave names to some of the buildings such as ‘The Power of New Feminism’ for the third one and “I Put My Head to The Side’ for the last one.
After this, I started to think what if I eliminate all the gender features and differences and turn all these blocks into gender neutral. In this way, kids can never build the character with any gender preferences.
But then I realized that it does not make any sense to design the toys this way, unisex doesn't mean that both genders are exactly the same, it represents the idea that how a person want to be does not restricted by his or her own gender.
So I decided to keep all the gender elements from real life. Both genders should have multiple forms instead of one. When people can pick any form among them without any restriction, this is the moment for true unisex.
Teaching kids the possibility of gender instead of trapping them in the ‘neutral’ box that based on our gendered minds is the main aim for this design.
I picked 36 toys from ToysRus top toys in 2016 and 2017, analyzed the content of toys from the perspective of physical characteristic. These analysis items are based on the study of Deaux and Lewis (1984) in which they indicated that the elements of gender stereotype are consisted by role, occupation, physical characteristic and trait, here I picked physical characteristic as my analysis items as this is the most visible elements on toys.
On the left side of this image are the colors of girls’ toys and right side would be the colors of boys’ toys.
Diversity of materials of boys’ toys are much less than girls’ toys. Hard plastic, soft plastic, fluffy textile and soft textile are largely being used on girls’ toys.
For girls’ toys, contents can be categorized into 5 categories which would be caring, housing, fashion, vending, fairy tale. As for the boys’ toys, content of them becomes much more simple and less including weapon & confliction, transportation and construction.
so my idea is, instead of offering kids the toys with gender elements fixed into together from the first place, offering them the saperated gender elements and let them build toys with these elements just like the test I did before. These elements are mostly come from the collection above and some modification will be applied to avoid kid from building toys with strong gender stereotype.
The design is based on the several occupations which are dominated by certain genders either in real world or in stereotypes such as construction worker, race driver, scientist, fireman, pilot (dominated by male) and cleaner, nurse, babysit (dominated by female) and also some other occupations like astronaut.
After picking these occupations out, I mixed these occupation with the features of its opposite gender as shown below.
Construction worker was mixed with long hair and pink color. The helmet of race driver was painted with pink and the nurse was given by a blue nurse hat and a moustache.
The nurse, babysit and cleaner were painted with blue and the race driver and worker were painted with pink. The foot of astronaut were designed as high hills.
The blocks of fireman or firewoman were painted with a orange red which is different than any other colors that were used on other blocks. This makes fireman or firewoman always comes with a skirt if kids trying to build these blocks based on the color.
The combination of these blocks are countless but they can never be built into a character which is traditionally pure masculine or feminine. For example if I only use pink blocks, they always comes with other masculine features and vise verse.