Tonka Toys: “Built for Boyhood”

In 2007, Tonka aired an ad which later got pulled, due to its overt attempt to force gender specific toys, as well as gender specific stereotypes onto little children. At the start of the commercial the narrator begins by saying, “Lets face it, boys are just built differently.” This is the sentence that opens the commercial. Already we are told that boys are “built” differently and Tonka has conveniently manufactured a toy that satisfies a boys needs.

The problem with the commercial is that the qualities that they assign to the boy can also be qualities attributed to some females. So in all actuality how are they different? The commercial goes on to explain how these are things that they do naturally, and they have built a toy specifically for those ‘naturally’ acquired needs. The qualities the commercial assigned were chasing, tearing things down, critical thinking (by matching shapes) making messes, and riding on the truck. The cultural gender norms remain evident in essence to the contrast of toys specialized for females like the Rose Petal Cottage where little girls are supposed to have fun while cleaning the kitchen, preparing laundry, and taking care of the baby. While chanting how taking care of the home is her “dream”.

If true to Tonka’s slogan, “built for Boyhood”, what is a little girl supposed to do when she wants to play with a Tonka truck? Gender is a social construct, and Tonka seems insistent on maintaining that norm. Fortunately that commercial was banned, but …

TONKA’s website gave more evidence of gender conditioning. The TONKA products that are featured on the website include: the TONKA TODDLER, which is “rugged real-styled vehicles packed with truck features and skill-building activities that go with your little trucker from baby to big boy, helping him hit important developmental milestones along the way!” and the TONKA BIG BOY which features “big sturdy wheels and rugged frames these powerful vehicles for bigger boys stand up to the toughest outdoor conditions and perform just like the real thing!”(McCauliff’s)

 It’s been a pretty amazing ride, and here at TONKA we’re proud to say that after 60 years of hard-driving play we’re still the brand that’s built for boyhood. (TONKA)

Have they gotten the message? Or are they simply stuck on their beliefs of what male gender roles should be?


About dt3d

Darrisaw's professional experience includes Summer Internships and Upper level education. She is Hard working, determined, can multi-task, and simply love staying busy. She is extremely reliable and confident in her fields of study. Her writing skills are excellent; futhermore, she has won numerous awards as a result of writing and have also received the Northern Virginia Scholastic Acheivement Award for her academic studies. Her Goals are to excel in any field she is in, considering she is double majoring in two broad subjects, which are Criminal Justice/ Communications. Although she is also majoring in Criminal Justice, her primary focus is advancing in the field of Communications, to further her career in the Mass Communications field, whether being print, television, film, etc.
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One Response to Tonka Toys: “Built for Boyhood”

  1. You hit the nail on the head when you locate the power of this commercial in its naturalization of gender differences. This is precisely the point that needs to be made. Gender, as a cultural construction, consists of the meanings and learned behaviors we come to associate with differences in biological sex. Here Tonka just wanted to make a buck off of capitalizing on people’s perception of those differences as rooted in nature.

    Just the other day I was dressing my four year old who, of course, wears hand-me-downs from her older sisters. She has one of these “Life is Good” shirts that is green and features a red fire truck on the front – a gift the big girls received from Grandpa when they were her age. And although there was never any objection to the shirt before, by any of the other girls, the four year old told me she did not like that shirt because it was a boy shirt. “Trucks are for boys,” she said and she didn’t like the color green either. She likes pink and purple.

    *Sigh* Maybe its time to give the princess and Barbie stuff a break!

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