A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that most Americans believe it is “a somewhat or very good thing” for parents to encourage their kids to play with toys that are usually associated with the opposite gender.
According to the report, 76 percent of Americans approved of the idea of parents letting their daughter play with toys that are usually played with by boys while 64 percent thought it was good to let boys play with toys more commonly played with by girls.
When it comes to matters of play, women were more open to kids using toys of the opposite gender than men were, as 80 percent of females said they were fine with girls playing with toys for boys, compared to just 72 percent of men. The gap grew even wider when it came to boys playing with toys for girls, as only 56 percent of men surveyed approved of the idea, compared to 71 percent of women.
Millennials were the generation most open to kids playing with toys associated with the opposite gender, though they only narrowly beat out Gen Xers. They even went political: When it comes to boys playing with girl-associated toys, less than half of Republicans (47 percent) said they thought that was a good thing, compared to 78 percent of Democrats.
Gender norms remain a complicated and divisive issue in the U.S. but this survey shows that perhaps Americans are beginning to open up to the idea of seeing gender as less rigid than in the past. However, the fact that people, in general, were more open to girls playing with toys associated with boys than boys playing with girl-associated toys indicates that many in society would still look down on a boy who is playing with a Barbie doll. Unfortunately, the idea of a boy doing anything that is outside the narrow lines of standard masculinity is too often seen as strange or wrong. Still, this survey shows the tremendous progress Americans are making in terms of understanding gender and accepting that kids should be allowed to play with whatever the hell they want.