A simple 8-panel cartoon on toy choices for boys and girls.

Shopping for toys might not seem like an important parenting moment, but it is.

For example, when my wife and I are looking online or at a shop somewhere, our 7-year-old boy frequently chooses toys that are marketed to girls, like pink backpacks and sparkly purple art projects.

Some parents might steer him over to a different set of toys, but we make a point to not pass judgment. We do caution him that he might have some kids teasing him, but that doesn't bother him one bit. In fact, that kind of peer pressure doesn't affect his decisions at all (proud papa moment there!).


Toys are still gendered and it's often in a way that's unfair to girls.

Many of the toys that toy makers typically assign to girls point them in a certain direction, often associated with homemaking and pleasing men, a point recently made by comic artist Christine Deneweth, who published a fantastic cartoon about kids and gender discrimination (see below).

Deneweth says she was watching TV when she saw toy commercials featuring boys conquering the world while girls stayed at home. She realized that the toys weren't just gendered, they were limiting girls to few roles in society.

"Boy toys market that boys can be anything: scientists, dragon masters, sports stars, superheroes, and so much more," she said. "Girl toys limit girls into being moms and cooks. And while it is good to be a mom or a cook, toy marketing doesn't show girls in a variety of roles. This can be damaging because girls need to see that they can do anything, too."

This comic does a great job of showing just how gendered toys can send the wrong messages to kids.

It's worth noting, of course, that just because a woman does these things doesn't mean she's "doing it for men." Many women cook, make dinner, are moms, and wear dresses because they want to do those things for themselves. But it is a problem that toys marketed to girls reinforce the message that women and girls are supposed to be doing these things, and they aren't being given opportunities to try other things. And vice versa for boys.

Stereotypical toys can be harmful to boys, girls, and those who don't identify as either.

For example, I am the family cook and my boys do the laundry. These are not gendered roles at all in our house.

But I'll be damned if I can find a cooking set in the boys' section at the toy store.

There are companies that are breaking these molds, such as GoldieBlox, which offers toys that can inspire girls to be engineers, to build things, to dream beyond traditional roles.

Image from Hasbro promotional video.

Even bigger companies like Hasbro have received enough pressure to offer gender-neutral toys when previously, Easy-Bake ovens were only offered in pink and purple. Who made them consider changing? A 13-year-old kid.

Perhaps we're decades away from gender-neutral being the norm, but every time we talk about this, we make progress.

And parents (or kids) ... if you find a toy that bugs you because it's blatantly sexist, feel free to have a conversation about it, or start a petition, or just refuse to buy into the stereotypes.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less