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.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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