Why Boys Love Cars, Trucks and Trains -- and Sometimes Even a Pink Jeep Essay
When my son was little, no trip to the toy store was complete without a visit to the child-sized motorized ride-on cars. I’ll never forget one particular visit when my son was a toddler and he strongly favored a pink (and expensive) Jeep over every other car (more about that below).
From my son’s infancy on he gravitated towards toys that roll, and as a toddler he continued to be fascinated by toy cars, not to mention real trains, planes and automobiles.
It wasn’t something we forced upon him because of his gender. He also had his fair share of dolls, stuffed animals, and even a play kitchen (complete with apron). He just truly enjoyed playing with toy cars of all sizes, dump trucks, bulldozers, garages, car washes …
Nature or Nurture?
Psychology Today reports that a boy’s preferences for cars is not a result of gender socialization. It appears to have a biological origin.
Studies have even shown that a boys preference towards cars isn’t limited to humans. A study out of Texas A&M University and City University in London shows that male monkeys prefer toy cars over dolls.
Some studies tie fetal testosterone to a male’s interest in mechanical motion, which may explain why my my son was fascinated by washing machines and ceiling fans until he was 4.
Not everyone agrees with the studies. There is wide belief that our gender identity is the result of parental and societal influence.
There have been media reports of a couple in Sweden who were going so far as to hide the gender of their child, Pop, to protect the child from social gender constructs (A similar story emerged earlier this year in Toronto with a child named Storm).
“It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead,” Pop’s mother told a Swedish newspaper.
I appreciate the attempt to instill a child with free will. But it seems dishonest to hide such an important fact from a child. Children are smart. They ask questions. Won’t this only serve to alienate the child from peers?
Also, I can’t help to wonder: If biology does indeed play a role, isn’t it equally as cruel to ignore this biology?
Pretty in Pink
According to a study in Current Biology and discussed in TIME, women may be biologically programmed to prefer the color pink. Neuroscientists at Newcastle University, who conducted the study, say their findings are grounded in evolutionary principles, dating back to hunter-gatherer days.
Others think this is silly, and the pink association is arbitrary. Cecil Adams, “The World’s Smartest Human” and author of The Straight Dope, for instance, says there are indications that pink and blue were used interchangeably until World War II. He uses the pink triangle used to identify homosexuals in Nazi prison camps as an example of this.
By 1959 Adams writes, that the infant wear buyer for one department store told the The New York Times, “A mother will allow her girl to wear blue, but daddy will never permit his son to wear pink.”
As for my son, I can’t explain that attraction to the pink Jeep. He was also a fan of the Disney movie Dumbo, and often watched the hallucinatory “Pink Elephants” scene over and over again. Maybe the pink Jeep reminded him of a pink elephant? Who knows!
Whatever the case, I never contradicted or criticized his attraction to a “girly” vehicle. Eventually he moved on to a red bicycle, and his obsession for the pink Jeep passed.
He was a stereotypical boy in many ways, but also a creative and fun free spirit. He still likes pink to this day.
And, boy, did he love cars.