So I was watching an episode of one of my favorite television shows, Friends, the other day and came across a very apparent example of gender stereotyping that I thought would be a great topic for discussion. If you haven’t experienced the joy of watching this television series then here’s some background information. The show is about six friends working and kicking back in New York City. Ross and Monica are brother and sister. Chandler is Ross’s best friend from high school who rooms with Joey. Their apartment happens to be across the hall from Monica and Rachel who Monica new back in high school. Phoebe is Monica’s eccentric former roommate who remains friends with the group. The group of six friends can be often found hanging out at Central Perk, which is a local coffee shop, or at Monica and Rachel’s apartment.
In this episode, Ross has a very difficult time moving past a common gender stereotype regarding children’s toys. Ross and his ex-wife, who turned out to be a lesbian, have a son named Ben. One day when Ross goes to pick Ben up from the ex-wife’s apartment, he is unpleasantly surprised when he finds Ben playing with a Barbie doll. Throughout the entire episode, Ross tries to get his son to play with a GI Joe action figure instead but the boy, too young to be influenced by gender stereotypes, just wants the Barbie doll. Ross feels strongly that his son should play with the GI Joe instead but his ex-wife opposes the gender stereotype and thinks that their son should play with which ever toy he likes best. When someone points out that a GI Joe is a doll, Ross defends his opinion by declaring that it is acceptable for boys to play with GI Joe since it is an action figure.
During the last scene of the episode, they show a clip of Ross as a little boy singing a tune while playing tea party. While very comical, this clip makes an important point that goes against Ross’s association with “girly” activities only being appropriate for girls. I feel that there are many father’s today who would react in a similar manner to Ross if they were to find their young boy playing with a Barbie doll or baking set or other toys deemed “girly”. This goes both ways in that a young girl who likes sports and playing video games might be called a tomboy. I think that stereotyping is very unfair and can end up limiting people from doing the things they like to do. What do you think about this episode of Friends? Do you agree that many fathers would have the same reaction as Ross?