Boys Love Rainbow Loom, Defying Stereotype and Delighting Moms Everywhere

The popularity of a bracelet-making kit with our sons give us a teeny bit of hope for gender equality

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Courtesy of Rainbow Loom

Rainbow Loom bracelets

The other day, my seven-year-old son asked me for a Rainbow Loom. If you don’t know what that is, you don’t have children under age twelve. The Rainbow Loom is the toy of the season, a contraption for making the woven rubber bracelets that rise in stacks around grade school kids’ arms as they incessantly make them, trade them, and give them to their friends. The Rainbow Loom craze began in the summer, and unlike other fads, it has not yet abated, despite the decision of two public elementary schools in New York City to ban them.

When I expressed surprise at my son’s request—my son’s interests usually run more toward baseball and football—he was nonchalant. “All the boys in my class have one,” he said, and even accounting for kids’ invariably-inflated claims about what “all” their classmates have, since our conversation I have noticed that this is one toy that does seem genuinely gender-neutral.

There was nine-year-old son of a friend, for example, who told his mother that “no one talks anymore about Minecraft”—the hugely popular online building game—because they’re too busy talking about hexafishes and zippy chains, two of the more complicated Rainbow Loom bracelet designs (there are an infinite number, he recommends Ashley on YouTube’s demonstration.) And there was the friend who posted on Facebook about her tween son’s response when she gently teased him about giving a bracelet to a female classmate. “Mom, it’s not love, it’s just Rainbow Loom,” he said with an eye roll.

If boys are indeed embracing the distinctly feminine activity of making jewelry, it’s big news, and not just for the bottom line of toy stores across the country. Toy choice is the single most sex-typed behavior that children display. As neuroscientist Lise Eliot notes in her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain: “There’s a good reason why parents so often comment on boys’ and girls’ different toy preferences: this is one of the largest differences between the sexes that psychologists have uncovered.” In one study from Sweden, Eliot writes, “97 percent of boys were likelier to spend their time playing with toy vehicles, balls, and weapons than the average girl, when given a choice between those or stereotypical feminine toys. This difference is much, much larger than any of the cognitive or personality differences between the sexes.”

(MORE: School Has Become Too Hostile for Boys)

What’s delighting a certain set of parents about boys’ affinity for Rainbow Loom is that it requires quiet concentration and fine motor skills to string tiny rubber bands onto a loom and then essentially crochet them with an equally diminuative hook. The overwhelming preference of boys for things they can throw or smash, and of girls for things they craft or groom, is “fascinating, but also misleading,” Lise Eliot points out. Parents and teachers often point to play behavior as a representative difference between the sexes—“See, boys and girls are different, and there’s not much we can do about it”—when really play behavior is an outlier. In every other way, girls and boys are much more similar to each other.

In her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, cultural critic Peggy Orenstein elaborates on this point: “Toy choice turns out to be one of the largest differences between the sexes over the entire life span, bigger than anything except the preference (among most of us) for the other sex as romantic partners. But its timing and intensity shore up every assumption and stereotype we adults hold: little boys naturally like backhoes, ergo men won’t ask for directions. That blinds us to the larger truth of how deeply those inborn biases are reinforced by a child’s environment.”

So if even “one of the largest differences between the sexes that psychologists have uncovered” is now yielding to the call of the Rainbow Loom, perhaps it’s a sign that there may be hope for gender equality yet.

(MOREKeeping Teens ‘Private’ on Facebook Won’t Protect Them)

16 comments
fire996
fire996

I'm perfectly fine with any boy or girl choosing to play with whatever toy they want. That said. Why in the world would any society see playing with a toy as gender equality. I'm not talking about different "rights" for men and women. Those were established in this country a long time ago. Men and women ARE different and should remain so. Unless we want an entire society of clones. The differences between the sexes are what keeps life interesting. I have no desire for my girlfriend to like everything I do nor to like everything she does. Men and women need to be individuals. I have introduced her to target shooting and she has gotten me more engaged in the interior design of the house. She still has no desire to have a belching contest with the boys and I have no desire to get a manicure. There needs to be differences and ways for boys/men to express themselves differently from girls/women.

Gradle
Gradle

Happy Holidays everyone. I have a special present for all US parents and carers whose children are into Rainbow Loom bracelets. My friend who owns an arts and crafts company is doing a special offer. http://www.theblossomgallery.com/rainbowloomorganizer Two Rainbow Loom Boxes and instruction video for $1 use coupon code at check out 7QYWES4S available until Boxing day!

Ali_Davies
Ali_Davies

My son is 9 and has added this to his christmas list of things he would really like. Arts and crafts isn't just for girls. Boys love making, doing and creating too. So it isn't surprising that boys like this toy as creativity is for everyone 

KG2V
KG2V

You act shocked.  Folks, have you been following Paracord weaving at all?  Take nice parachute cords (aka 550 cord) and knot up bracelets, key fobs etc.  This guy (no relationship except talking on forums) has some great books http://fusionknots.com/

Became real popular on the preparedness forums


BTW, you know where macrame came from?  Ditto the fancier knot work?  SAILORS - BIG manly sailors who were bored


Katie62058541
Katie62058541

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eagle11772
eagle11772

Because it's "Rainbow" Loom, I can see some nuts screaming that this is "promoting homosexuality in the schools".  And THAT is the reason they will cite to ban it.

WilliamBarnes
WilliamBarnes

The distinctly FEMININE activity of making jewelry?The OVERWHELMING PREFERRENCE of boys for things they can throw or smash? We definitely did not grow up in the same neighborhood, or decade, for that matter.



DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

"Gender equality"???

How about "new market of bling and other pointless things for the hopelessly vein and naive"?  Seems to me no one else would give two (insert derogatory noun of your choice here) about it otherwise.

aliberaldoseofskepticism
aliberaldoseofskepticism

@eagle11772 No, no, associating gay people with rainbows is apparently out. Err, I mean, you know. They didn't even refer to Renly's guard on Game of Thrones as the Rainbow Guard.

peregrine1
peregrine1

@eagle11772 My son loves to make these rubber band bracelets using cool colours he likes like black, green, and orange.  He made one for his sister who was told by a boy in school that her brother was gay for making them and I spent almost an hour last night as my son cried because he was called gay.  You are talking about young kids and your comment was cruel and unnecessary.  I imagine you were probably the school bully who made fun of other boys because they were smarter and more creative and more talented.

eagle11772
eagle11772

@peregrine1 No.  I'm openly gay and was the target of bullies.  I guess you didn't notice, or don't understand, the smiley I put on the end of my statement.