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Would anyone like to join in an effort to convince retailers to stop categorizing toys by gender?

(1000 Posts)
OneHandWavingFree Mon 19-Nov-12 00:06:37

Following on from this thread and similar ones, a few of us are interested in discussing ways to send a message to retailers that it is not acceptable to designate 'boys' and 'girls' toy aisles which reinforce the message that science and adventure are "boys stuff", while girls should be primarily occupied with looking 'sexy' or practicing for domestic drudgery.

The first steps might be to draft a letter and identify a few retailers to target for an email campaign. Other ideas of how to get the message across are very welcome too, though.

Would anyone like to join in?

5madthings Mon 19-Nov-12 00:14:38

Marking place smile

tethersend Mon 19-Nov-12 00:18:57

Marking place also- I think advertising needs to be targeted too.

Advertisers are getting away with stiff they simply wouldn't be allowed to were they advertising to adults. I saw a toy advertised the other day with the announcement 'and now, for girls..' can you imagine an advert saying 'and now, for women...' and remaining on the air?

5madthings Mon 19-Nov-12 00:21:43

Yes advertisers as well.

So many have the toy section split up into boys and girls on their websites, its unnecessary and lazy.

John lewis

Shall come and add more tomorrow.

Wetthemogwai Mon 19-Nov-12 00:25:15

Meee! My friends partner takes this to the max by not allowing their ds o even have a purple dummy because 'its for girls' the poor boy isn't even allowed a kitchen or play food! I think it's utterly pathetic and styfling and pretty damaging too!
Changing the marketing would go a long way to ease these attitudes I think though its a far from easy task

OneHandWavingFree Mon 19-Nov-12 01:55:22

I've put some thoughts down in writing, just to get the ball rolling re: what aspects of the issue we want to focus on, and how we want to organise our points. These are just rough ideas, some of which might find their way into an eventual letter template (if anyone wants to help draft one?!), and some of which might not.


•It is not the place of retailers to determine which toys are appropriate
for which children, outside of safety warnings related to age. It is the parents’ role to decide which toys are appropriate for their children, and we are asking as parents that retailers respect that.

•It is lazy and unnecessary to categorise toys in this way. They can be
grouped by age or by interest, e.g. “fashion”, “role play,” “construction,”
“vehicles” etc.

•The idea that boys and men are drivers, explorers, builders and
adventurers, and that girls and women should be concerned mainly with
domesticity and beauty / image, is as outdated as it is offensive. By reinforcing these archaic ideas retailers are alienating a large and growing proportion of the consumer public.

•We recognise that toy manufacturers, marketers, and consumers share
responsibility for the increasing polarization of what is considered to be
“for boys” and “for girls,” and for the disturbing trend toward image-
obsessed and age-inappropriate toys for girls in particular.

However, retailers reinforce and perpetuate these damaging messages by overtly designating “Girls” and “Boys” aisles / sections. Because brick-and-
mortar shops and online stores are the actual point of contact between
the young consumer and the products on sale, we believe that the retailer
has a particular responsibility to avoid sending the message that certain
items are only appropriate for one group of children or the other.

Why it is damaging to children for retailers to group toys by gender:

•It strongly discourages children from pursuing interests outside of the narrow (particularly narrow in the case of girls) range of options in the section
designated by their gender. Some children may feel comfortable choosing
toys from the “other” aisle or website list, but many more are likely to conform with the expectation being reinforced by the adult establishment. Why should a child have to find the courage to subvert adult expectation before she can choose a rocketship from the toy shelf?

•It sends a message to the girl who likes Thomas and Friends that she is
not a “proper” girl, and to the boy who wants Sylvanian Families that he is
not a “proper” boy, because they like toys that the shop tells them are
for the other gender. Why would you want the children of your
customers to be made to feel that there is something wrong or lacking
about them, because they want to buy a product that you’re trying to sell?

•It perpetuates the mindset that girls and women are the lesser, inferior
“other” due to the fact that the “standard” version of a toy (original Duplo or Lego, multi-coloured V-Tech type toys, building blocks [others??]) inevitably ends up in the Boys section, while a pink or purple “other” version goes into the Girls section.

•The practice of categorizing toys by gender is detrimental to both
boys and girls (why should boys be discouraged from nurturing role play,
with dolls and prams?). However, the messages sent about which themes
each gender should be interested in are particularly offensive to, and
limiting for, girls.

The toys in the Girls sections tend to fall into one of the
following categories:
1. The pink, “other” versions of standard toys, as mentioned above,
2. Toys that encourage a focus on domestic roles like childcare and cleaning (which are fine for role playing fun, but damaging when accompanied by the clear message that these activities are only for girls, and are among the few things that girls are / should be interested in),
3. Toys that encourage concern, from a very early age, about beauty, fashion, image, and even “sexiness.”

In the Boys’ section, meanwhile, are toys that encourage play involving space travel, construction, planes, trains and automobiles, adventure, science projects,
and role play as ‘heroes’ (superheroes, firefighters, police officers). Nothing in the Boys section indicates that little boys should spend any time thinking about whether they’re attractive or worthy of the attention of the other sex.

That's all I can come up with at the moment! But I will come back tomorrow and will be interested to see what thoughts others might add. I think the main trick will be making all the points that need making, while composing a clear and pointed letter, rather than an interminable internet rant! smile

paperclips Mon 19-Nov-12 04:15:46

onehandwavingfree - Nice one, very well said.

TheNebulousBoojum Mon 19-Nov-12 04:31:26

That's a comprehensive and well thought-out argument, OneHand, but when my DD was born the gender split between toys, in particular the dreadful colour coding, was nowhere near what it is now. Likewise with clothing. So what happened?
How will we go about changing the mindset of parents? Which came first?
It is a very worthwhile campaign, I'd love to see it have a significant effect before I'm selecting presents for grandchildren.

thelittlestkiwi Mon 19-Nov-12 06:00:22

I've facebooked a couple of big retailers here in NZ about this recently. One kindly said I could buy from either aisle hmm. The other said that some wholesalers require it, and that a survey of customers also wanted it. I find that hard to believe.

But 400 letters here in NZ was enough to get Cadbury to go palm oil free so there is hope.

There are a few facebook groups you might find interesting:

A mighty girl

Pink stinks

Meglet Mon 19-Nov-12 06:46:47

Marking my place.

alexpolismum Mon 19-Nov-12 07:10:16

wasn't there a thread recently about the dressing up costumes available for girls? Or perhaps it was mentioned on a thread about something else. Anyway, I see this as also coming under the category of "toys". Why can toys not just be for children, with the children themselves deciding which ones they are interested in?

I am not sure whether it has come about because of consumer demand or if it has come from manufacturers, I think a bit of both. The manufacturer plants the seed - so much better for them to sell 2 boxes of lego (for example) to one family, one "normal" and one with pink bricks, that's twice the sales. Excellent marketing. The consumer picks up on the idea and perpetuates it.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that the manufacturers use an already existing strain of sexism in society and exaggerate it. The advertisers make it a hundred times worse and then the customer takes it on board. It will be very hard to change, I think, as it is so profitable. (this doesn't mean we shouldn't try, just that I think it is an uphill battle)

Himalaya Mon 19-Nov-12 07:48:41

Maybe set up a Facebook page?
List all the retailers that do and don't and get people to write letters.
A petition on aimed at the biggest culprits.
Start at around Xmas with the ask being for change before next Xmas?

I think it is consumer driven - if you look at catalogues sent to schools and playgroups etc they say role play, construction etc not girl/boy.

Still it is worth telling retailers that there are consumers who don't support stereotyping.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 08:17:15


Just do an image search for 'boys toys' and then for 'girls toys'.

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 19-Nov-12 08:52:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

5madthings Mon 19-Nov-12 08:55:44

Also TowardTheStars on fb is another page whivh talks about this and has good links etc.

GeekLove Mon 19-Nov-12 09:00:00

Count me in! Will publicise such a campaign with twitter and Facebook. I am a parent of two boys and the gender stereotyping is so depressing.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 09:01:28

Are there any good retailers out there who we could (a) recommend and (b) cite as examples to the perpetrators of sexist shite marketing for kids?

Even any which have got better - Bright Minds does still have links for 'girls toys' and 'boys toys' on the web but not too prominently and while they do still have a pinkish page in their catalog in the science section at least its no longer labelled 'girls science'. (I think DD still skips that while poring over gadgets on the other pages, pinkifying definitely loses some customers)

SamuraiCindy Mon 19-Nov-12 12:04:50

This is a great idea. Just as I was reading it an ad came on Nick Jr, (DD loves Peppa) for a Ben and Holly toy, describing Holly as 'everyone's favourite fairy princess' and Ben as 'an adventurous elf'. It's everywhere!!!!

I have got my DD a castle, a pyramid and jigsaws for Christmas. I also buy her boys' pyjamas as they are the ones with Buzz Lightyear and all the cool people on them. But I am sick of having to go into the 'boys section' to find things my daughter will like. It isn't right.

SuePurblybiltbyElves Mon 19-Nov-12 12:12:22

Marking place for when I have more time.

MummyPigsFatTummy Mon 19-Nov-12 14:30:05

I would wholeheartedly support this. Not toys exactly, but gender stereotyping-related - we are looking for DD's first bicycle at the moment and I went onto Halfords' website a few minutes ago. It may be different for the older children but amongst the 12" frames at least, all the girls' ones were pink or cute in some other way and all the boys' ones were builder/police/firechief-themed. As DD would be absolutely delighted with a carrier on the bike for her dolls/cuddly toys, I can't bring myself to buy her a boys' bike just on principle so she will no doubt be cupcake or panda themed (assuming we don't find something elsewhere).

However, the bit which really irritated me was the blurb on the website below the bikes. An example:


"If you're buying a first bike for your child, we have some great small bikes featuring popular characters from your children's favourite movies, cartoons and TV shows.

But if your kid enjoys exploring or doing tricks, then take a look at our top-of-the-range boys mountain bikes and BMX bikes from brands like Vibe, Apollo, Raleigh and Trax."


"From balance bikes for beginners, up to girls mountain bikes for the more adventurous, our range includes everything a young girl could need to get into cycling.

We've even got a great collection of kids bike accessories that match our girls bikes - ideal for budding fashionistas. We'll fit these free of charge if you buy them at the same time as your bike."

So, only "adventurous" (read tomboy) girls need mountain bikes - for most girls, cycling should be all about the fashionable accessories.

Give me strength. And the sad thing is, in many cases, this will end up being true.

Sagelynodding Mon 19-Nov-12 14:40:40

I'm in! Just noticed that the Playskool Elefun Aero balls toy is "now available in pink" FFS, make it stop!

MummyPigsFatTummy Mon 19-Nov-12 14:41:31

Oh and as for good retailers, when I looked at the ToysRus website recently, it didn't seem to be divided into Boys and Girls toys as far as I could see. Also I am fairly sure our local ToysRus divides the aisles up by type of toy rather than gender. However, as DD steadfastly refuses to leave the Doll aisle, I could be wrong.

I also read somewhere that Smyths categorise by type of toy rather than gender.

The Entertainer is a shocking offender in store - all science sets are in the Boys' section, for example (albeit that includes the 'Make Your Own Perfume/Soap' type sets). However, their website seems to have been changed recently, as it used to list toys by gender on its home page and no longer appears to. So maybe the message is filtering through...

DewDr0p Mon 19-Nov-12 14:47:15

I'm in.

I especially dislike the way manufacturers take toys that surely everyone would understand as gender-neutral (eg keyboard) and produce a pink and blue version. Grrrr.

My boys (I have 3) love all sorts of "boy" toys but also secretly like playing occasionally with dolls. But of course noone at school can know that. Cause of course they won't grow up to maybe be fathers or anything. My eldest is really good at art but thinks it's too "girly" to do often. But by far most damaging is this message that for girls it's just all about being pretty. Yuck.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 14:49:53

Oh bikes...if you are feeling like a little post-parandial apoplectic fit take a look at the children's bikes on the Raleigh website.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 14:59:17

The toysRus website search does have a gender filter but - from a cursory look - it was not filtering much out which is good. Instore the 'pink' aisle tends to be the one part DD wouldn't go into at all except if we were looking for a present for a friend when she was little. I suspect very few boys (even if they wanted the Sylvanian families which live there among the pink) would be seen dead.

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