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Supergirly

Swedish Toy Company Publishes a Genderswapped Christmas Catalog


If you’re a toy company called out on enforcing gender stereotypes by filling your catalog with girls dressed as princesses and boys dressed as superheroes, what do you do? If you’re Top Toy, one of Sweden’s largest toy chains, you print a genderswapped Christmas catalog featuring girls with Nerf guns and boys with doll houses and Hello Kitty. Duh.

For the past few years gender equality has been a big issue in Sweden, with laws being introduced requiring teachers to actively work to dispel gender stereotypes in the classroom. The country—clearly after my own heart with this one—has even introduced the gender-neutral pronoun hen.

This newfound pressure to promote gender equality is what got Top Toy to shift focus with their new Christmas catalog. “We have produced the catalogues in a completely different way this year,” says director of sales Jan Nyberg. “For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we… have had to adjust.”

(Top Toy’s Christmas catalog also runs in Denmark where, interestingly enough, the genders have not been reversed.)

My feelings on this are mostly positive. It reads as a publicity stunt/calculated financial decision, and I can’t imagine that a single toy catalog by itself will really do much in terms of combating gender stereotypes. But whatever. That Top Toys has been forced to change their  public approach to gender does indicate that  Sweden’s active approach toward promoting gender equality is working at least a little bit. It makes me want to go forward in time a few years and see how today’s Swedish children end up. Alas, my flux capacitor is broken.

And before anyone chimes in to say that by showing girls with toy weapons and boys with Hello Kitty Top Toy is just enforcing different (but still not equal) gender roles—I think that years (decades, centuries) of the “girls should play with babydolls and doll houses and princess toys, everything in pink” mindset means that a catalog isn’t likely to pressure girls into asking for a Nerf gun instead of a Barbie if they prefer the latter. I’d hazard a guess that girls who want to play with “girly” toys in addition to/instead of “boy” toys are still going to be OK.

(via: Jezebel)

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  • http://twitter.com/atomicnoggin Patrick Denny

    Girls in pink is only Decades old. Prior to that there was a brief period of boys in pink, girls in baby blue. For most of history, kids were dressed in gender neutral white (easily bleachable) outfits.
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html?c=y&page=1

  • TKS

    Her point still stands. In our current time of almost-global dedication to the idea of pink=girl and blue=boy, examples to the contrary should be celebrated.

    Further, I’m inclined to believe the other half of the statement, the “girls should play with dolls and dollhouses” part, goes back further than a couple of decades.

  • http://twitter.com/atomicnoggin Patrick Denny

    Not disagreeing. At all. Just pointing out an interesting aside that the obsession with colour coding everything is relatively new. I have a 3 year old girl that — thanks to pre-school — is totally obsessed with all things pink and princess. My 6 year old son is currently obsessed with ninjas and fighting too. Prior to daycare, they both loved Dinosaurs. Drives me nuts. (also, 2 year olds trying to say Triceratops is hilarious)

  • http://www.youtube.com/cherubicwindigo Laura

    I see more and more attempts to normalize girls playing with ‘boy’s toys’ but I still never (before now) have seen ads even remotely encouraging boys to play with ‘girl’s toys’.

  • Life Lessons

    Where can I get this catalog?!?! Want now!!!

  • Taste_is_Sweet

    This is neat. I still wish, however, that instead of going for what seems like shock value (which I say because otherwise, why print a gender-normative catalogue for Denmark?), Top Toy had printed a gender-neutral catalogue, with both genders playing with the same toys. *That* is currently so rare in the Western world that even my seven year-old son takes notice of any advertisements or package photos that have boys and girls together using the product.

  • The I

    Actually, that’s what they did. The catalogue mentioned in the article can be found here: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/cd73c6ee#/cd73c6ee/56 and as you can see, there are pictures of both a boy and a girl playing with a pink doll house, dolls, and a dangerous looking fort.

  • Taste_is_Sweet

    Ah! More fool I, for once again taking a Mary Sue article title at face value. I appreciate the clarification, thank you.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I grew up with a gaggle of female cousins and we would always play together, my ninja turtles and their Barbie dolls. The story would usually encompass pizza parties or offroading in the Turtle Van since Barbie and her friends rarely wanted to fight (and usually that involved me getting my fingers whacked with a Barbie since my cousins couldn’t seem to finesse the illusion of physical combat without swinging Barbie like a cludgel at my handheld turtle) but I still preferred to use my own figures…and kitchen playsets generally became forts.

    So, I agree that girls should be encouraged to buy less harmful dolls (my fingers still remember their pain) but I can’t see the point of buying a kitchen set for a boy if a fort is available…

    But that’s just me. There are other sorts of people too.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Thankyaveramuch, we’ll be skipping daycare then. That would piss me off.

  • http://twitter.com/RodimusBen RodimusBen

    What a truly awesome catalog.

  • http://twitter.com/ChannelDiza Chanel Diaz

    A step in the right direction, even small, is still a step highly appreciated.

  • http://twitter.com/smoke_tetsu Smoke Tetsu

    Comment from the original article: “When will these people grow up and realize that boys and girls are different?…that if your force boys to play with dolls, they will turn them into warriors or even into projectiles?…or maybe they will put the baby into danger and then save it. Then the fem teacher will be offended because she doesn’t understand boys.”

    I don’t know about the rest of you.. but as I kid I sure wanted to be a projectile when I grew up. ;)

    Anyway, count me in as one person who is all for the sort of thing in this article!

  • http://twitter.com/CuriousArtemis Bridget

    When I was little, I played with dinosaurs, remote controlled cars, Tonka trucks, and ninja turtles. My sister, brother, and I played “war” (pine cones were grenades!). Pretty stupid to think kids only prefer certain toys due to what kind of body parts they were born with.

  • scallywag

    Isn’t it refreshing that little girls and boys are finally being encouraged from a young age not to accept societal imposed limitations which should inform them how to act or not simply because they were born a girl or a boy….?

    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2012/11/swedish-toy-catalogue-believes-little-girls-should-be-allowed-to-brandish-guns-like-all-you-little-boys-too/

  • http://www.facebook.com/johanna.siljehagen Johanna Sofia Siljehagen

    When I grew up in Sweden, now 36 y.o., I played with cars and learned to shoot. I like the color pink and I also feel indipendent. A great feeling of freedom.Today I live in a very gender focused societly, Italy, and see what harm these strong roles do. I’m glad I had a gender free childhood. I know I’m a woman, but I have also learned to move in this world. I never got told: “You can’t do this” ’cause you are a girl or “Be careful playing wiht boys” etc.

  • Anonymous
  • Esther

    Hey when I was growing up I wanted a toy tool bench for Christmas, my male cousin wanted a kitchen – as it happened in the 70′s they got it the wrong way around – but we “swapped” – While I am not in a “trade” I do all the “handyman” work around my house (still can’t cook to save my life) – my cousin – well he stuck with it better than I did – He is a Michelin rated chef. (and happens to be a brilliantly involved Dad)
    Should we have been made to “swap” back? Wasn’t it better that he found his dream as a kid and followed it? Or should he have just accepted the “acceptable” gender role and ignored his abilities?

    Kids should be given what they want (within reason) regardless of someone elses predetermined idea of what they should be. They should be allowed to explore

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Yeah, that’s all pretty standard soapbox stuff. I agree completely. I am curious about the metrics…how much money they’d actually make or the difference it would make if products were re-gendered…or uni-gendered.

  • WhateverIWasJustPassingThrough

    That’s because you’re female, and females get WAY more leeway to do “boys’ things” or to dress in “boys’ clothes”. Males are still light years away from being able to do that.

  • Ankh

    It’s such a big and positive change for toy advertisements to become gender neutral. Even though in the society I live the “blue boys and pink girls” standards are still the common law, I can still remember my cousin and I grew up together almost like brother and sister and we shared all of our toys and games. We played with his cars and trucks, a kitchen set that was from my mother and a Disney doll house I had. And videogames, we still play those together. Maybe someday, those catalogues will come to my country too and they will also make a difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002045791893 Krystal Henderson

    Oh, Sweden, never change!
    I have two brothers, so the first toys I ever played with were wrestlers and a batmobile. My aunts would always get me Barbies for Christmas, so I played with them too, and Lego, I loved Lego! So I think all this stuff about “boy toys” and “girl toys” is just silly. Kids play with toys, end of story.

  • http://twitter.com/sarasakana Sara Sakana

    That’s because anything stereotypically “feminine” is seen as something bad or weak or otherwise something “real men” shouldn’t do. You’re welcome.

  • http://twitter.com/sarasakana Sara Sakana

    Casual reminder that “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys” don’t exist. There are only “toys.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/josefin.brunn Josefin Brunn

    They haven’t actually “swapped” the genders in the catalouge. They simple show both genders playing together with the same kind of toy.

    I can’t really understand the big fuzz around this. Some boys want to play with “girly” toys and some girls want to play with “boyish” toys. I played with both as i grew up and i would never tell my (future)children that they can’t play with something that doesn’t conform with their physical “gender roles”. If my son wants to be a princessboy i will deck him out in pink dresses and sparkly shoes every day of the week.

  • B.B.

    In Sweden, there are laws that force companies to be gender equal. In Denmark, the catalog is back to normal. So it was either “Be gender equal or don’t have a catalog”. And their spiel about the modern way of playing is rubbish, because if it was, they’d have done it in Denmark, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.truxillo Laura Truxillo

    In terms of the tool bench, I was really disappointed when Disney released a Tinkerbell-related large toy…and it was a tea party kitchen set instead of a toolbench. Tinkerbell is a tinker, dangit–she makes stuff. Some little girls want to be girlie, but they also want to make things.

  • Charlie

    I visit a local supermarket and they have toys actually divided into girls and boys toys. As a girl who liked playing with cars and video games this really annoys me. Way to make someone feel abnormal.