Remember back when Harrods department store in London opened their first gender-neutral toy department? That was pretty cool, huh? Now other major retailers in the UK—including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots, and Toys R Us—are moving in a similar direction, abolishing gender-specific aisles after being convinced of what a ridiculous notion is it for toys to be “for” any specific gender.
This calls for a slow clap.
A special tip of the hat goes to Let Toys Be Toys (LTBT), a consumer campaign group that sat down with representatives from Toys R Us and other stores and convinced them that, yo, we’re in the 21st century now, a continued belief that girls only like Barbies and boys only like Tonka trucks is looking dumber and more backward by the second. Says LTBT’s Megan Perryman:
“Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are ‘for’ them, while others are not.
This is not only confusing but extremely limiting, as it strongly shapes their ideas about who they are and who they can go on to become. We look forward to seeing Toys R Us lead the way to a more inclusive future for boys and girls.”
So what’s the first step in this “inclusive future”? Via ToyNews, Toys R US (TRU):
“will draw up a set of principles for in-store signage meaning that, in the long-term, explicit references to gender will be removed and images will show boys and girls enjoying the same toys. TRU also promised to start by looking at the way toys are represented in its upcoming Christmas catalogue… Other retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots, The Entertainer and TK Maxx have agree to banish ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signs from the aisles following intervention from Let Toys Be Toys.”
As Topless Robot points out, even with these changes it’ll be pretty easy to tell when a lot of toys are supposed to be “””””for girls””””” and “””””for boys.””””” For example, pink is still commonly thought to be “girly,” and a lot of toy manufacturers still only include children of one gender on their packaging. So there’s still a lot that needs to be done before we reach a truly inclusive future where girls and boys can play with whatever the heck they want without their toy preferences having some imagined implication about their gender and/or sexuality.
Girls want to play with pink kitchen sets and boys want to play with plastic tanks? Fine. Girls want to play with plastic tanks and boys want to play with pink kitchen sets? Also fine. It’s not that hard, people.
But toy stores themselves recognizing how problematic and just plain dumb the notion of “gender-specific” toys is is definitely a step in the right direction. And there have been others, like when Hasbro responded to criticism that the Easy-Bake Oven was marketed exclusively to girls by creating a gender-neutral version of the toy.
The decision to eliminate gendered signage was made by Toys R Us UK. Hopefully the store’s branches in other countries will follow suit, so toy shoppers in the US and elsewhere will stop being told that only boys play with toy weapons.
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