Target announced a commitment to ending the rigid distinction between the exceedingly pink “girl” aisles and the primary colored, red and white “boy” aisles. More, they’re ‘promising to even get rid of subtle cues about who toys are for, like “pink, blue, yellow or green paper” behind the actual shelves.’ After years of such complaints, the one that seemed to go rather viral and move them to action was the photo a shopper took of an aisle labeled as holding two sets of things: Building Sets, and Girls’ Building Sets.
Now if only more such stores would follow suit!
Since we frequently point out the occasions when toy manufacturers and the like make depressingly gender-normative gestures with their products, it’s a pleasure to also point out the occasions when they get things right. So: three cheers for Ladybird, the popular publisher of childrens’ books, who have undertaken to remove any gendered labelling from their collections of stories, since “we certainly don’t want to be seen to be limiting children“.
In the interests of editorial impartiality, it should be noted that other publishers have made the same pledge: Dorling Kindersley, Miles Kelly Books, and Chad Valley have also undertaken to refrain from publishing new titles with gendered branding.
This is a result of pressure from the Let Books be Books campaign, a subsidiary of the Let Toys be Toys campaign, worthwhile enterprises both.
Back when I were a lad, Lego figures were more or less androgynous. About the only indicator of gender was the occasional (removable, transferable) haircut, and the astronauts and racing drivers could have anything under their suits. Since I were a lad, things have moved on somewhat, and Lego figures now have all sorts of gendered elements, not least an impressively extensive and detailed array of facial furniture.
Which is all well and good, but it does raise the possibility that a previously gender-neutral toy might become rather less so, and there are some indications that this is the case; see, for example, the faintly depressing spectacle of Lego’s attempt to create a product range appealing specifically to girls (though it’s only fair to note that one of these apparent simpering stereotypes in fact has a nice sideline in robot design and aspires to be ‘a scientist or an engineer‘).
Anyway, as something of a corrective to this, a reader has come up with a way to propose a rather more feminist-friendly set of figures, via Lego’s new mechanism for public suggestions. You can vote for the idea there, and if it gets lots of attention, there’s a chance that the company will end up producing female engineers, scientists, and so forth. In the meantime, there’s always magic markers.
I know someone whose SISTER thought that she was Percy the train. I know several little girls who are wild about Thomas. And the Thomas people know this– that’s why they actually have lots of trains with girls’ names. So WHY, WHY call them “toys for boys”? I mean, it doesn’t even make good economic sense, since it may make people less likely buy them for their girls. And then who’s gonna buy Rosie or the other girl trains? (Other than the “we don’t care about your gender stereotypes” market, which sadly isn’t huge.)