Gender and toys

Interesting story in the NYT about gender and children’s toys.  Something I notice a lot about in my house filled with Star Wars legos, dinosaurs, My Little Pony, Barbie, etc.  Anyway:

Aliceana and her parents, Brittany and A.J. Belling, make up one of many families that are fed up with the strict princess dresses for girls, action figures for boys stereotyping that they say still pervades children’s toys, clothes, costumes and other merchandise.

Retailers and manufacturers in the $22 billion toy industry, along with media companies, are starting to heed these concerns. Not only are toymakers more wary of marketing some items only to boys or only to girls, they and major store chains are creating gender-neutral or androgynous labels and store aisles.

In August, Target announced that it would no longer use signs to label toys for girls and boys in their stores. For the first time this year, the Disney Store is banishing girl and boy designations from its children’s Halloween costumes, labeling all outfits “for kids.” It also has switched to generic tags on lunchboxes, backpacks and other accessories.

Amazon no longer uses gender-based categories for children’s toys. Next spring, Mattel is introducing a line of action figures based on a new franchise, DC Super Hero Girls. And on Monday , the TV series “Supergirl” debuted on CBS.

“The gender barriers are breaking down, and both manufacturers and retailers are not labeling toys like they used to,” said Jim Silver, the editor in chief of TTPM, a toy review website. “The industry’s learned that you shouldn’t be labeling for a specific gender. There are so many girls who want to be Iron Man and Captain America, and boys who want to play with Easy-Bake.”

That said, I suspect this is mostly about labeling.  I have no interesting in pushing my daughter towards pink, being a princess for Halloween (again), loving Barbie and My Little Pony, etc.  She’s all over that on her own.  She’s also never had much interest in Legos.  Until this:

IMG_0520.JPG

Some toy makers have made some efforts to change that rigid assortment — but not without controversy. Lego’s “Friends” line, introduced in 2012 to appeal to girls, upset consumers because of its pink and purple blocks, curvy figurines and themes like hairdressing and horse riding.

But, most telling:

And despite the recent changes, a stroll through the toy section at a Target or a Toys “R” Us is still a gender-specific experience. At a Target store in Brooklyn, there were the “Frozen” princess dresses, My Little Pony figurines, and the convertible-driving, glitter-haired Barbie dolls in one half of the children’s section. Then there were the separate aisles of Roboraptor robot dinosaurs, Star Wars spaceships and Nerf guns.

I’m totally for kids playing with whatever toys they want.  And yes, I know that society encourages boys and girls in different directions.  That said, I still do think there’s something more to my boys’ love of dinosaurs (and Sarah’s total disinterest– other than the “How do dinosaurs…” books) and her total love of Barbies, etc.  Mostly, though, I wanted to write a post where I could include the adorable photo above.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Gender and toys

  1. r. jenrette says:

    I’ve never seen a little girl cuter than yours! She’s precious!

  2. Mika says:

    Yes, Friends are cool! But. When my daughter got her smartphone she pretty soon started watching legovideos from youtube and now Ninjago and City Legos are what she wants. Her only worry is that none of her girl friends like them.

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