Toy Store Doing Away With Gender Marketing Could Do More Harm Than Good

Last Friday, Toys ‘R’ Us announced that they will be doing away with gender labels for toys in their U.K. stores. Toys will no longer be classified as boy toys and girl toys, but simply toys, as encouraged by the group “Let Toys Be Toys.” One of the major changes, thanks to the campaign, is to replace signs to show pictures of both genders playing with the same toys.

Funny, I never knew that people couldn’t buy a baby doll for a boy or a racecar for a girl. I always thought the purpose of buying a child a toy was to make them happy, so I’ve always gotten what they’ve wanted, not what the sign said I should get them. To each their own, I guess.

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In all seriousness, how much of a politically correct world do we live in when we have to deny that the majority of girls like tea parties and baby dolls and princesses, and boys like super heroes and vehicles and pretend weapons? Also one in which we can’t trust parents to do what’s best for their own kids, regardless of what ‘normal’ looks like? What is normal, anyway?

One of my girly-girl daughter’s good friends turned 10 a few months ago, and my sparkly girl announced that we had to shop for her present from the boy aisle, because the birthday girl doesn’t like girly things. My daughter, decked in pink and glitter, poured over the boy toys to find the perfect thing for her friend, and ended up choosing a play light saber.

“She’s going to LOVE this!” she declared, and then promptly asked, “How are we going to wrap this? Can we get a bow? A blue bow, Mommy.”

Another good friend of mine has a 10-year-old son that loves camping, fishing, wrecking his sister’s dollhouse, and My Little Pony. No joke -- little man knows the theme song by heart, and even has a My Little Pony game app of some sort on his iPod touch.

Both of these families consider themselves to be ultra-conservative and Christian. I only mention that because there seems to be some sort of misconception that those kind of “up-tight” families are the ones that society needs “protecting” from their linear ideas about gender roles.

When it comes down to it, parents shouldn’t need a permission slip from a store or an advertisement to buy their kids the things that they want. Everyone is unique and quirky and eclectic, and good parents help their kids explore their interests, even if they’re outside of what’s typical for their gender.

Besides, what’s going to happen now, when the majority of boys are told they have to play with girl toys, and vice versa, otherwise they’re not as open-minded as other people? Are we going to get reverse gender shaming?

Let the kids play with what they want. Reprimand the bullies that make fun of them for playing with what they want. And please, can we keep the gender-specific aisles at the toy store? We never would have found that light saber amidst the Barbies.

What do you think of gender desegregation of toy stores?


Image via Janet McKnight/Flickr

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