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UK-based campaign Let Toys Be Toys announced last Friday that after meeting with UK Toys ‘R’ Us, the retailer had committed to end the practice of labelling toys as being either for ‘girls’ or for ‘boys’. This is HUGE news.

New standards for in-store signage will be introduced at UK Toys ‘R’ Us stores — and images will show both girls and boys enjoying the same toys. This comes out of dialogue last Friday between the grassroots parent-led campaign and board members of the UK subsidiary of the toy giant. They pledged to start with the Christmas toy catalogue.

In response to a similar campaign in 2012, the Swedish Toys ‘R’ Us franchisee dropped sexist stereotypes in its marketing campaigns and included images of boys and girls in non-traditional roles in its Christmas catalog. The grassroots campaign had similar success with Tesco earlier this summer.

As Megan Perryman of Let Toys Be Toys states in a press release: “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.”

Perryman herself was inspired to take action after noticing her daughter worrying about which toys were for girls in a toy store aisle, as described in a recent Ms. article about increasingly gendered toys.

The change.org petition to all of the major retailers requested stores begin organizing toys by theme and function, rather than gender. As Let Toys Be Toys points out in its Frequently Asked Questions and elsewhere, this would actually make it easier for parents to find toys in their stores.

That FAQ section also points out that the segregation of toys along gender lines is something that’s only taken hold in the past few decades. Many mothers looking for Meccano or Lego sets of their youth were alarmed to find them shelved as ‘boys’ toys. I certainly remember far less gender segregation when my younger brother and sister were preschoolers — and things were even a little less gendered when I was buying toys for my daughter just 15 years ago.

Don’t believe it’s gotten worse? Check out this comparison of a page from a 1976 toy catalogue with the options available today. And I actually remember this Lego ad in 1981.

But let’s raise a glass to Let Toys Be Toys’ victory. Here’s to change: it’s happening!

Meanwhile, here in North America:

• a petition to end gender segregation in Target’s toy aisles 

… oh, and  look:

• a new petition to Toys ‘R’ Us USA to end stereotypical toy marketing (by A Mighty Girl)

And it looks like the petitions are very active right now!



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