The toy industry is notorious for reenforcing gender stereotypes. While I’m all for boys playing with cars and girl toys all being pink and purple, some variation from tired gender stereotypes would be nice. A Swedish Toys R Us franchise called Top Toy is challenging those stereotypes this season with a gender neutral holiday catalog.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I searched in about 137 different stores to find a baby boy doll to give to my son, to help get him used to the idea of a new baby (and to give him something to beat up when new baby came and took all mommy’s attention.) I should have looked in Sweden.
The Top Toy catalog has removed all notion that girls should play with princesses and boys with trucks. The catalog, deemed “politically correct,” features girls shooting Nerf guns and boys playing with baby dolls.A boy and girl even play happily together with a pink Barbie mansion (although, in my opinion, the boy’s face has some mischief going on).
Top Toy is Sweden’s largest toy chain, and announced on Friday that its toys are “gender neutral.” Jan Nyberg, director of sales, said, “For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we … have had to adjust.”
The company was reprimanded three years ago for gender discrimination, when their 2008 Christmas catalog featured boys dressed as superheros and girls playing princess.
While the US Toys R Us holiday catalog depicts a boy wielding a toy machine gun, the Danish edition has been replaced by a gun-wielding little girl.
“We have produced the catalogues for both BR and Toys R Us in a completely different way this year,” Nyberg said. “With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It’s not a boy or a girl thing, it’s a toy for children.”
While there are those who applaud the store’s gender neutrality, some parents think that all their efforts are in vain.
“Many of the scenarios in the Swedish catalog probably aren’t realistic,” writes mom and writer Amy Graff. “Researchers have found that no matter how much you shelter children from gender-stereotypes most boys and girls eventually gravitate to certain types of toys.” The writer for SFGates’ The Mommy Filessummarizes:
“Yes, the idea that boys like to build and girls play with dolls is a stereotype but as mother of a boy and a girl I have found that these stereotypes hold true. Yes, my son played dolls with his sister when he was 4 but now that he’s 8, he’s building Lego spaceships and is only interested in shooting a doll with a toy gun.”
Graff does, however, recall early Lego advertisements in the US, which appealed to both genders. “Lego kits used to feature a rainbow of colored blocks and their ads featured both boys and girls building awesome structures but now the plastic-block-maker churns out two types of products: those for boys and those for girls. The female Lego line is all pink and girls can build a beauty salon or a cafe—why can’t they make a cool space station?”
What do you think of gender neutral toys?