Thursday, September 16News For London

Toy retailers bow to public pressure and go gender neutral

Fourteen major UK retailers have dropped signs indicating ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys in the last three years, according to a report that will be released on Thursday.

'Girls' toys in Debenhams. Photo by, https://www.flickr.com/photos/janetmck/6826070922
‘Girls’ toys in Debenhams. Photo by, https://www.flickr.com/photos/janetmck/6826070922

Toys R Us and Tescos are just two of the 14 retail companies that have dropped gender specific signage, as according to a report that will be released by organisation Let Toys be Toys, a non for profit organisation which fights against gender specific toys for children.

Jo Jowers, volunteer spokesperson from Let Toys be Toys told Westminster World: “We want kids to play with everything. We are not demanding for all toys to be gender neutral, we want toys to not be marketed on a gender specific basis.”

Since its establishment in 2012 the organisation has gained huge support from parents and celebrities alike.

“I’m getting involved with Let Toys be Toys because by believing in children and sparking their imaginations we encourage them to shine.”

“By not reinforcing gender stereotypes upon kids you are promoting free thinking and empowering self-esteem, which is essential to healthy person-centered development,” Sid Sloane, CBeebies celebrity said.

Despite the support for their campaign from retailers, Hamleys, the oldest toy shop in the world and one of the best known retailers of toys doesn’t seem to have come on board.

The layout of Hamleys. Gender specific colors indicate toys for boys and toys for girls. Image, authors own
The layout of Hamleys. Gender specific colors indicate toys for boys and toys for girls. Image, authors own

Their shop layout in Regents Street remains gender specific. While they did remove their ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ signs in 2011, stereotypes still abound.

As is evident in the first image, gender specific colors separate boy soldier and vehicle toys to girl’s dolls houses and fashion dolls.

Hamleys second floor. The wording 'girls toys' may not be there, but the sentiment certainly is. Image, authors own.
Hamleys second floor. The wording ‘girls toys’ may not be there, but the sentiment certainly is. Image, authors own.

Kristy has been employed at Hamleys as a Christmas casual. Dressed in pink tutu, Kristy is a shop assistant and demonstrator of the new glitter pen.

The glitter pen can be found on the second floor, the ‘girl’s floor’, identified by its pink layout and collection of Princess Barbies and stick on nails.

“I haven’t had a boy come up to me and try out the new glitter pen all day,” she told me.

This kind of gender based marketing promotion to children is exactly what Let Toys be Toys is trying to fight.

Jo Jowers told Westminster World that her 8 year old son likes to play with glitter, but would never admit it to his guy friends at school as there is “girls on the packaging.”

“Where did people get this idea that certain toys are for girls and certain ones are for boys? Where has this idea come from that blue is a boy color, whereas pink is solely for girls,” she told Westminster World.

“In the 1980s toy adverts showed boys and girls playing with each other and with the same toys. Now we will have an advert with only girls playing with glitter,” she said.

According to their report to be released on Thursday, shops did not have signs up in the 1980s indicating which toys were for girls and which for boys. Instead, advertising showed boys and girls playing together.

The association of blue with boys and pink with girls is a comparatively new phenomenon. The triumph of gender specificity in the colors of pink and blue comes down to marketing profit.

In a report released by the Guardian last year, they stipulated that gender specific toys make it harder to pass down toys to a sibling of a different sex. Therefore, parents will buy more toys and thus increase the toy markets profits.

Let Toys be Toys tries to fight against this gender segregation by arguing that by limiting certain toys for boys and girls we are limiting children’s development, as well as reinforcing low cultural expectation of boys and body image anxiety in girls.

Although Jo states that she has been “overwhelmed” by the support of their campaign, telling Westminster World that in just “one year our survey showed a 60% reduction in ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signs in UK stores,” she is adamant that “much more needs to be done.”

“We think all toys are for all children. It’s time to challenge the limiting and dated stereotypes marketing peddles,” she said.

“We want our children to be themselves and play with whatever toys they want to.”

Let Toys be Toys, the organisation campaigning against stereotypes in children's toys. Image by, http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/
Let Toys be Toys, the organisation campaigning against stereotypes in children’s toys. Image by, http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/

Let Toys be Toys encourages parents to buy whatever toys that interest them and their child, no matter what section the toy is located in.

Let Toys be Toys also encourages everyone to get involved in their campaign by asking the shop, emailing the company as to why their toys are divided by gender. If a store is encouraging gender neutrality please support and recommend them on Let Toys be Toys website.