This is a post from my lovely friend Cat, who has issue with gender specific toys…
You know what this picture is? This is a gender neutral toy. Traditionally, toy kitchens have been a very ‘girl’ product, with toy workbenches being marketed more towards boys. This toy, however, is in gender neutral colouring and has a male child on the box. Will it put girls off buying it? No. There’s nothing here to discourage girls from using this toy. Will it encourage parents and children to consider the toy for a male child, where a pink box and little girls on the box would have put them off? It might. That toy company has, without excluding girls in any way, planted into parents and kids the possibility of a boy owning a toy previously mainly purchased for little girls. And why not? Boys can enjoy cooking. I’ve even heard- *gasp* that some top chefs are male.
For a long time I’ve found gender-specific toys stupid. Stupid for alienating 50% of the potential consumer demographic, and offensive for perpetrating stereotypes. So when a product called Goldieblox came out, I was interested to hear about it. It claimed to subvert stereotypes. Well on inspection, it’s done this in the most hideously stereotypical, gender-exclusive way possible. Firstly, all over their website it says ‘FOR GIRLS’. Way to be inclusive, guys. The toy is an ‘engineering’ kit which seems to be comprised of something that looks suspiciously like empty cotton reels and pretty pink ribbons. They can make whatever they want within the limitations of these tools, but the demo videos on the website seem to be mainly playpark type items (swings, roundabouts, ride-along conveyor belts for their toys)- and girls have been making this sort of thing for their toys for long before this product existed.
I had a full playpark set for one set of my dolls, which required building out of the box, over twenty years ago. I don’t see anything new or exciting about this product- certainly there are all sorts of basic engineering products already marketed to young girls- jewellery making, chocolate making, beading, candle making kits- I had a fair few of them myself, again, over twenty years ago. And as for breaking stereotype, I’m don’t think the best way to do it is to market yourself exclusively to one gender and reinforce the whole idea. To be fair to Goldieblox for all I know you can build traditionally masculine toys too, like cars, robots etc. But given the lack of these items on the main pages of their website, I certainly wouldn’t say they were breaking any stereotypes with ther product.
Kids will play with whatever toys they enjoy playing with. If the toy is marketed as gender exclusive- ie ‘for girls’, heavy on the pink packaging with little girls all over it- parents or peers can take away the child’s enjoyment of those toys, make them feel like they’re wrong for taking enjoyment in them. And why would we stop our kids following the path that makes them happy? Maybe the little boy who enjoys dressing his Barbies and collecting their clothes will be a top fashion designer one day. Maybe the little girl who likes the toy workbench will design space ships. Finding the things we love early in life can save a lot of soul searching later on, and telling kids what they should or shouldn’t want to play with based on their gender is wrong, for so many reasons.
Kids shouldn’t be told what toys they should or shouldn’t like. They should be allowed to decide for themselves. The toys we have as kids can shape our futures in so many ways and cutting out half a kid’s options before they’ve even started growing can’t possibly be a good thing.