Not too long ago, someone told me that one of her 4 year old daughter’s favourite pastimes was to go shopping…”just like her mum!”. I did wonder at the time why a 4 year old would love shopping – shouldn’t their favourite things to do include playing, drawing and making stuff out of old washing up bottles? I’m sure that’s what I did when I was 4.
We’ve all seen it before, little girls and boys being moulded by everyone around them to fit into a particular gender role. For example, the 4 year old in question at the time had mostly pink toys – including a baby with pink clothes, pram, cooking utensils, a pink wand and fairy wings. Not forgetting the pink throne.
At this point I should say that she is quite a lovely, well-behaved, clever and entertaining girl. And also that I’m not blaming her parents for slotting her into this particularly girly, pink box – they’re probably not even aware that they’re doing it. Not to mention that I have been just as guilty of buying presents for neices, nephews and other kids that do the very same thing. That’s the trouble with stereotypes.
Here’s the definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
Pronunciation: /ˈstɛrɪə(ʊ)tʌɪp, ˈstɪərɪə(ʊ)-/
1 a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing
It’s no secret that the way toys are marketed is heavily gender-stereotyped. Typical toys packaged up for boys tend to be related to engineering or science (cars, trains, chemistry sets) and toys marketed towards girls tend to be linked to domesticity (cooking, cleaning, babies). And it seems to be getting worse. I remember playing with gender neutral toys like this >>>
Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of Barbie dolls, but I also had a doctors kit and a Nintendo (which I could only really talk about with the boys in my class at school). That being said, I think one of my favourite things to play with was actually a large, empty cardboard box. Which just goes to show that kids will play with almost anything, as long as it captures their imagination.
As we get older, we get less and less imaginative – but children know no boundaries! They don’t need adults to package up toys in a particular colour because that’s what they should be playing with. They are free and boundless, until we sadly come along and change all that by placing limitations on them. Boo.
So that’s why I’ve signed this petition to stop UK and Irish retailers from promoting toys as gender-specific, and encourage you to do the same. The petition is being run by Let Toys be Toys. I just came across them yesterday and think the work they’re doing to make a change is fantastic.
You can follow them here: