Toy makers embracing gender neutrality for Christmas

The ‘Smashing Stereotypes’ campaign seeks to highlight what the foundation sees as the danger of producing and consuming toys and gifts designed specifically for girls and boys.

“Gender stereotypes hold us all back and help to drive assumptions about who does the caring, they cause toxic masculinity and hold women and girls back in terms of the career choices they perceive as being ‘for them’,” Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers said.

“By smashing stereotypes we will begin to address the underlying causes of the inequality, which causes the gender pay gap, drives misogyny and violence against women and girls.”

The #SmashingStereotypes campaign

Fawcett Society says many toys still focus on construction, science, vehicles and action for boys and fashion, cooking and babies for girls.

The society is calling on people to either send in photos of products that they deem to be stereotypical, or to post photos of them on social media using the hashtag #SmashingStereotypes. One Tesco shopper has already criticised the store for persisting with its ‘Girls Toys’ section. “This isn’t really acceptable anymore,” Twitter user Rob Lowe wrote. “My daughter loves unicorns and dolls. She ALSO loves robots, dinosaurs, rockets, monsters and lego. Don’t make me have to reassure her that this is ok.”

There is some evidence suggesting consumers are already moving away from the old stereotypes in their toy purchases. Kantar Media found that three of the top five toys for girls and boys on Amazon between Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the same, with Lego, TOP Gift walkie-talkies and childrens’ drones by Force 1 featuring in both lists.

Lego was long seen as a brand for boys but it has changed strategic direction in recent years to project a more gender-neutral image. Force 1 promotes the same drones to both girls and boys while TOP Gift still uses the familiar colour coding, with walkie-talkies available in blue and pink for boys and girls respectively.

A 2015 study by Let Toys Be Toys concluded that the majority of advertisements for children’s toys in the UK were sexist and served to cement “narrow and limiting” gender stereotypes.

Toy makers and fashion companies have already moved away from gender stereotypes

In November, singer Céline Dion announced she had developed a gender-neutral children’s clothing line in partnership with Nununu. She said that she wanted to give children the chance to “feel free to find their own individuality, their own true essence without being tied to stereotypes.”

Earlier in 2018, Mattel launched ‘Robotics Engineer Barbie’ in a bid to make an aspirational toy for girls interested in STEM subjects. The company also added to its ‘shero’ series of dolls featuring the likes of ballerina Misty Copeland and Olympic gold medal winner Gabby Douglas. Toy maker GoldieBlox has also won acclaim for its gifts, which encourage girls to pursue their interests in science and engineering.

Corey Pierson, CEO of customer analytics software firm Custora, said that machine learning and AI were allowing companies to produce and market products based on individual customer interests rather than broadly drawn notions such as gender stereotypes. “It’s more effective to think of customers in terms of interests and products they like and lead into gender and other demographics after,” Pierson said.

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