The aim of the campaign is to work towards eliminating the segregation of toys along gender lines and to promote the idea that children should be encouraged to learn through the widest possible range of play experiences. We hope to raise parents awareness of the narrowing impact gendered marketing can have on children’s perspectives about what it is and isn’t ok to like or play with as a boy or a girl.
When we talk about gendered marketing we mean sections in toy shops clearly labelled ‘boy’s toys’ and ‘girl’s toys’ which are usually stocked with different items for each gender (if they offer the same item to girls and boys, the girl’s version is usually pink, boy’s is blue), along with categories on websites listing toys as being either for boys or for girls. Packaging is also very gender specific.
The ‘Toys Online’ website is a good example of the limitations placed on both boys and girls when toys are categorised by gender. To begin with, the website includes a specific category for ‘girl’s’ toys. If we then look at the toys listed under ‘girl’s toys’ we find things like Barbies, Beauty & Make-up, Prams & Strollers, Disney Princesses. There is no equivalent ‘boy’s’ category on this site – it seems all other toys are for boys, apart from those listed under the ‘girl’s’ category… Historically action figures, blasters, construction, train sets, vehicles and radio controls, trucks and Lego have often been listed under ‘boy’s toys’ categories by many major toy retailers, as toys have been separated along very old fashioned, traditional gender lines. The kind we have moved on from in 2017.
Listing toys as being either for girls or for boys could have the effect of alienating a boy from feeling okay about showing interest in say ‘crafts and arts’ and vice-versa for a girl who may otherwise have gravitated towards a remote control helicopter. Both specific labeling (boy’s/girl’s) and gender stereotyped packaging (pink & blue; images of just boys or just girls playing with the toy), colour coded shelving in stores, all play a part in informing children and others ‘this toy is/is not for you’.
Children recognise the cultural significance of this gender colour coding and it informs their feelings about whether or not it’s socially acceptable for them to show interest in the product.
Play Unlimited has formed as result of a number of concerned parents noticing this issue in Australia and wanting to take action. Groups such as ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ based in the UK have achieved a lot by raising public awareness of the issue and by calling for large retailers such as Toys-R-Us to end this marketing practice in favour of a more inclusive approach.
Play Unlimited intends to target the larger toy retailers and potentially manufacturers as well. This kind of gendered marketing isn’t limited to toys. We can see gendered marketing aimed at children when buying a toothbrush, DVD kids movies, clothing, bed sheets, books!
Ikea is a good example of gender neutral marketing of toys and kids furniture. Their website markets ‘children’s’ furniture and toys and does not include ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ categories, rather presenting all items as being for all children. Their products also come in a wide range of bright colours and neutral wood finishes, rather than just the pink and blue options seen stocked by many other retailers. They do an excellent job of marketing in a gender neutral way, ensuring their products appeal to children of both genders and don’t alienate one or the other.
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