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 ‘boys toys’ and ‘girls toys’ which are usually stocked with different items for each gender (if they offer the same item to girls and boys, the girls version is usually pink, boys 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 R Us’ website is a good example of the limitations placed on both boys and girls by this way of marketing. To begin with, its website includes the categories of ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ toys. If we then look at the toys listed under ‘girls’ we find popular girls toys, collectibles, crafts and art, dolls houses, dolls and play sets and kitchens. Under ‘boys’ we find popular boys toys, action figures, blasters, construction, train sets, vehicles and radio controls, trucks and boys collectibles. The toys seem to be divided along very old fashioned, traditional gender lines. The kind we have moved on from in 2013.
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 labels ‘boys/girls’ and gender stereotyped packaging (pink/blue or darker colours), inform children and others “this toy is/is not for you”.
Children recognise the cultural significance of these gender colour codes 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-are-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 to children when buying a toothbrush, DVD kids movie, clothing, bed sheets!
Ikea is a good example of gender neutral marketing of toys and kids furniture. Their website markets ‘children’s’ furniture/toys etc 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.[/column]
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