Flip through the latest catalog from Swedish toymaker Leklust and you’ll find a boy, dressed as Spiderman, pushing a pink stroller and a girl riding a race car. It’s a blatant attempt to reverse traditional gender roles and, I have to say, it’s pretty impressive.
“Gender roles are an outdated thing,” said Leklust CEO Kaj Wiberg. “I’m 71 years old, and those of us who have worked in this industry for a while know that boys play with doll houses. We know that boys can play with Barbie dolls.”
The whole idea of gender-specific toys has been a hot topic lately, one that gained traction when, back in December, Lego launched a line of products especially for girls (we’re talking characters like “Emma the beautician” and “Stephanie the social butterfly”). It’s a move that angered countless parents, tens of thousands of whom signed a petition asking that Lego return to non-gendered advertising. (They would no doubt be delighted by Leklust.) Others, including Mommyish writer Bolaji Williams – a mom of two girls – saw nothing wrong with it; as she explained at the time, “I have not suddenly become paralyzed with indecision when it comes to choosing pink and girly Lego over non-pink Lego for fear of raising marginalized or gender-conforming human beings.”
The Leklust catalog, which also shows a boy cooking at a play stove, is sure to ignite similar reaction. I, for one, am a huge fan and think it’s a step in the right direction in helping to eliminate gender stereotypes – and this is coming from a mom whose own two boys will only play with “bad guys” and weapons. My point is that oftentimes the stereotypes really do hold true – for many kids, their preference for dolls vs. trucks is truly innate – but that doesn’t change the fact that the images they consume daily, and the messages adults send them (often inadvertently), help shape these stereotypes. So kudos to Leklust for shaking things up a bit and taking a different approach with their marketing.
Sifting through the comments on The Local, Sweden’s English-speaking online newspaper, not everyone feels the same way. As one reader put it, “The right pic is just ridiculous. Spiderman is supposed to be a superhero, not a nanny.” Another wrote, “OMG Only in Sweden. I imagine some Nazi feminist pushed this through and the cowed metrosexual men sat meekly by.” Classy, guys, real classy.