Toys R Us UK Will Cut Out Gender-Specific Marketing, Cue Everyone Complaining About How Sick They Are Of ‘PC Bull’

1234888_209162012584212_88579652_n__1378561386_142.196.156.251After pressure from parents group, Let Toys Be Toys, Toys ‘R’ Us stores in the UK will stop gender-specific marketing to kids. Take a second to realize how cool this is before you freak out about how your little girls are allowed to love pink and your little boys are allowed to love Star Wars.

From MSN:

The organization has lobbied retailers, marketers and advertisers across the U.K. to raise awareness of gender-stereotyped toys. Let Toys Be Toys has made agreements with popular British chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, The Entertainer and TK Maxx to alter the way they market toys.

Toys R Us’ pact with Let Toys Be Toys will apply only to the retail giant’s U.K. stores, but a spokesperson for the company said it does not have gender-based sections in any of its U.S. stores. Instead, its stores are organized by product type.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to see an end to “girls” sections and “boys” sections. Ultimately, it is about giving kids more choices – not pigeon-holing them into choosing toys that are “gender appropriate.” Every time I write about scaling back gender-specific marketing, there are always a ton of people that say things like this:

This is ridiculous. I really feel that all of this PC bull has gone too far. I actually love the idea of my daughter thinking she is a princess, but she also considers herself strong and powerful. Can’t she be all of these things?

… So they advertise traditional gender roles. That’s okay. These are children. Five-year-old kids are not going to get upset because a girl is wearing princess shoes and a boy is in Star Wars. It’s the parents that create this strife, this struggle. If a girl wants Star Wars shoes, then she’ll pick them out. If a boy wants princess shoes, then that’s what he’ll choose. It doesn’t matter what they play with or what they wear…

I don’t feel that it’s the responsibility of a major corporation to make my child feel comfortable in what he chooses to wear or play with. That’s my job. Plain and simple.

I’m so tired of this argument. Girls ARE princesses, Boys ARE super heroes or whatever. Perhaps if we’d move back to those ideas, we wouldn’t have so many people out there confused about their gender.

I’m not denying that some girls love pink and some boys love Darth Vader, but I think marketing specifically to genders and making separate sections for girls and boys in toy stores is tantamount to shaping a child’s interests for them. How comfortable will a young boy be wandering down the “girl toy” aisle? Same question for a little girl? Why are we imposing these restrictions and parameters at a corporate level? No one’s saying “stop making pink toys.” We’re just asking, “do they all have to be pink?”

In the seventies, when we played with Legos and Lincoln Logs and Play Doh, there was no separate marketing for girls and boys; Legos and Play Doh were primary colors and Lincoln Logs were brown. Even my Holly Hobby EZ Bake Oven was blue. Somewhere along the line, marketing for kids when way over the gender-specific top. All moms like me are saying is – let’s reel that in a little.

(photo: Facebook)

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  • chickadee

    Yes, precisely. Eliminating gender-specific MARKETING doesn’t mean they are eliminating colors or types of toys. Tiaras and princess stuff and pink and purple toys will still be available, but they won’t be presented as girls’ toys or boys’ toys.

    Yay the 70s!

    • Paul White

      what I want from toy stores are more legos, less crap that takes batteries, and stuff that won’t fall apart. Why the hell would I want them to decide what is a girls toy vs a boys toy?

    • chickadee

      Absolutely more Legos. And please, more Legos that aren’t Themed Sets. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Avengers Legos, and the Pirates and LOTR Legos, but the plain old sets of generic blocks should be available too, in multiple package sizes.

    • Guest

      Yes, to this! My son LOVES Legos but they’re all sets! You can ONLY make what’s on the box. He’ll put them together once, then they sit there collecting dust. When we were kids my brother had a giant bucket full of basic lego pieces (think square or rectangle) and we could spend hours playing Legos.

    • Paul White

      You can rearrange them trust me :D My brother and i used to build sprawling sets that bore no relation to what was on the box. Pirates vs knights vs cowboys was a favorite theme

    • Evelyn

      They do sell tubs of generic Lego, but it lacks the more interesting shaped bricks that come in complicated sets. Also Lego creator is the themeless set.

      My kids adore the sets, but after making the model they soon dismantle it to make crazy inventions or whatever else they do with it. I am glad they do that as I think that is how it is meant to be used, but it feels a waste of money to get the themed set for that. Having said that the generic tubs don’t have enough interesting blocks. We no longer need those as between three Lego obsessed children we have a huge amount of bricks. We have enough Lego that on the last beaver scout sleepover I ran the kids were happy for me to borrow a box filled with mixed bricks in case of wet play indoors and none of them have asked for the bricks back or missed them.

    • chickadee

      I know — we have about four of them, and then we always pick up bags of blocks in cool colors at the Lego Store, but I remember what we had as kids, with little fence-pieces and windows and doorframes and little cars with big rubber wheels…

    • Andrea

      And shit that doesn’t make noise.

  • rescuemama

    Exactly. I was a hippy chick, and even I have had to fight the urge to call certain things boy or girl toys.
    If only every toy were fun, educational, and/or physically challenging, we would be creating a generation of open and fair-minded people. After all, we have all noticed that girls are encouraged to play servant (home-maker and mom) or man-trap, (dress up).
    I don’t mean to say that the people who choose to have a home and family are servants, the choice is perfectly legitimate.
    Just as make-up and hot clothes aren’t necessarily for the pursuit of a male companion. I am saying that toys that have, until now, been marketed for boys have been the “get out there and win” type, or the have vehicle, can and will travel type.
    I am very happy to see this change, even if it is too late for me, my daughter, and even my grandchildren. I at least have hope for my adorable great-grandchildren.

  • Ginny

    That last comment that was posted in the article seriously pisses me off.

    When I was a little girl, Star Wars and TMNT were my thing. I ALWAYS felt uncomfortable standing in those sections when I’d buy a toy. It was themed toward boys, with boys in the aisle. I never liked “girly” things when I was kid. I never cared, either. My dad was happy to take me into those sections and buy me those toys. But I didn’t exactly feel like I was very welcome.

    • Mandi

      Yes yes yes! When I was little I wanted the hot wheels sets on the commercials so bad, but there were only boys in the commercials so I never asked for them. My parents had nothing to do with pressuring me to want “girl” toys. I knew what I saw, and that was not one single girl playing with the cool cars. I look back now and think how ridiculous that is. I mean, what more gender-free toy can there be than a car?

    • chickadee

      To my parents’ eternal credit, they bought me a Hot Wheels race track in the md-70s because I desperately wanted one. My two sisters fought my dad for playing time…

  • G.S.

    “If a boy wants princess shoes, then that’s what he’ll choose.”

    Yeah, until he goes to school and gets harassed and bullied over having “the wrong pink girlie shoes.” I mean, HELLO! that’s why organizations like, “Let Toys Be Toys” exist! Because as sad as it is, that’s how it is right now! Nobody has any issue with your daughter playing “Pretty Pink Princess Dress-Up,” but buying your son a doll somehow makes him “gay” and open for ridicule. THAT’S what’s trying to be changed here! Is it nice up that guy’s ass? It must be, since he spends a lot of time there . . .

    (And yes, it goes vicey-versa, too, but I’ve just noticed from personal experience that boys seem to have it a lot harder if they go outside gender norms. For example, I can read all the X-Men I want and my Dad will happily take me to see Pacific Rim, but he has an absolute fit over my 17-year-old brother’s love for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.)

  • Katherine Handcock

    Thank you so much! I am amazed at how many people seem to think that “market in a gender-neutral way” equals “girls aren’t allowed to pick pink/boys aren’t allowed to pick blue.” My 4 1/2 year old son loves crafts — guess how many craft kits show pictures of boys on the boxes? We buy them anyway, but he notices — I know because, the few times we’ve found one he’s interested in that shows a boy on the box, his eyes really light up.

    My 2 1/2 year old daughter loves cars and dinosaurs and I’m amazed at how often people try to encourage her (subtly or not so subtly) to look at dolls. She also loves My Little Pony toys, which seems to totally confuse those people. I mean, how could a girl possibly like ALL THREE of those things? Such limited thinking.

    • Nyx

      I had the same thing happen with my daughter on her last birthday. I bought her this amazingly detailed plush crocodile. Seriously this thing was almost as big as her. The lady at the store tried to point us towards a dolphin or a baby seal plush but the spawnling just roared at her…

      She has some beautiful dolls that have been given to her, They’ve never been played with. Her favourite toy is a sword her Daddy made from foam and tape (she’s just like her swordfighting Mummy and Daddy)

      As for My Little Pony, I love them!!! I have a huge collection of the old school ones all lined up. I personally think they look fabulous next to my replica weapons and the sabre tooth tiger skull (also a replica, cast from a museum piece) on my desk.

  • Another Mom

    So, the mom in me thinks this is fantastic, because kids should play with whatever they want and never, never be made to feel bad/uncomfortable. … But, the used-to-work-in-product-management-sometimes-with-kids’-products in me immediately has so many questions about how this shift can really be executed to everyone’s level of satisfaction. Like, is it enough to add little girls to the hot wheel ads? Or will the Barbies move to the same aisle as the TMNT figures? It’s potentially asking these retailer(s) to put a significant investment towards becoming change agents when all of their customer research and sales information will still probably reflect a more “traditional” viewpoint. Not saying they shouldn’t do it, just that I’m interested to see how.

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s a small step. It won’t even be an unusually significant outlay if they time merchandising to coincide with major release dates, like pre-Christmas.

    • JLH1986

      If it’s done the way I’m seeing it in my head I don’t think it will alienate anyone. I think it will make more sense. Building toys in one spot, games in one spot, dolls in one spot, figurines in one spot. Mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to have to walk to opposite sides of the store because Susie’s figure is pink and Johnny’s is green.

    • allisonjayne

      I agree. I don’t see how it would be that hard. At my kid’s daycare, they group things by ‘type of play’. So dress-up clothes (tiaras and firefighter hats) and toy kitchens or doctor sets are in the ‘dramatic play’ area. Stores can do the same.

      We’ve had family members (i.e. of an older generation) apologize to us for giving us a gift in the ‘wrong’ sex. Like my stepmother bought a ball popper for the kid, but she got the ‘boy’ one because it was much nicer colours than the girl one (thankfully!), but she still felt the need to apologize for it, which was so weird.

    • JLH1986

      I have had to apologize to parents before for that. Not because I’m uncomfortable with it. (My Barbie wore a lot of camo) but because I knew the parents were going to be disappointed it wasn’t a ‘gender appropriate’ color. Though I’ve found with most of the kiddos in my life they’d rather play with the damn box so the color of the toy is rather pointless.

    • allisonjayne

      I think it’s funny that our family members would think they need to apologize to my wife and I…you would think that by now they’d know we’re not the type of folks who would care (both of us being queer feminists and all of that). But old habits die hard I guess.

    • Another Mom

      But isn’t it kind of already like that? Only sectioned by brand? Each brand does cross category product and it would be a shift for them (say to split Disney princess dolls from their corresponding kids’ costumes, when they want you to pick up both at the same time). And either way, their packaging/branding is still pink. Sometimes I feel torn between appreciating a small (symbolic?) move and wishing the effort were elsewhere

  • Rachel Sea

    Marketing works, that’s why companies spend so much money on it. Any parent who thinks they can counteract that programming with conversation is naive.

  • allisonjayne

    the weirdest thing about the people who cry ‘oh noes PC’ and get all ‘but girls LIKE pink’ about it is that all this stuff (likely) just started because some evil genius at a toy company realized that they could make more money by labeling things as either boy or girl. If they made a pink exersaucer, parents would have to buy ANOTHER one if their first kid was a girl and their second a boy.

  • matt30fl

    They were marketing that way because it works. The assumption here is that the marketing is driving the choice of the kids, which is absurd. It is the preferences of the kids and their parents that the marketers are trying to tap into to move their products. It as about a sexist as complaining that not enough motor oil commercials are geared towards women.

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