The blurring of gender roles is a trend that I’ve been noticing more and more, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I think it’s silly to try and reinvent the wheel—let’s be honest, toys that are pink, sparkly, or doll-related attract girls, while Super Heroes, cars, and trucks attract boys (this is, of course, generally speaking)—and what’s wrong with that? On the other hand, there are some toys that are shifting to neutral territory that I think are not only appropriate, but smart on the part of the manufacturers.
Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven is a great example of this. Introduced in the 1960s, the Easy Bake Oven has always been seen as a girls’ toy. Recently, a young girl contacted the company and asked for a gender-neutral version of the toy. Her younger brother had an interest in cooking, but Easy Bake Ovens were only available in “girly” colors, such as purple and pink. Hasbro agreed and has created a black and silver oven that looks more realistic and appeals to all young chefs. Male chefs are certainly not a revolutionary concept, especially with the range of current TV shows featuring men in the kitchen—think Top Chef, Chopped, Cake Boss, America’s Test Kitchen. I expect that this new look will attract a lot of boys when it becomes available this fall.
Changing gears, Educational Insights’ Nancy B’s Science Club takes science items, such as the Aquascope, binoculars, and microscope, and makes them “girly.” Many of the products available for young scientists are either gender-neutral or boyish in their coloring and design, so I think this is a smart idea. By offering the kits in purple and teal, the company will attracts more girls.
Experimenting with gender roles in the toy space can be tricky, but it can also yield rewarding results. Successfully selling a toy that is traditionally made for boys to girls can be as simple as changing the color or style. Taking a toy that is for girls and marketing it as a kid-friendly appliance has opened a window of opportunity. Surely I’m not the only one wondering, “why didn’t they think of that sooner?”
For more commentary from Christine, check back each Tuesday afternoon. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!