In a perfect world, toys would be toys and there would be no grand toy judge to pound his or her gavel and declare which ones are for boys and which are for girls–okay, that doesn’t actually happen, but rarely do kids get to decide which toys they want to play with before it’s already been preconceived as a boy or girl toy.
There have been many strides made towards creating toys that intend to promote gender equality—just check out this commentary, New Toys Inspire Girls to Cross Sterotypical Boundaries, from Alexi Velasquez, or, Dolls for Boys Are a Sign of the Times, from our own Phil Guie. Yet it seems that toy companies continually miss the mark.
Pinkifying “boy” toys doesn’t close a gender gap, and marketing toys that have previously been deemed “boyish” in a way that will appeal to girls may be smart for sales, but it’s important that we look beyond the toys themselves, and at the advertising campaigns that drive them. That’s where we really see the effect that it has on the way kids play.
I recently saw a petition on Change.org urging the president of the International Council of Toy Industries to change the way toys are advertised on TV by featuring both genders playing with the same toys. Unless this is the first time this argument has surfaced (which it’s not), then what’s keeping companies from advertising their toys to both boys and girls?
In the petition, Sabrina Morgan says that TV advertising needs to address this issue, because it is often the first thing children are exposed to, before they even see the toy section in the supermarket. She says that if the message of equal time for boys and girls gets across to people, children will be able to, “simply just enjoy PLAY while they can, with whatever toy they choose!”
I recently had a conversation with a father who absolutely loved the set GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine. He considered purchasing it for his son until he finally decided that his son (probably) wouldn’t want to play with it because it had a picture of a girl on the box (Goldie). This whole scenario blew my mind. It’s for those exact reasons, just vice-versa, that GoldieBlox was even created—to interest girls in engineering because most building toys are marketed towards boys.
Even in GoldieBlox’s most recent TV commercial, it’s all about girls—it’s showing both kids and parents that it is a girl toy. And trust me, I adore GoldieBlox. I think it’s the best thing. But while toys like GoldieBlox aim to bridge the gender gap, they also create a new one by not marketing it as both a girl and boy toy.
The thing is, you don’t need me to tell you that kids are impressionable, especially at young ages, and I think that’s the most important part about this petition. TV commercials are reaching kids when they’re at young ages, and what they see on the screen is what they’re going to think in real life, and that’s that boys don’t play with Barbies and that girls don’t play with toy guns unless they’re pink.
For more commentary from Deanna, check back often. 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!