Let Toys Be Toys – For Girls and Boys
I have just emailed John Lewis to complain about their ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ categories for toys on their website. I would be interested to know whether Let Toys Be Toys have been in touch with John Lewis and whether you have had a response.
Thanks Ailsa. We haven’t been in touch with John Lewis yet – working our way around. We’d be very interested to hear the response you get. Can you send it on to us at the email address above? Thanks.
What is your problem with colour coding? If girls want boys toys and vice versa then their parents can choose to buy them! Colours are there to make shopping easier! Did something happen to you when you were a kid that’s made you put so much effort into this or are you just some attention seeker trying to make yourself important?
Pity you could not campaign against MP scandals, Bankers, Atos and the gov sending dying people to work and get something done there but no your purpose is about toys, what’s next clothes or sharing same toilets?
Some have seen the limiting effect that gender stereotypes have on children. Others have not seen the effect or choose not to see it as important. Thats ok too, but it doesn’t stop the divide from causing developmental issues in both girls and boys. If you can’t see that toys are actually where people learn to be government officials, then you need to reconsider what a child’s mind is: an open canvas. How it is programmed early on can determine how that mind functions for a very long time. Science says something like 80% of your personality is determined by age 10. Think about that.
Very sad to read that comment Matt, what a horrendous simplification of a complex topic. I am sure that most of those who take an interest in this valid cause are concerned about the other issues you highlighted. Your highlighting of MP scandals as being more important than than gender division is rather hilarious, and the fact that you think sharing toilets is a far out idea just shows how simple your mind must be.
The colour coding is unfair! Pretty much all ‘girls’ toys are pink and I happen to know a 4 year old girl that often says “why is it all pink? My favourite colour is orange, I wish they had an orange one” so we go to the ‘boys’ toys and find the orange one. I don’t know if you have ever spoken to a child Matt, but there are no ‘shades of grey’ to them if it says Boys then that means she can’t have it. It might as well say it’s for dogs or for grown ups! She’s just learning to read and I’m dreading the effort of explaining she can play with anything she likes but some people think that boys should like those better…
I think the point is – their parents can’t choose to buy them. The choice is now so limiting for both girls and boys, to pink. I am amazed you can’t see it – or perhaps you don’t actually have children?
Just been on holiday to Elveden Center Parcs and their toy shop is mainly divided into ‘just for boys’ and ‘just for girls’. Interestingly colouring is just for girls.
Wow! ‘Just for boys/Just for girls’ really says ‘Go away!’ doesn’t it!? I think my son would be very sad to discover that colouring and drawing are ‘Just for girls’ but art and craft are, unfortunately, often categorised as ‘for girls’. We’ve tweeted to Center Parcs back in March – they’re passing comments on to the company that runs their toyshops, so do tell them what you think – details here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=146282702205477&set=a.105988886234859.14188.104658933034521&type=1&theater
I have a 2 year old daughter who loves Duplo- Which is apparently a ‘boy’s toy’ according to every retailer i have bought it from… RIDICULOUS!
I do not understand why all the toys that are similar ‘for Girls’ are pink or princess themed, it is so unnecessary, and in fact, puts me (and I am sure many others) OFF buying the product. What was wrong with Lego when it was made of mixed coloured bricks?! It really has gone too far to have such blatant gender segregation in toys at this age, surely building blocks (and her favourite, the Zoo) are unisex?!
It’s like we are going back to the days when girls are being taught to expect to only ever get as far their pink Disney princess kitchen… I suppose there are no females who want to be engineers or architects?!! Urgh, it really is irritating
I have written to Fenwick in Newcastle upon Tyne to ask them to remove their separation of toys in their toy department by gender. I received a letter stating that this would be implemented soon. I have also written letters to Debenhams and Toys R Us in the hope they will follow suit.
I have written to Argos CEO John Walden regarding the marketing of toys in the latest Argos catalogue, which came out this week.
In many ways I think Argos’ marketing is worse the stores which label toys For Boys or For Girls. Many homes have a catalogue in them. I found my three year old daughter flicking through the toy pages unattended. She had been there for some time. Without fail, every toy she was pointing at (“ooh look at that!”) was a toy that had been marketed specifically at her, by virtue of being covered in pink, or by the fact that it had a girl pictured playing with it.
I appreciate that a lot of the images in this catalogue will have been provided by the manufacturers of the toy, and are not necessarily shots taken by Argos. However, as one of the UK’s biggest and most high profile retailers, Argos has a duty to market it’s products in an ethical and responsible way.
Recently, as we know Boots and Harrods took measures to remove gender specific toy marketing in their stores. I believe that the presence of a catalogue In people’s homes is a far more powerful and insidious marketing tool than a mere sign in a shop, which might be glimpsed for a few seconds. As such, this is a troubling situation.
According to the latest Argos catalogue, which came out this week, girls cannot be superheroes, they do not play with Thomas the Tank Engine toys, they do not play with Fireman Sam toys, they do not play with Tree Fu Tom toys, Octonaut toys, Scooby Do Toys, Spongebob Square Pants toys, remote controlled cars, planes, helicopters, construction toys, Disney Planes toys, Monsters University toys, Jake and the Neverland Pirates toys, Postman Pat toys, pool tables, table football and air hockey tables.
In fact the above listed are just the tip of the iceberg. I got too depressed to delve further into the marketing of the more violent toys towards boys. I can only imagine how the mother of boys must feel about that.
My three year old daughter currently loves Scooby Doo, Fireman Sam and Jake and the Neverland Pirates but I fear their days are numbered. When I pointed out those toys in the catalogue she responded that they were boys toys.
It is 2013, other retailers have taken large steps to rectify this horrible situation. Please let’s hope Mr Walden takes note.
Sad to see that the latest Argos catalogue in 2014 is no better. We now have ‘girl’ versions of ‘boys’ toys such as the Nerf Rebelle range and the predominately pink Lego Friends sets. These are not placed with the other Nerf or Lego toys but firmly in the pink-backed section of the catalogue in amongst the dolls.
Worse, the descriptions of the products are now saying who should be playing with which toys. On some of the Frozen toys it specifically refers to how ‘girls’ will enjoy playing with the toys, not ‘children’.
I completely support your campaign. I have a five year old daughter who loves the outdoors and science. I am continually frustrated by the way that many toys are marketed on gender lines. I have just written to ‘Interplay UK’ who make science kits for children. They have ‘girls science’ kits where girls can make soap and perfume, and ‘boy science’ kits where boys can experiment with rockets, volcanoes and chemistry. It really disappoints me to see an educational company sending out the message to young girls that science is not a subject which should be of interest to them. It baffles me why these products are not marketed to children in general. Good luck with the campaign!
I am currently staying at center parcs, winfell forest. They havea toy shop with all Lego branded ‘Just boys’. The ‘just girls’ section contains stuffed animals, Disney princess toys and a selection of plastic cups. Seriously.
Where do I start? My older daughter is about to go to Bristol Uni do do Palaeontology and Evolution so sucks to the stereotypers! Meanwhile I have just bought a Charlie and Lola magazine with pretty pink flip flops to decorate. When I was a children’s librarian in Croydon 8 years ago I used Charlie and Lola to help children in the library and it was very inclusive – it seems it is not now – I will write to the magazine and complain. I am nearly 55 and when I was a child there was hardly any pink – my cousin (a girl) and I were given similar presents and often in different colours but no pink in sight!
Great campaign. Are toy retailers catalogs on your radar? I’m in Ireland and have received 2 Christmas toy catalogs. The ELC one is refreshing as it depicts boys and girls playing with they same toys, be they dolls, kitchens, dinosaurs or train sets!
But the Smyth’s one is disappointing. Example: on the dress up page boy=doctor girl=pink nurse, no girls are playing with building toys, pink/blue bicycles for girls and boys, etc….
Keep up the good work.
I’m a mother to 2 girls, and grandma to 2 girls. I had dolls and a dolls’ house, but also a garage and a farm when I was small. My daughters played with my old toys and had a few Sindys but also Action Men, all dressed in ‘ordinary’ clothes – the Action Men were a pain as they always had to wear Army boots with their suits and jeans etc. They had a jeep so all the Sindys could go for rides. They had a little sink unit and of course a tea set, but when boys visited, it was always the sink and the tea things that they made a beeline for. We had very little pink, in toys or clothes. Now, although my grand-daughters play with all kinds of toys, it is very hard to find non-pink stuff. I don’t see why toyshops can’t just have sections labelled ‘Dressing Up’, ‘Pretend Play’ for toy household things, ‘Action Toys’,’Construction Toys’, ‘Dolls’ etc and let the children roam freely through them.
Why don’t you let children decide? Normal healthy children have normal healthy parents, and they make up their own minds about what they want to play with. I have never yet seen a child get into a tantrum about gender specific toy departments, but I have seen children severely affected by parents who are so controlling of their children that they think up daft schemes like this to further their control!
Thanks Pete. Letting children decide their interests for themselves is exactly what the campaign is all about. I don’t want my children to see signs and marketing that tell them that certain things are only for boys or girls.
As parents we all try and direct our children’s interests, hopefully to their benefit. But there’s no benefit whatsoever in telling children that certain things are not for them by virtue of their gender. It made me sad to hear a mother tell her daughter, ‘Those things are for boys, darling. Go and look at the pink stuff over there. That’s the girls stuff.’ No tantrum, but she learned she’s not supposed to like dinosaurs.
It’s a mistake to think children don’t care about this. They do: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24211824
Does this campaign extend to clothes? If not can it! My girls favorite colours are blue and orange. Why should boys get all those colours hey? There are some amazing orange gruffalo t-shirts in Debenhams NAND on Amazon, in fact lots of awesome gruffalo stuff all marketed as boys clothes. My girl hates anything pink or pretty but still looks fab!
As a new grandparent I have started buying toys, books and games for my 3 year old grand daughter. I have been appalled by three things: the categorisation of items into suitable for boys and girls, the lack of role models for girls and such blatant colour coding. We seem to have gone backwards.
So I was delighted to find this campaign via an article in the Guardian.
Is this a joke website or is it real? Are you seriously suggesting that for past 200 years that the approx 10 billion children that have been born on this planet have been somehow mentally scared or psycologically damaged because of boys and girls toys signs? Were you all damaged as children? You are talking absolute rubbish. You have 1600 signatures and a bunch of nimbys following you. And you are using the politically correct argument to scare shops into doing what the ‘minority’ want. I hope all the big chains ignore you completely. In fact a rival website to yours with a polarising argument would be good. I am sure a few million people would rather things be left alone. Get a life.
Hi Gaz, thanks for stopping by. 13 toy chains have listened to what we have to say about the problems of limiting children’s interests by labelling toys and books for boys or girls and have agreed to make changes. You can read about them here: http://184.108.40.206/lettoysbetoys.org.uk/retailers/contact-retailers/
Telling girls and boys what they are meant to be interested in turns them away from things they may like, creates an artificial division between boys and girls, and provides fertile ground for bullying. There are no disadvantages to taking them down – shoppers will still be able to find Barbie and Brio labelled as dolls and trains.
You did not answer my question. Are you saying that somehow the entire world’s population is stunted because of this? I mean as you say “limiting children’s interest’s, creates artificial division and fertile ground for bullying”. So are we all disadvantaged ?…All of us? I think that as a successful breeding and flourishing race of beings that we should have explored the galaxy by now if it were not for those damn boys and girls toys sign’s.
I also like the way you speak on this subject as absolute fact? I assume you have done years of noteworthy study perhaps conducted by a world renowned University? You see research gives you credibility, so I assume you can 1. Answer my above questions and 2. Provide evidence of the large credible research conducted to back up your opinion?
I don’t think this campaign is claiming that people as a whole are mentally scarred or damage because of colour coding. What they are saying is that it is wrong to force children into this kind of gender segregation. No one is saying that girls shouldn’t like pink but today’s culture increasingly tells them that’s ALL they’re allowed to like. It tells parents that little girls should only be wearing pink and playing with makeup and dolls and little pink kitchens. It tells girls that they’re not allowed to be superheroes, cowboys, or astronauts. They’re not allowed to like dinosaurs and trucks, swords and guns. The gender-divide in toys implements a notion that girls can only be ‘princesses.’ It tells them their only goal in life should be to look pretty and not worry their little heads about things like science and engineering and manual labour – those are all for the men.
As a man you might not realise the long-term effects these have on a woman. If you tell your little girl, from the earliest possible age, that she is only allowed to like one thing, then you are drastically curtailing her freedom of choice. It is a symptom of gender inequality – although women may be scientists, astronauts, and engineers, society still doesn’t want them to be.
Bear in mind also, that this pink and blue thing used to be the other way around. It used to be pink for the boys and blue for the girls. This gender segregation in the toy aisles is a construct of modern society and it is just plain wrong.
If a little girl chooses Barbie over Ben 10, that’s fine – it’s her choice. But don’t tell her she’s not allowed to like Ben 10 because she’s a girl. That’s what this campaign is about.
I was delighted by the recent successes of the Let Books be Books campaign, and I wondered if you might next turn your attention to children’s clothes?? Not only the issue that some colours are for boys ONLY (ever tried to buy a girl a pair of orange trousers?) but the cut and fabric too. Girls’ clothes seem to be made of much less robust fabrics and are also cut much more narrowly. Whether this is consciously to restrict movement and disincentivise rough and tumble activity is moot – the fact is that girls’ clothes in effect both marginalise them and discourage them from being active. Not only that but it drives me crackers that when trying to find (for example) a new dressing gown on ebay I have to decide whether I want a ‘boys’ one or a ‘girls’ one. The people who say gender divisions make shopping easier can never have tried to do it!
My local Morrison’s still has Boys’ Toys and Girls’ Toys.
It’s also worth pointing out that this whole pink/blue genderisation of toys is only about 25-30 years old at most. There did NOT used to be pink and blue aisles in shops – it’s all a marketing man’s idea.
Just received a catalogue from The Book People – absolutely no differentiation between ‘boys’ book’ and ‘girls’ books’ (except one book entitled ‘Crafting for Girls’). Website is similar. I’ve emailed them to praise them for getting it right : )
I am a qualified early years primary teacher (and parent of two boys -9 & 10) and as such have seen the effects of the pink/blue dichotomy in action. Recently, working in a nursery school we would have problems at snack and milk time as some of the children would simply refuse to drink or eat from plates that they deemed as for ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ – pink or blue. I used to have to sift out these colours and only offer green or yellow so that the children would feel able to eat or drink. It did give us an opportunity to talk about why these colours can be for anyone, but they just couldn’t comprehend this as these were stereotypes nurtured in the home. Without exception, all girls came in with pink Minnie Mouse or Peppa Pig type backpacks for their pegs and boys with either superhero or other ‘action’ characters. By limiting the games, toys, clothes and accessories that children feel acceptable to have, we limit the experiences and play opportunities that they can have. These early experiences lay down the neural pathways and begin to shape the brain in ways which can affect what they learn and change their aspirations as they grow. This is such an important subject that cannot be neglected if we want our children to grow up to be confident, competent and emotionally healthy adults.
For the people who rubbish this campaign, I suggest you read the research on this and the long term effects of gender stereotyping. Boys and girls make decisions about what is a ‘boy’s job’ and what is a ‘girl’s job’ from the age of 4 or 5. This is directly influenced by what they play with and their experience at school, which in turn affects their subject choices and ultimately, their choice of career. By retailers discouraging girls from looking at, for example, building blocks and diggers, they are reinforcing from a very young age that this is not the workplace of women. The bigger picture is that there are skills gaps in the British economy that cannot be filled because young women are not taking up male dominated professions and vice versa.
Yes, this is not necessarily detrimental to a child’s health or well-being but it leads to severely restricting what they think they can do. It’s not a coincidence, for example that if young girls are given hairdressing, princesses and beauty sets to play with that they then go on to be hairdressers. Nothing at all wrong with that apart from the fact that some men who might have an interest in hairdressing feel that they can’t do it as it is a profession for women. In additon to this, colleges are churning out beauty students at an incredible rate with no jobs to go to – but that is a whole different debate.
Young people need to see role models in schools and in the media that challenge the typical gender stereotypes they have become accustomed to (to address the current skills gaps we have) but that is sticking a plaster on the problem. To really redress this balance and change the Status Quo, we need to encourage children and young people to play with whatever they want, be interested in whatever they want and ultimately go on to be whatever they want to be.
Before someone says it, yes, there are other socio-economic factors that can restrict aspirations too. My take on it is that we are not doing our kids any favours by steering them into a blue and pink world. And…just because something didn’t do you any harm as a kid, doesn’t mean you can’t accept that you would want better for your own children.
I knew I should not have let my daughter play with silly stuffed animals when she was young now she is wasting her time training to be a vet when she could have been doing something more suited to being male. I think the only people affected by this are the people who thinks it has a massive effect. You campaign is all about adult control of children so they will do what you think is the best way.
I think you may have misunderstood the campaign. We’re simply asking that retailers and marketers stop telling children which toys or activities are suitable for boys or girls and allow children to choose for themselves. Marketers should not dictate to children in this way. It may be nicer to believe that children are not affected by the limiting ‘rules’ laid out by gendered marketing, but unfortunately, that simply isn’t true: http://220.127.116.11/lettoysbetoys.org.uk/thats-for-girls-and-thats-for-boys/
I feel this campaign is a cause for you I hope it does not make anything worse. You can not shield anyone including children from external influences unless you keep them in a bubble and away from any media. They are affected by what you say, what you do, the foods you give them they are your choices that will effect your child. Add to that school, friends, TV, computers and books…. the list is endless. Add to that there is a fundamental difference between males and females. If you buy a coffee machine and it is great you tell your friends and you influence there choices. If all their machine break down you inflicted a bad influence on them but that is the way of the world.
Actually the ‘fundamental differences’ between male and female children are so miniscule as to be neurologically entirely insignificant. You’re quite right that children are affected by their environment – which is why it’s so crucial that that environment should allow them free choice and not shackle them to the idea that some things are for boys and some are for girls.
I am a New Zealand mum and fully support your campaign. However, I wonder why you are only targeting schools, retailers and book publishers – the biggest sinner in this area are surely the toy manufacturers?
When the campaign began we wanted to find the best way to tackle the toy industry as a whole. It was decided, after much discussion, that retailers would make the best target to begin with; they seemed accessible, we had a simple request to make of them (take the boys/girls signs down), and we were also hopeful that a successful retailer campaign would impact on manufacturers too.
We do regularly discuss ways to tackle manufacturers, and while we don’t have a specific targeted campaign at the moment, we do regularly raise issues with manufacturers on social media. If you have any ideas on who you would like to see targeted and how, please let us know as we are always looking for ways to be more effective.
My sister and I loved the same toys as my mum did before us – construction toys and train sets. There might have been more sexism in the 50s and 80s, but at least there wasn’t so much ‘now in pink for girls!’. I hate pink and always have. Conversely, it is my son’s favourite colour. He won’t even look at my old toy cars, preferring dolls and his play kitchen. Any adults who question this get reminded that men cook and have babies too. Others worry I’m ‘making’ him homosexual: I tell them either he’s a child and all children like bright colours and sparkly things, or it’s who he is, and I might as well teach him now that that’s okay). He’s learnt to go straight to the girls’ section, to ask for the girls’ party bags. Luckily his strong personality means this doesn’t bother him, though I’ve had to teach him some arguments with which he can defend himself against his friends (why can’t there be male fairies? If their society reflects ours, there should be!). But it does bother me that with the things he likes, there are no strong male characters (just as with many ‘boys” shows, the female characters are weak). Why can’t there be strong characters of both? (There are exceptions, but depressingly few).
I don’t agree with ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ categories for book/toys I am shocked that this is going on in this day and age!!!
I thought this article was a really useful and accessible summary of the current state of research into the damaging effect on boys and men of gender socialisation: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/06/masculinity-is-killing-men-the-roots-of-men-and-trauma/
Worth adding to the resources section?
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