We started our Silliness Awards way back in 2013 when the Let Toys Be Toys campaign was barely a year old. It’s become an (almost) annual tradition since then, when we round up the most ridiculous and unnecessary examples of gendered marketing we’ve been alerted to by our ever-vigilant supporters. As the decade draws to a close, we thought we would look back and remember some of the real classics we’ve seen and look forward to less of this in the next 10 years.
2013 – The Most Pointlessly Pink Version of the Same Toy Award
Our inaugural year’s worthy winner of The Most Pointlessly Pink Version of the Same Toy Award was the infamous globe, or as one follower called it even back then “the globe, the goddamn pink globe”. It took not just the sea but pretty much the whole of the earth and painted it the colour of bubble-gum. This one has sadly never gone away and retains the distinction of remaining an icon of gendered absurdity to the present day.
2014 – Award for putting a sinister spin on ordinary household objects
Clearly not having read the caustic Amazon reviews of the quite legendary BiC For Her Ballpoint pen, we had a number of entries in this category that year. There was bath gel, toothbrushes, and then there was Sellotape Just For Girls (“Girls sellotape! You know, for when that other ‘boys sellotape’ is too difficult! #Nonsense” tweeted @SkintLondon), but pipping them to the post was the even more enthusiastically gendered Pritt Just 4 Girls!, as reported by HuffPost. Pritt Just 4 Girls! (“Colour & Glue in One”) – for of course what self-respecting girl could be expected to deal with bog-standard adhesive without a reassuring pink hue? Tacky. Yes indeed. And in the next few years there was no let-up, with batteries, dog poo bags and even umbilical cord scissors all being treated to the pink/blue divide.
2015 – Award for leaving nothing to the imagination
These items (what are they anyway? Tiny stone tablets?) sent to us by @girlcalledbrian (“Spotted in the window of a shop in Glasgow. Words actually fail”) exist so no one need ever worry again about the categories of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and what they might mean. “Boys’ rules” stipulate that you can “build a fort”, “hunt for treasure” and “be brave”, while girls are given free rein to “have tea parties”, “paint your nails” and “dance like a ballerina”. OK? Got that? Good.
2016 – Award for pushing faith to its limits
‘Bible stories for girls’ and ‘Bible stories for boys’ we are wearily familiar with and were highlighted in 2015’s silliness blog. But this bible rebranding really takes the wafer. ‘Finally, a bible just for boys!’, it thunders. Yes, at last all that offputting girly god stuff has been cast into the wilderness in favour of ‘gross and gory Bible stuff’ and ‘interesting and humorous Bible facts’. Intriguingly, boys can also ‘learn how to become more like Jesus mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially,’ conjuring up images of the Messiah giving sermons on how to use beard oil and what conversational gambits you should use at cocktail parties. Brought to us by @revkatebottley, who said, ‘Because the bible isn’t patriarchal enough as it is apparently’.
2018 – Award for not moving with the times
Ah, the rote learning of times tables, a chore for some schoolkids, a highlight for others, but either way something that has been a mathematical certainty for generations. But, what’s this? Some bright spark has seen that the way to make this task more successful is to produce two separate posters for boys and girls.“I feel like such an idiot! I always thought #TimesTables were the same regardless of your gender! ???????? ”, tweets @myatticlibrary
And so to 2019…
Award for feather-brained nonsense
In the tradition of pointless gendering comes this product from the BBC and its venerable Springwatch programme. Same product packaged differently for mums and dads and giving what some might suggest is a somewhat outdated view of parental roles. “Come on @BBCSpringwatch, since when was it necessary for mums to have pink bird box kits? And as for dads being ‘really good at stuff like this’ and mums just being ‘the best mum’ – you can do better than this” commented @rachelmcwrites.
Award for catching them young
In a year that brought us the extremes of the gender reveal party in the form of lasagna no less, it comes as little surprise that unimaginative stereotypes can be brought into even the earliest learning experiences. These Letter Tracing books aimed at unsuspecting three- to five-year-olds have trains, robots and dinosaurs for boys, and hearts, flowers and rainbows for girls. In the words of @itsmatthewj, “Because boys and girls have different letters?!”
Award for provoking a chemical reaction
Tesco’s Pink Chemistry kit, no doubt a misguided attempt to interest girls in STEM subjects with the promise of creating “coloured raining”, set off a chain of reactions from our followers for its predictably stereotypical content. From @MerithsMisc came “What fresh hell is this @LetToysBeToys? Pink Chemistry? Because science for girls means long blonde hair, air freshener, pink glitter dough & flowers? @Science4you_UK @Tesco this is stereotyped bullshit.” While @hkist added, “I’m all for encouraging more kids into STEM. I’m also fairly confident this isn’t the way to do it. Seriously, @Tesco? It had to be pink? #nopink”
Award for messing with yet another classic
Ah Sudoku, a logic-based, number-placement puzzle game popular with all kinds of people the world over and that rarely varies in format. But what’s this? “Seriously – Sudoku for Girls????? Why ohh why can’t publishers, toy manufacturers etc just produce Sudoku for Kids!!” Shared by Jenny B via FB.