Not just sexism… This is M&S sexism

Last week we asked our followers what they thought about Marks & Spencer’s ‘Boys Stuff’ (action toys such as walkie-talkies, jungle animals, magnets and marbles) and ‘Lil Miss Arty’ (arts and crafts) ranges.  They weren’t impressed: 

“A whole toy line labelled boy stuff? What century are they living in?”

“Loads of children will miss out”

“My boy who loves art will not be spending his pocket money in M&S”

Challenging M&S on sexist marketing

We’ve contacted Marks and Spencer to ask them why they package their toys to explicitly turn away half their potential customers, and also about the “Boys” and “Girls” shelving labels we’ve noticed, particularly around Christmas.


And we’ve reminded them that their corporate marketing policy promises to depict diversity and to avoid images that cause offence. We think telling children that adventure is for boys and art for girls is pretty shoddy.

Our letter (below) includes a snapshot of some of the comments that we’ve seen but there are still many, many more coming through on Twitter and Facebook.

It looks like Marks and Spencer’s customers have plenty to say on the matter, so we’re looking forward to hearing M&S’ response. We’ll let you know when we hear back from them. Update – read M&S’ initial response to our letter.

Our letter to M&S

Dear Mr Sharp,

Let Toys Be Toys is a parent-led campaign that believes marketing toys separately to boys and girls is both damaging to children and unhelpful to the customer. We are asking you to rename your ‘Boys Stuff’ and ‘Lil Miss Arty’ ranges and to commit to shelving toys by theme or function rather than by gender.

We are pleased to note your policy on ethical marketing, in particular that you commit to depicting diversity and avoiding images that may cause offence. We feel this packaging does indeed cause offence. Our many followers on Facebook and Twitter are concerned about these ranges and feel they reinforce the myth that girls should be passive and creative, and boys active and playful. As parents ourselves we are very aware that many boys enjoy arts and crafts, and many girls enjoy toys such as jungle animals, marbles, magnets and walkie-talkies. We include an appendix which outlines a snapshot of some of the comments we have received.

This type of marketing is becoming increasingly unacceptable which is reflected in the number of retailers who have made changes to their gendered approach to toy marketing in recent weeks, including Boots, Morrisons, Asda and Matalan. For more information about our campaign and our recent successes, visit www.

We believe that changes to the way toys are marketed can present positive opportunities for the retailer in addition to achieving our objectives of expanding the horizons of all children.

We look forward to hearing from you on this issue, and would welcome the chance to discuss it in person.

Let Toys Be Toys

A collection of tweets and posts relating to the ranges “Boys’ Stuff” and “L’il Miss Arty”

“These @marksandspencer “Boy stuff” books describe boys as geniuses, teach languages and interesting science facts”

“a whole toy line labeled “boy stuff”?! What century are they living in? Since when were tigers male only toys?? WTF?”
“Only boys can be Formula One mechanics. Obviously.”
“I will not be buying anything from a store that excludes my five boys from enjoying arts and crafts. Or excludes anyone else’s girls from enjoying walkie talkies and footballs”

“Ok but can’t girls play with walkie talkies? Without being told it’s ‘for boys’?”

“So my boy who hates football and loves art will not be spending his pocket money in M&S then”

“Aw I used to love walkie talkies, boy stuff my butt!”

“loads of children will miss out on toys they might otherwise enjoy.”

“M&S are the worst offender in gender stereotyping”

“I don’t buy anything at all in shops that do this.”

“Toys are toys…..why must they insist on telling children and parents what toys are ‘suitable’ for girls and boys!”

“You expect better from M&S”

“A school wouldn’t be allowed to set up separate boys and girls play areas like this in a classroom. Surely there should be guidelines for this sort of thing.”

If you’d like to let M&S know what you think, see our Contact retailers page.

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