They may not be a toy shop but McDonald’s are the world’s largest distributor of toys. Happy Meals are enjoyed by boys and girls alike and although UK and Ireland branches have avoided gendered toy marketing for several years, Let Toys Be Toys supporters have raised concerns that separate toys for boys and girls are now being offered.
Our map shows that in over 70% of restaurants, rather than being given a choice of toy, customers are being asked if it is for a boy or a girl, another 13% are giving the toys out based on perceived gender, which means 83% of branches are not adhering to McDonald’s stated policy:
To contact McDonalds and let them know your opinion fill in their customer contact form or tweet them:
Our open letter to the CEO of UK McDonalds:
Dear Jill McDonald,
Let Toys Be Toys campaign against marketing messages that tell children some toys are only for boys and some are only for girls. In the last year we have persuaded several major UK retailers (including Tesco, Marks and Spencer and TK Maxx) to stop marketing toys by gender, and a number of UK publishers to stop producing books explicitly labelled for boys or girls.
We were concerned to hear about your recent promotion of Hello Kitty and Hot Wheels toys. We believe that by offering two separate toys (and making one of these pink – which children learn at a young age is used to symbolise girls) children are receiving the message that there are ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’ and they may feel that there is something wrong with them if they want the ‘wrong’ one.
When we contacted you via Twitter, we were pleased that you confirmed branches are asked to ‘offer Hello Kitty and Hot Wheels to all children irrespective of gender’. However, in a brief survey, 70% of supporters said they were asked if they would like the ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ option. By asking this, staff are assuming which toy a child will prefer according to their gender, a practise which relies on stereotypes and limits children’s choices.
Further to this, 13% of those asked reported that they were not given any option, with staff seemingly deciding which toy the child would prefer just by looking at them. These actions in branch clearly contravene your stated policy on the matter. This is particularly surprising given the much publicised decision by McDonald’s in the US to no longer offer toys according to gender following Antonia Ayres-Brown’s campaign. Our UK supporters have long praised McDonald’s UK for not taking this approach, whilst our American supporters have often expressed envy of your inclusive options.
We have numerous reports of Hot Wheels-loving girls and Hello Kitty-loving boys having to return to the counter to exchange their toy, and no doubt there are far more who returned home with a toy they didn’t want, too embarrassed to say anything or unaware that they could have chosen themselves. We have also heard of one instance where a staff member said they were instructed to ask customers if they wanted boy or girl toys.
We feel strongly that toys are to be enjoyed by all children, and telling them what is ‘correct’ for their gender pressures them to conform to gender stereotypes, limits their experiences and promotes division.
We hope this promotion is a one-off and that you are planning to return to one toy for all children. If this is not the case, however, we ask that you follow the example of McDonalds in the US who have explicitly stated their intent to “re-examine internal guidelines, communications and practices” and make improvements to better ensure that your toys are distributed consistent with your policy.
Let Toys Be Toys