Toys for Girls and Toys for Boys

With Christmas just around the corner and parents shopping frantically for presents I found the recent controversy over marketing toys to be very interesting. I have personally found that in this era where there has been such an emphasis on getting girls interested in STEMS it is particularly frustrating when shopping for gifts for little girls. I remember very fondly of playing with chemistry sets, telescopes, microscopes, and crystal growing kits as well as dolls. However, increasingly these types of toys are marketed for boys, while the girls toy isle is full of dolls, knitting kits, and ponies. I even have spent many an afternoon running from store to store looking for a doll that wasn’t a nurse or teacher or princess before attending a Birthday party or Christmas event for a little girl. Of course I found what I wanted eventually because persistence pays off, but it was not easy. Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with nurses or teachers or princesses, but what about doctors, professors, queens, engineers, scientists, etc?  Why aren’t there chemistry sets next to the craft sets? So, when Australia launched its “No Gender December” campaign for gender neutral toy marketing, it caught my attention. There seems to always be an aisle for girls and an aisle for boys… why can’t the toys be grouped by interest instead? I am not saying we should get rid of any beloved toys or that Barbie, GI-Jo, knitting kits or Legos are bad. Just asking why they can’t be in the same aisle. That being said, I wasn’t the least bit surprised that when Rebecca Hains recently went on Fox New to argue for toys being grouped by interest as opposed to gender that the response was to see her plea as an attack on nature instead an argument for providing children with more options.  Rebecca further backed up her views in a recent comment:

“…When I was researching gendered marketing for my book “The Princess Problem,” I learned that in 1989, a new marketing trend emerged: segmenting the child market and marketing directly to children. This was different from previous methods of marketing children’s toys.

The idea was that by splitting up the child market into smaller, distinct segments, revenue would increase–in part because families with children of both sexes would need to buy twice as many toys, rather than handing down the same toy from a brother to sister or vice versa.

On the heels of this trend, cable television exploded in popularity, and we began seeing many networks dedicated to children’s television programming (whereas previously, the only “kids’ time” was Saturday morning cartoons). This allowed marketers to direct their ads towards children *all the time*, and as young children go through a developmental stage in which they are drawn to stereotypes as they try to figure out what makes boys boys and girls girls–well, it was a recipe for exactly the situation we’ve got today: way too many gender stereotypes in the toy aisle.”- Rebecca Hains,  Author of “The Princess Problem.”

Read more about Ms. Hains’ experience on her webpage at and view the video of her controversial interview below. Watch it and let me know what you think:


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