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  1. Lissette
    Lissette December 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm |

    I just did some research on how toys gender kids for my sociology of gender class which included a trip to Toys R’ Us, and I have to say it’s all pretty disturbing. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING that is for girls is any other color than pink. It’s sad really. When it comes to “home” toys, there’s still a gender divide there: power tools for boys (Home Depot toys) and doll houses, vanities, and nurseries for girls. Where are the power tools for girls??? Even board games are in on it. Monopoly now has the “Boutique Edition” in bright pink with nail polish, hair brush, and blow dryer as game pieces, and life is bright pink “High School Edition” life. Don’t boys go to high school too??? Personally, I preferred the gender neutral versions of these games. They were loads more fun.

    If you look at Lego’s displays, they’re all highly masculinized displays featuring cars, dinosaurs, armies and things of the sort for consumers to build.

    There was nothing sports related on the girls side of the Toys R’ Us, as things are clearly divided by “boys”, “Girls” and “Infants”.

    Kids are the most sexist humans of all. They like to stick to their gender when people around, but when they think no one is looking, they’ll experiment with toys for the “other” gender. Girls are the most openly gender crossers when it comes to toys, but boys get a lot of crap from their dad for toy gender crossing, so that’s probably why they don’t cross as often or in public. And lets not talk about peer pressure!

  2. Ekkaia
    Ekkaia December 5, 2008 at 2:10 pm |

    I wouldn’t say “kids are the most sexist humans”, but they are made to be, very agressively, as those girl/boy toys show.

  3. Gillian
    Gillian December 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm |

    I was a Lego-obsessed kid and was excited whenever a new theme came out – I had pirates and castles and when Paradisa came out, I wanted that one too. And I will never forget standing in line at Toys ‘R’ Us with Poolside Paradise (it has drinks and a car, you can play spies with it! And there’s an extra palm tree and parrot for my pirate castle!) and the woman in line behind us said “I’m so glad they’re finally making Lego for girls. Finally!” My mum and I were just sort of stunned. And I was so upset I almost put it back on the shelf. I didn’t want to buy something patronizingly labeled as “for girls.” I didn’t even realize that’s what it was supposed to be.

    I think a huge part of the problem is that cool, gender-neutral toys like Legos and board games get labeled by the public as “for boys.” It doesn’t count as something girls are allowed to enjoy unless it’s specifically dumbed-down (like how the Bellville series comes with a lot fewer pieces, it’s basically a doll house) and painted neon pink, so boys know not to play with it. Like “for boys” is the default toy and girls’ toys are in the special pink Barbie ghetto*. I hate that. And I’m sure there a lot of kids out there who are the way I was as a kid and they hate it too.

    *OK, there are also hypermasculinized toy sectoions for boys but things like building blocks and balls are obviously gender-neutral and they’re usually marketed to boys.

  4. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos December 5, 2008 at 3:31 pm |

    @Lissette: Kids are the most sexist humans of all. They like to stick to their gender when people around, but when they think no one is looking, they’ll experiment with toys for the “other” gender.

    I learned very quickly which dolls I could take to school (the Star Wars guys with the animal faces), and which dolls I had to leave at home (the Raggedy Ann). I also remember very distinctly discovering that while my parents were liberal and permissive when it came to dress-up in the house, that doing so in church daycare was profoundly embarrassing for them.

    It’s a bit uncomfortable to hear this called “sexism.” Building a closet around our gender-variant lives is a coping mechanism.

  5. Kit Kendrick
    Kit Kendrick December 5, 2008 at 3:58 pm |

    I was just in a Lego store this weekend and walked out with the impulse to send LEGO a complaint letter. I generally don’t like the ‘kit’ sets because I’d rather promote open-ended play than a kit to make the toy on the front of the box. They do have buckets of just blocks… one in blue and one in pink. (The pink bucket has mostly red and pink blocks, instead of the normal assortment). I wanted to know why I can’t buy a bucket of blocks that haven’t been labeled by gender. Duplo’s (the larger blocks for very young kids) comes in a green bucket, at least. I’d rather be able to buy the things in just a carboard box (and I kind of can, if I purchase the “vintage” set, which has the 1970’s artwork of a boy and a girl) than have to go with a gender-coded bucket.

  6. Felicity
    Felicity December 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm |

    Am I completely offbase in my gut feeling that boy/girl segregation in toys has gotten worse? I grew up in the 80s, and my mom wouldn’t buy toys — or shop for toys — in stores with signs that said “Girls’ Toys” and “Boys’ Toys”. But we still got toys, and I don’t remember her having a hard time finding stores without. These days? Good luck.

    I also don’t remember there being quite so much pinkification — plenty of Barbie-pink and Barbie-knockoff pink in the doll aisle, but now it seems EVERYTHING IS PINK. So to me it’s seemed that there’s been a pendulum swing back after some progress in the 70s or so…is this just my personal perspective, or is there some basis in fact?

  7. Building Blocks: Are Legos A ‘Boy Toy’? [Toy Story]

    […] Interesting post on Feministe about the “gendering” of Legos. (Okay, that may not sound that interesting, but bear with me.) Apparently Lego’s on the carpet for alleged gender stereotyping in its catalog… interesting, as legos have traditionally been gender-neutral toys. The writer of the piece, Holly, is a former Lego employee, so she has the inside scoop on the scandale: […]

  8. Lynn
    Lynn December 5, 2008 at 5:48 pm |

    There’s always amazon. You can search via gender/age/activity, whatever you like.

    I am somewhat pleased the Fisher-Price Pirate Ship shows someone in a pink sweater playing with it:

    Though I am disappointed the Melissa & Doug Block pics have only boys in them:

  9. Caravelle
    Caravelle December 5, 2008 at 6:17 pm |

    I tend to fall on the permissive side of the protecting children vs. letting them discover the world come what may scale, but one thing I’m starting to think I’ll never do if I have children, is let them inside a mainstream toy store. As an anti-“girliness” girl I was always crushed by the pinksplosion that was the girls’ aisle, vs the cool stuff the boys got.

    Totally kudos to the ERK. Gendered toy commercials are everywhere, sure, but that’s the very problem because it’s a vicious circle. An especially strong one in that it’s aimed at children, who have less experience dismissing commercials and outside influence on the one hand, and are exposed to brutal peer pressure on the playground on the other. The ERK seems determined to try and break that vicious circle. I’m not very confident they’ll succeed, but if they don’t try who will ?

  10. Lauren
    Lauren December 5, 2008 at 9:38 pm |

    Holly, my son is a dedicated Lego lover who hasn’t been a day without his beloved for probably six years (we have two full-size Tupperware dressers full of them in his room). I love Legos because, as others have mentioned, they are an open-ended imagination kind of toy, one that isn’t necessarily bound to a particular frame or function. Ethan is nine now and his creations keep getting more and more complicated — fancy hovercrafts and cars and stuff, usually, except for one thing. He really likes to make houses.

    E isn’t an action figure kind of kid. He doesn’t care about them, doesn’t play with them, but he loves the little people figures that come with Lego sets and creates all kinds of elaborate lives for them. It’s not so different from what I used to do with Barbie — huge living spaces with futuristic emplements and fantasy elements, the way he sees the world being if he had his way as an adult. To me this isn’t gender play, it’s developmental. It’s what all kids do of a certain age. E really likes the unusually-shaped legos, the ones with hinges and joints and whatnot, and things that look like flames and rockets. The special pieces.

    Nevertheless, the thing about boy-play vs. girl-play is that it really isn’t all that different when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it. It’s adult-simulated or -imagined play that involves a lot of conflict and interpersonal drama. So what I find amazing is that Lego markets its wares one of two ways, 1) gendered packaging, presumably so the parents will buy them (we know the kids will play with them regardless, so why all the pink?), and 2) mega-trendy corporate movie/action packaging a la Star Wars and Indiana Jones (which annoy the piss out of me and I refuse to buy them).

    Clearly I’m not a marketing guru or I’d have figured this out by now. Why take such an open-ended toy and close it off? So we buy more of it’s units?

  11. denelian
    denelian December 6, 2008 at 1:26 am |

    i was very very non-girly in my playtoys as a child. i wanted TRANSFORMER not BARBIES!. my favorite toy, for years, was strange… it was a strawberry shortcake dollhouse – that was designed perfectly for me to use as a Time Machine.

    i have a niece and nephew who are ages 5 and 6 (and who are sibs and live together) and i buy them the same thing every year. something they can do together, but with a set for each of them – last year it was a set of “armor” and “swords”, this year it will probably be an easy bake oven and a set of “recipies” for each (K, the boy, is the one agitating for it. otherwise i probably wouldn’t). my mom has custody, and i’ve thrown a HUGE fit over the gendered toys the kids have received (oh did i ever! K plays with the dolls more than his sister does, but he never gets is own!) so my mom caved into my fits, and when K gets power tools, so does L.

    sadly, L LOVES pink and dresses and dolls, etc. not so much she won’t play with other things, but… she dances around in pink dress up clothes singing “i’m a princess, i’m a pretty princess” and tells me that i could be pretty enough to be a princess if i would wear a pink dress… it makes me want to weep.

  12. printmaker81
    printmaker81 December 6, 2008 at 2:40 pm |

    I think a huge part of the problem is that cool, gender-neutral toys like Legos and board games get labeled by the public as “for boys.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. This was first noticeable to me when I joined Girl Scouts. Having two older brothers who had been in boy scouts, I thought it would consist of hiking, camping, and learning to shoot a boy and arrow. I was devastated that it really just consisted of making lame “sit-upons” (covered little cushions to take with you outdoors so as not to get dirty). As I was around 8 or so at the time, it was the first time I really encountered full-frontal institutionalized sexism. All the badges were for sewing and such. My experience might not reflect the whole Girl Scout’s organization, but it’s a pretty good representation of how all the “cool” activities go to the guys.

  13. Emily
    Emily December 8, 2008 at 10:19 am |

    @Cbrach – it can be coping mechanism AND, at the same time, be capitulating to and reinforcing sexism. That’s not to say that we blame/scold the kids and parents who do it as “bad feminists” but rather that we recognize the way that sexism in our society affects us, changes us, and pushes and pushes us to accomodate ourselves to its dictates. We all accomodate sexism to a certain extent. We make trade-offs because the negative reinforcement for non-conforming is not something we, personally, individually, in that particular instance, are willing to suffer. But we should know when we’re doing it. And when our children are doing it. And especially if we are asking/encouraging them to do it.

  14. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos December 8, 2008 at 2:01 pm |

    @Emily: Perhaps I’m just a bit oversensitive on this issue, especially this year. But it bothers me when the focus of criticism is on kids who are pushed into those “accommodations” rather than on the very real harassment, violence, and abuse that queer, trans*, and gender non-conforming kids face.

  15. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos December 8, 2008 at 2:34 pm |

    I might be overacting just a little bit. But it’s just that at least for me growing up queer and gender non-conforming, it was a significantly painful dilemma that continued well into my 20s. (Heck, it’s still a bit of a dilemma.)

  16. Caravelle
    Caravelle December 8, 2008 at 3:00 pm |

    sadly, L LOVES pink and dresses and dolls, etc. not so much she won’t play with other things, but… she dances around in pink dress up clothes singing “i’m a princess, i’m a pretty princess” and tells me that i could be pretty enough to be a princess if i would wear a pink dress… it makes me want to weep.

    I understand your point of view, but I don’t know if that’s a great reaction.
    Not all a child’s traits are socially conditioned, even when social conditioning is present; after all in a perfectly gender-neutral society there would still be girls who loved pink and wanted to be princesses and so on. And even if you consider her preferences are socially conditioned (which, given the level you’re talking about, we can assume they are), they’re still her preferences and they aren’t invalid. All you can do is expose her to less girly things and see if she likes them too.

    Hey, my favorite color was pink when I was a child. At least until I found out it was THE girly color, after which I decided my favorite color was blue… but it was never quite the same. It was only after I’d grown up I decided that hell, just because society ghettoized pink doesn’t mean I shouldn’t allow myself to like what I like.

    A lot of parents really do want to buy toys that are “labeled correctly.” They rely on advertising for cues to help them do their child-gendering job the “right way,” as idiotic as that sounds.

    That does sound idiotic. But mostly, it scares me to death. My children will have to grow up around those people.

  17. Gender, Play and Corporate Consumerism « Play Times

    […] and Corporate Consumerism Posted by playtimes under Uncategorized   There’s an interesting battle going on at the moment between Sweden’s Trade Ethical Council Against Sexism in Advertising […]

  18. aloofGrrl
    aloofGrrl December 16, 2008 at 3:19 pm |


    I’m totally with you on that thought. We’re just playing the same gender-based game inside-out if we refer to the love of pink as “sad”.

    As a child I played with wooden blocks, barbies and stuffed animals. In first grade I pretended my pen was a screwdriver and snuck under my desk to play “car-mechanic”. I was the only girl who knew how to fashion a paper gun.

    I still gravitate to male dominated fields: mathematics, computer science, billiards.

    I liked to dress up as a kid, too. But I always had trouble relating to other girls. Only as I got older (3rd, 4th, 5th grade) did I [increasingly] steer-away girl-marketed items.
    I really think I avoided girly things out of an elitist mentality akin to the “sadly pink” attitude. Who knows what I would have chosen in a non-gendered world?

    The problem is that my rejection of pink was [possibly] a rejection of the frailty of “being a girl” – an aim based on sexist principal.

    If the girl=weak=frivolous message weren’t subliminally residing behind pink – I might have liked the color more.

    If I’m on to something here then the answer is far more complicated than our feminist intuitions guide us.

    Do we teach our daughters not to like pink? Is it necessary for us to flip the sexist paradigm in order to compete with the prevalence of genderism in the rest of the world.

    What our your thoughts?

  19. Sunday Snippets « Zero at the Bone
    Sunday Snippets « Zero at the Bone January 4, 2009 at 2:02 am |

    […] toys. This immediately brought to mind the recent Ending Pink’s Reign from Feministing and Gasp! Kids’ toys are… gendered? from Feministe in December. It’s old news that’s worth repeating. It comes after one study on […]

  20. Gender, Play and Corporate Consumerism « Morgan Leichter-Saxby

    […] Play and Corporate Consumerism Jump to Comments There’s an interesting battle going on at the moment between Sweden’s Trade Ethical Council Against Sexism in Advertising […]

  21. Grrrrrr…. « Bug Girl’s Blog
    Grrrrrr…. « Bug Girl’s Blog June 17, 2009 at 6:03 pm |

    […] this was covered last year at Feministe in a different […]

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