The toy industry is becoming more and more gender neutral

Just over a week ago, California passed a law requiring department stores to create gender-neutral sections with a “reasonable selection” of gender-neutral toys and childcare items.

  • To be clear: Stores may still have sections for boys and girls, but they Also need to have an unlabeled section.

Revival and anti-revival clash in Facebook comments on new CA bill, the first of its kind passed in the US, with supporters saying it helps counter gender stereotypes and opponents arguing that this is government overreach. But the fact is…the toy industry has been moving towards gender neutrality for most of the last decade, without lawmakers forcing its hand.

On the retail side:

  • Toys “R” Us (which is back from the dead FYI) announced it was removing gender signage from its stores in 2013 and removed “boy” and “girl” filters from its website in 2015 .
  • Target gender neutral aisles and labels in 2015.
  • Same goes for the aisles of Walmart, except you can still search by gender online.

Even if stores leave their “girl” and “boy” labels…they may have trouble sorting toys into binary aisles:

  • Mattel has a line of asexual Barbies.
  • Easy Bake Oven began selling a silver and black version after a viral petition in 2012 derided the “girly” color scheme.
  • Hasbro has launched a Potato Head family set that lets kids mix and match non-traditional parent combos.

The latest brand to board the sexless toy train is Lego

Lego announced this week that it would remove gender entirely from its smaller blocks – which already don’t discriminate between the soles of the feet – through marketing efforts or otherwise. He based the decision on a large survey which showed girls “remain held back by ingrained gender stereotypes in society as they age”.

Parents of children aged 6 to 14 responded to the first half of the survey and their children to the second half, leading to revealing learnings about entrenched gender stereotypes, such as:

  • 76% of parents said they would encourage their sons to play with Legos, but only 24% would recommend Legos to their daughters.
  • 71% of boys fear being laughed at if they play with female-coded toys, compared to 42% of girls for male-coded toys.

These discrepancies don’t stop at the toy department. Parents said they were more likely to encourage girls to cook and cook than boys, and more likely to encourage boys to play sports than girls.

Zoom out: For proponents of gender neutrality in the toy aisle, this stereotype of what a “girl” and a “boy” can To do limits what children think they can to be when they grow up.—JW

About Lola C. Chapman

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