Friday, December 4, 2009

Gender-neutral toys, please

I had to go shopping in three toy stores today, and it really got to me, those aisles of pink and then aisles of red or blue. The "boy" zones and the "girl" zones in the store were so clearly segregated.

So I've been thinking of toys that my son and my daughter would both like, and how wonderful it would be if games and toys served to balance the male and the female perspective and bring the genders together. It would also be much more friendly to the many, many kids who in some way cross the gender boundaries and have characteristics not normally associated with their anatomical sex.

How about these:

  1. Pirates and mermaids, packaged together as a set. They could be friends, they could be enemies, they could explore the seven seas as a team or they could all be threatened by sea monsters. Fun for both genders!
  2. Barbie and the alien invaders. OK - so Barbie is packaged with lots of little men - little green men! And they might be brain-swappers and control Barbie, or they might be coming with a peaceful message and she alone realizes how to communicate with them. Companion products could be a fighter pilot Barbie, the "mother ship" of the aliens, and an "alien autopsy" lab. All sorts of play possibilities there for boys and girls.
  3. Pro-wrestler dress up dolls. They wear silly costumes anyway, so why not dress them up?
  4. A "keeping house" set of children's tools. Vacuum-cleaner, lawn-mower, broom and mop, and hammer and screwdriver. No unfair clues as to which gender "should" use which tools.
  5. Fire-house (OK, this product is real, but more stores should carry it). It's a dollhouse, but it's for firefighters. So, you can move all the furniture and people around, or you can have them slide down the pole and jump in their firetruck!
  6. Archaeologist action figures, with lots of treasure props. Not Indiana Jones or any of the female knock-offs, but an actual, responsible scientist digging for treasure and studying the stories of the past. For added excitement there could be "ghosts of the past" action figures as well.

I'm not taking all the excitement or violence out of the toys, I'm just thinking of a merging of toys that would bring boys and girls together.

What do you think? How would you redesign toys if you could?

1 comment:

  1. We're loving Playmobil - although it has lines that more closely follow the gender clues (Police! Fairies!) there are plenty of less common lines - a whole Veterinarian series and this year's Ancient Egypt line... one of which is an archaeologist complete with tools. :)

    But yes, I agree with your point about making toys more appropriate for sharing and understanding. A friend was struggling recently with how to buy dress-up clothes for her dress-up loving toddler boy... she didn't want the stereotypcial "male heroes" pack but everything else was fairies, princesses, and brides. What about a pack with mixed uniforms that again came without those unfair clues as to which gender "should" wear which outfit?