Breaking Down Toy Gender Stereotypes

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Last Updated on May 10, 2021 by Danielle

Toy Industry Association

Are we ready to move past gender stereotyping in the toy industry?

The world’s biggest toy convention, New York Toy Fair 2016, begins this weekend. More than 900 individuals will gather to discuss the future of the $22 billion U.S. business.
At the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards, they’ll honor the “Boy Toy of the Year” and “Girl Toy of the Year”, which promotes the outdated gender stereotyping of toys.

Top toys for boys include Star Wars toys, an R/C Hulk, Hot Wheels garage, Nerf blaster, and a video streaming drone. Top toys for girls include Disney’s Frozen Sing-A-Long Elsa, Nerf Rebelle bow and arrow, Girl Scout Cookie Oven, Shopkins Ice Cream Truck, a nature journal, and Zoomer Kitty.

This distinction is not really necessary especially considering many girls like Star Wars, Hot Wheels and Drones. Similarly, many boys like Frozen, cookies, and kittens.

In fact, the toy industry was never so heavily gendered as it is now. If adults’ jobs are no longer divided by restrictive gender roles, why should our toys be divided based on gender?

Frankly, it limits their creativity and their development of well-rounded skills and interests. And eventually it may prevent them from entering certain professions. There has even been a petition filed to cease boy and girl awards. Some believe that the TIA is reluctant to tackle the issue. On the other hand, social media campaigns have led to some industry changes. Consider the new curvy Barbie dolls, the release of Star Wars toys featuring Rey, and the LEGO figure in a wheelchair.

Retailers and domestic and European brands have been paying attention to these concerns. Grassroots efforts prompted changes from retailers. Take, for instance, Spanish retailer Toy Planet made headlines for its gender-inclusive ads. In Sweden, Top Toy catalogs feature boys and girls playing together with hair dressing toys and battle games.

In the U.S., we have experienced similar changes. Target announced it is replacing its Circo line of children’s home products with a gender-neutral line called Pillowfort. Warner Brothers announced that it will launch DC Super Hero Girls since they recognize that superheroes are not only an interest for boys. Further, a children’s underwear manufacturer has begun producing Star Wars and Marvel underwear for girls, an underserved market for these brands.

Many critics are ready for change to occur sooner rather than later. Some people believe that these awards are harmful because they reinforce stereotypes that are harmful.

Interestingly, European toy industry groups don’t have gender-based award categories. So, why does TIA? As an industry leader with power and influence, TIA should change how people think about toy marketing. The world has changed significantly in the past 50 years. Should we not break our 2021 Christmas toy list down by gender? Is it time to eliminate the gender segregation? Let us know in the comments below.

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