Things the Toy Making Companies Need to Keep in Mind so as to make Gender Neutral Toys
Danish toymaker, Lego recently announced that it will remove gender bias from its toys. Here’s why more toy-making companies need to follow it.
“Girls play with barbies, boys with monster trucks.” Reminds many of us of our own childhoods when we used to get kitchen sets/dolls as a gift while our brothers got army trucks, robots, or even airplanes. Sounds relatable? It’s 2021, and we still hear these stereotypes based on outdated notions. Kids have changed the way they look at toys; it’s the society that needs to update its thinking.
This October, Danish toy maker Lego announced that it will work towards removing the gender stereotypes from its toys. This move came after a global survey commissioned by the company revealed that girls were becoming keen to engage in a wide range of activities owing to their confidence, but the same was not true for boys.
82 percent of girls feel empowered to engage in all types of activities and believe that it’s okay for girls to play football and boys to do ballet. On the other hand, only 71% of boys believed in this. Even their parents often worry that their sons will be teased for playing with toys that are stereotypically associated with girls.
“There’s asymmetry,” said Prof Gina Rippon, a neurobiologist, and author of The Gendered Brain. “We encourage girls to play with ‘boys’ stuff’ but not the other way around.”
This was a problem since toys offered “training opportunities”, she said. “So if girls aren’t playing with Lego or other construction toys, they aren’t developing the spatial skills that will help them in later life. If dolls are being pushed on girls but not boys, then boys are missing out on nurturing skills,” as told to The Guardian.
As far as we know toys for girls are pink and those for boys are blue. The toymakers also need to pay heed to the color scheme they use in their toys. Responding to this, many big retailers like Target and Toys ‘R’ Us have replaced their blue and pink aisles with gender-neutral “kids’ toys” aisles. It is a big step in blurring the gender divide that keeps many kids deprived of the experience that could be a life-changer for them. Toymakers need to think beyond the two colors and manufacture creative toys that can be used by everyone alike.
A couple of years ago, the Netflix documentary “The Toys That Made Us” interviewed the toy designers and marketers who confirmed that there were separate manufacturing divisions for toys for boys and girls. However, it also noted that they were more than happy to challenge the stereotypes if it led to larger profits. More than the profits, the toymakers need to focus on what their toys stand for. They shouldn’t reinforce the already existent stereotypes that make it difficult for many kids to exercise their choice.
Taking a step towards quashing the stereotypes, the designers of Toca Boca, a Swedish digital toys company always pay attention to body language, colors, and poses of the toys to prevent them from buttressing stereotypes. “(They) use a checklist of questions to create characters and situations that are fun and inclusive for all children; they often include animals so that children who don’t want to pick one gender have a character to identify with,” as quoted in The Atlantic. Toca Boca’s initiative is commendable in the sense that it exemplifies that gender should not have anything to do with toys. A child has the right to choose their playmate, whether it is a Barbie or a G.I. Joe.
Gendered toys promote the belief that girls should be into beauty, glamor, cooking, and baby care while boys have to be rowdy and rough at all times, which is harmful to both in the long run. A quick stroll of the toy section is enough to reinforce these notions and it can affect a young mind more than we can imagine. We need to let go of these outdated notions of masculinity and femininity, and we need to start that at an early age.
Now with gender-neutral toys, walking out of a store, the child has a chance to understand the equal opportunities they can have in the outside world. They will expect and demand equality in all spheres of life. It will help them learn new skills and open new doors for them to take on unconventional career paths later in life. And Toymakers can play a huge role in their development if only they choose to manufacture toys that are not gendered. The toy industry needs a revolution, and their time is now.
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Image credits: Google