The Importance of Gender Neutral Toys

I wasn't planning on writing about this topic. I figured that it was common knowledge that it is stupid to have a "girl" toy aisle with all the cooking toys and fashion dolls and a "boy" toy aisle with all the building toys and superheroes. Apparently, I have too much faith in humanity. 

If you haven't heard yet, Target recently announced that they are going to move away from gender-based signs in their toy aisles. While this doesn't mean the Easy Bake Oven will now be found next to Bob the Builder's Workshop, it does mean that you won't see a sign that says "Girls' Building Toys." Yes, that sign exists. 

My local newspaper asked their Facebook fans for their opinions on this announcement. There were way too many comments saying it is stupid or they don't believe that the gender distinctions matter. That kids can play with whatever toys they want. While that sounds nice, it just isn't true.

I have a 13-year old daughter. She plays both sides of the "girly" game. During the day, she is building bridges and solar powered cars, but at night she is decked out in a pink leotard for ballet class. Yet, if you walk through the toy section in Target, there is a definite divide between what girls play with and what boys play with. The girl section is bright and pink and, for the lack of a better word, girly. The boy section is a little darker and tends to be filled with blue and black hues. It is definitely a different world.

Let's look at one specific toy now. The almighty Lego. Lego has girl toys and it has boy toys. In the girl section, you will find Lego Friends. I'm pretty sure this is where Barbie went to die. The Lego Friends are a group of girls that play with animals, go on tour as pop stars, and hang out at the juice bar. You won't find any of these things in the boys Legos. 

Over in the boy section, we have castles and pirates and ninjas and Batman and Superman and pretty much every superhero you can name. Granted, no one is coming out and saying only boys can play with these sets. But it can be very difficult to tell a child that it's OK for girls to be ninjas or Batman or whatever. Heck, some adults don't even get that concept. I have seen adults give me the stink eye for buying my daughter something considered "boyish." 

Why is it important to have gender neutral toys? Because we, as a society, need to stop having this disconnect between what girls can and can't do. We have a serious lack of women in scientific fields. While I'm not completely placing the blame on gendered toys, keep in mind that the science kits are generally in the boy aisle of the toy section. There are a lot of adults that won't even walk through the aisles of the opposite gender of their child. Those kids may not even know that there are microscopes and building blocks and robots out there for them to play with. Let's stop making this a boy and a girl thing. Let's just make it a toy thing. Put the Hulk next to Elsa in the aisle. Put the Easy Bake Oven over with the tool sets. And stop making everything color coded. There are more colors in life than just pink and blue. Let's show our kids the whole world, not just the limited slice companies want them to see.