When Our Toys Tell Kids Who They Should Be – on Gender Stereotypes and Gender-segregated Toys

15 Nov

I passed by these sticker books in Chapters some time in the summer, and the idea of them upset me. Check out the product description and photos of these sticker books (close the pop-up and scroll down).


If I had a child

I would rip these covers off

So that boys could write poetry, learn about fashion, and try out acting on stage

And girls could play with insects, go camping, and make their robots

And then I would tell my child

“You can play with anything you want

Because Mommy loves you no matter what”

(okay, perhaps I would also rip out the pages on fairies…)

It seems that I am not the only one uncomfortable with the gender stereotype that boys should play with insects and go camping, and girls should write poetry and act on stage. Check out this blog posts: This isn’t just any children’s sticker book…this is a sexist M&S sticker book by Meg Pickard.

Furthermore, it seems that “gender-segregated toys” sell much better. Lego Friends, meant to target girls, turned out to be one of the biggest success for the company.  Listen/Read Girls’ Legos Are A Hit, But Why Do Girls Need Special Legos? by NPR. And note that Kinder Surprise is also going for it. I, for one, was personally offended by the following commercial:

(“For showing off”?? And, not that I don’t enjoy dressing up – I actually do read fashion magazines – but is that a girl only thing? What if I want to build robots? Which I certainly did when I was little.)

Read Melissa Carr’s post Why New Pink Kinder Surprise Pisses Me Off, and also the post Why do parents buy into gender segregated toys? by Reel Girl.

And that is why while I know that something like Goldieblox, engineering toys for girls, would be popular, and that a swarm of parents would go for it, something doesn’t sit right with me. In one of the workshops that I was involved in running, girls had so much fun playing with circuit boards and wires and lasers (they were building a laser detector) – none of the parts were coloured pink and made with ribbons. They were the exact same electronic parts that we used for workshops with boys. Read Spydergrrl’s post Why I Won’t Be Buying Gender-Segregating Toys Like Goldieblox and Lego Friends. (Updated Nov 18, 2013) And definitely read about Jamie Davis Smith’s personal experience in Getting Over Goldie Blox.

I should mention that I grew up loving both Lego bricks and Barbie dolls. My parents never told me to play with one or the other.

And my Lego bricks were not in pink.

4 Responses to “When Our Toys Tell Kids Who They Should Be – on Gender Stereotypes and Gender-segregated Toys”

  1. Peter Newbury November 15, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Great post, Theresa! I know how tedious it can be adding links to so many other posts so I really appreciate that you took the time. And the poetry at the beginning is beautiful. Is someone cutting onions in here?

    P.S. I’m here via Science Borealis. Great to see that network flourish 🙂

    • Terrific T November 15, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Thanks Peter! It was great to see some views coming in through Science Borealis! The poem was my first reaction when I saw those books – I was running the summer camps at that time so it might have something to do with that…

      Thanks again for reading and I’m glad that you enjoy the post!


  1. How is gender bias in science studied? IV. The future | Science, I Choose You! - December 10, 2013

    […] for the following two strategies. One is to turn everything pink – you probably already know how I feel about that. If someone can do a study to show how pink wires and capacitors actually get girls to be […]

  2. #GenderedToys are awful | Science, I Choose You! - February 11, 2016

    […] today I want to share this video about gendered toys, which I discussed a few times previously. I love this segment from an Australian show called The Weekly with Charlie Pickering (I think it […]

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