Let's shop outside the box
January 2, 2015 5:30 AM   Subscribe

The most pointlessly gendered children's toys in 2014. The 2013 awards.

Via the Let Toys Be Toys campaign which in turn originated on UK parenting site mumsnet.
posted by low_horrible_immoral (98 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
That picture from the John Lewis catalogue at the very end is simply brilliant. Lots of hidden gender-bending details in there (not just the shoes). Somebody had a lot of fun with that.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:35 AM on January 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


No mention of Nerf Rebelle? I guess I can see what Nerf is thinking there ("Girls want to be Katniss!") but Rebelle in no way fills a functional niche that isn't already filled by other Nerf weaponry.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:43 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


An observation from Sociological Images:
One explanation for why companies resist androgynous toys and clothes for children — an arguably adults, too — has to do with money. If parents with a boy and a girl could get away with one set of toys, they wouldn’t need to buy a second. And if they could hand down clothes from girls to boys and vice versa, they would buy less clothes. The same could be said for borrowing and trading between family members and friends.

It would really cut into the profits of these companies if we believed that all items for children were interchangeable. They work hard to sustain the lie that they are not.
Also from that site: When Cowboys Wore Pink.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:46 AM on January 2, 2015 [27 favorites]


Paprika flavoured snacks?
posted by jeather at 6:05 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most of that stuff is pretty appalling (girls' tape? whatever the everloving fuck?), but now I really want a Nerf crossbow.

I think there's a fine line between toys that reinforce harmful gender stereotypes (girls are nurses, boys are doctors; girls should improve their appearance, boys should improve their brains) and ones that make room for the fact that some girls may like pink AND want to kick ass with Nerf stuff. We didn't have such fancy Nerf gear when I was a kid (it was still pretty much All Ball), but we did have bicycles, and I don't think there's anything wrong with marketing bikes in gendered variants if that appeals to some kids, because at the end of the day both genders get to have bikes and go places and do stuff and experience all the freedom that a bike allows regardless of whether they've got purple or navy blue streamers on the handlebars.
posted by drlith at 6:06 AM on January 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


2014 was the year Barbie pink took a severe and unprecedented bashing from Frozen blue in doll aisles, to whatever degree that helps.
posted by Artw at 6:10 AM on January 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


The British stand-up Bridget Christie built an award-winning stand-up routine round the Bic for Her campaign. But the wittiest resistance to this nonsense remains the Barbie Liberation Organisation's stunt of 1993. Wiki / NYT / YouTube.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:15 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


A friend posted a thing to his facebook feed with a flowchart to tell whether a toy was for boys or girls:

Do you use your genitals to play with this toy?

If Yes: This toy is not for children!

If No: This toy is for both boys and girls.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:16 AM on January 2, 2015 [81 favorites]


Good article but why would you link to the picture on Twitter instead of embedding it? I'm not about to click that on my phone because the app takes forever to launch.
posted by bleep at 6:27 AM on January 2, 2015


Sometimes the pink is the signal for parents to clue them in that their daughters/girl kids may want to try that, too. Mizz Magic is a case in point: considering how male-dominated magic happens to be, it would be nice if more girls were encouraged to try it.
I loved my magic sets as a girl, but only my mom was open-minded enough to buy those for me. The rest of the world decreed a doll was a good gift for me, though my wedding day Barbie lost the veil and became Supreme Empress of the Universe Barbie complete with her own boyfriend harem and high-powered cosmic business, entertainment and royal empires. The moral of the story: imagination can trump dumb grownup stereotypes, thank you, thank you.

But can you achieve getting more girls to be interested in something like magic by merely having a girl on the cover of a box? Probably could, but that business is cutthroat and often resists change...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:29 AM on January 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


These stupid practices are built on a feedback loop. Gender is one of the first parts of one's identity that children can intellectually understand, and consequently the underlying expectations about gender are very important to children and shape their development. You can try to insulate your kid from these expectations (we did and continue to), but the world at large will not be interested in your gameplan and the gender notions creep in.

Because of this, the reality is that many girls like pink, flowery crap. And many boys like blue, tough-looking crap. Imagine that you offer a product used by children. Your competitors offer a flowery version and a tough version, even though it's unrelated to the product. You're going to need to do it, too. If you have a utilitarian product, a large portion of potential consumers will see your competitor's products and say "that will appeal to my child more, so all other things being equal, I might as well buy that one." Some of us would see the girl-specific toothbrushes and scissors and sneer at them, but we're far outnumbered. A large part of parenting for many people is merely avoiding hassle.

The other part of the loop is that when the kids are given this junk, it further cements their gender identity and expectations about what consumer products look like, increasing demand for absurdly gender-specific items. There's no way to stop this outside of thoughtful parenting, and good luck with that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:31 AM on January 2, 2015 [29 favorites]


also, i totally love that astronuat duvet. i want that.

But I want the tiara pillowcase to go with.
posted by jeather at 6:31 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm agog at the idea of gendered sliced ham packaging.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:39 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the YouTube link in Paul Slade's comment above, the expert says, "We all knew that if Barbie could ever talk she'd put her foot right in her mouth and she sure did." Geez.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:01 AM on January 2, 2015


I'm agog at the idea of gendered sliced ham packaging.

If not a-gag.

There was a bunch of very well-intentioned gender-free kids stuff when I was a child in the 1970s -- not mainstream, but not just the deep counterculture either, along with non-competitive games and the like. I mostly remember it fondly, but the broader culture is so pervasive that I don't think it made all that much difference really.

The examples in the FPP are really repulsive and it must be incredibly frustrating to be a parent having to navigate this stuff for even the most trivial of objects like glue.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:01 AM on January 2, 2015


If people are looking for some sort of underlying sinister motive for why companies do this, the answer is pretty simple: they hope it will drive up sales. Anything outside of that motive is simply outside the contemplation sphere of your typical marketing person.
posted by surazal at 7:03 AM on January 2, 2015


These stupid practices are built on a feedback loop. Gender is one of the first parts of one's identity that children can intellectually understand, and consequently the underlying expectations about gender are very important to children and shape their development. You can try to insulate your kid from these expectations (we did and continue to), but the world at large will not be interested in your gameplan and the gender notions creep in.

This. I must have said 100 times that there are not boy and girl toys, just kid toys, but it's an uphill battle. My kids never see TV commercials and have been raised in a feminist environment, but once they hit school the peer pressure is relentless. We are managing some victories along the way--my daughter has won her elementary school science fair two years in a row; my son watches Sofia the First and plays restaurant with his sisters, but every time we go to a store that sells toys, they see that there are obviously girl aisles and boy aisles and that sends a big message. Basically, I think they believe they have weirdo parents who won't acknowledge the obvious truth that there are boy things and girls things and that line shall not be crossed.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:08 AM on January 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Let Toys Be Toys seems like a worthwhile campaign. It came from a general parenting site called "Mumsnet", though, huh? Bit of irony there?
posted by gurple at 7:09 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


also, i totally love that astronuat duvet. i want that. and the dinosaur under the bed. and if those shiny ballet flats will fit, i'll take those too.actually i want everything in that room.

Did you see the ceramic bunny on the nightstand that's posed in the middle of cleaning its adorable little bunny face? I want that so bad. There's a cord coming out of it, so presumably it does something other than be cute, but that's just a bonus.


It would really cut into the profits of these companies if we believed that all items for children were interchangeable. They work hard to sustain the lie that they are not.

I feel like there must be another way around that that doesn't rely so heavily on gender stereotypes. I mean, for the longest time advertisers have been telling adults that buying this product over that one makes them unique individuals. Can't they extend that to children, emphasizing getting the gift that expresses exactly who that particular kid is? That's even more specific, so presumably encourages the buying of even more cheap plastic crap. I mean, under the current system girls' stuff can still be passed down to other girls.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 7:10 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus. 20ish years ago I used to get my kids Legos and I hated how they had Legos for Girls. So for the fuck of it, I just searched "Legos for Girls" and the first few toys on the Lego site are:

1. Mom and Baby
2. Ice Cream Truck
3. Cafe
4. Stable and Horses
5. Princess Castle.

Legos for Boys:

1. Detective's Office
2. Creative Bricks
3. Creative Bricks Supplement
4. Baseplate
5. Lincoln Memorial.

One of my adult daughters now owns a stable and a horse. She could have been a DETECTIVE. Or a CREATIVE BRICK. Thanks for nothing, Lego bastards.
posted by kinetic at 7:11 AM on January 2, 2015 [25 favorites]


Did you see the ceramic bunny on the nightstand that's posed in the middle of cleaning its adorable little bunny face? I want that so bad.

78 pounds, same as in town.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:15 AM on January 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Can we talk about that horrifying doll at the end? I mean, "girls like pink and nursing and caretaking, and boys like science and astronomy and building things" sexism aside--who decided to greenlight a doll that's literally "Clean ALL the things--and mince about in heels as you do it!"?
posted by sciatrix at 7:18 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


A large part of parenting life for many people is merely avoiding hassle.

Fixed that for me. *crosses arms behind head, takes 'er easy*
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:21 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Girl's bikes at least have the advantage of not having a special bar for crushing your bits when you crash, so I always felt smug about that when I had one. Hilariously, my brother's bike had a special padding whatsit (pretty sure it didn't help much) on the nut-crushing bar, instead of just not having the bar. Because it's better to risk crushing your nuts than look like you have a girl bike.
posted by emjaybee at 7:25 AM on January 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think the nut-crushing bar is there to keep you on your toes, so to speak.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:27 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The nut-crushing bar is there to make the bicycle stronger. It's not there on girls' bikes because (1) it's assumed boys will be rougher with their bikes and (2) the bar causes a real problem if you are wearing a dress or skirt.
posted by localroger at 7:31 AM on January 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm happy there are gendered Lego sets. Our girl goes to preschool, and the other families are pretty conservative and rigid in gender roles, and she picks that up from them. As a toddler, she didn't like playing with her duplo blocks, as that's something BOYS do. (We got her a big, pink bin for them - but no dice.)

Well, she likes taking things apart, and putting things together, and figuring out rules and following instructions and discovering how to use the rules to make new rules and change the instructions. It's something she's good at and enjoys. Wendy's had these little construction toy giveaways where you could make various cute animals from interlocking pieces, and she became a whiz at putting them together on her own.

So this Christmas she asked if she could have a big-kid lego set with barn animals and a girl. Lego makes this, it comes with flowers and a lot of pieces in three varieties of pink and a big, pink bucket for them, a horse and an equestrian athlete who's got a gold medal and a pony-tail. It's also got all the normal pieces you'd expect from a decent Lego kit, including rake, shovel and bucket pieces, a bunch of extra pieces, and two instruction manuals with step-by-step build guides, and lots of illustrations of suggested alternatives. She's been playing with it non-stop.

Now, Lego could make and market an ungendered equestrian playset - but would she play with it? Our experience with ungendered Duplo blocks, and restaurant construction toy freebies not featuring cute animals indicates "no."

As a parent, sometimes you have to acknowledge larger cultural trends that affect your children, even if you don't like them. Especially if you don't like them. The "Girly Girl" binoculars called out in the article also comes to mind - girls don't have to worry that their peers will disapprove of being outside and hiking if they have an outdoor tool that's clearly for a girl. And as much as it makes me grind my teeth, girls and boys do worry about that, even if Mommy and Daddy tell them they shouldn't. At that point, these "needlessly gendered toys" become subversive, undermining a bogus boy/girl dichotomy with a mere color change. That's the real magic of that gendered magic kit - especially considering how populated almost exclusively by male performers stage magic is at all levels.

I think they should spend more time going after stuff like those doctor sets that were labeled either "Nurse" or "Doctor" because pink or blue, that there is some odious and antiquated bullshit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:33 AM on January 2, 2015 [31 favorites]


Gendered Glue: "Made from only the finest mare hoof." Makes a good Christmas present.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:33 AM on January 2, 2015


Aren't all toys not intended for use by consenting adults pointlessly gendered? Sure, you might not find many little boys who want a "Baby Shits-A-Lot" dolly who cries when it needs a diaper change, but not many is still a non-zero value. Likewise with girls and "Spaceballs: the Flamethrower". It isn't just boys who like to set things on fire.
posted by starbreaker at 7:35 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The nut-crushing bar is there to make the bicycle stronger
What does not kill my bicycle makes it stronger
posted by thelonius at 7:36 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not-many is an economically invisible value. The market is only capable of detecting the greatest common denominators, such as hatred, divisiveness, and fear.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:39 AM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


The nut-crushing bar is there to make the bicycle stronger. It's not there on girls' bikes because (1) it's assumed boys will be rougher with their bikes and (2) the bar causes a real problem if you are wearing a dress or skirt.

I guess I kind of knew this but I like the nut crusher bar because of the many hours of entertainment it's brought me watching my son come tearing down the driveway and carefully hurling himself off his bike for maximum TEENAGE BOY STUNTMAN EFFECT.
posted by kinetic at 7:43 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pointlessly gendered products FTW. Even more PGPs! Bread: Not just for women anymore!
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:43 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've got no beef with pink glue and tape dispensers. I'd use them myself, and I'm a grown woman with my own keys and credit card! It's the "Just 4 Girls" label that's offensive. It's the difference between a self-selected ethnic neighborhood and a segregated ghetto. "Here's the glue for girls, and here's the regular glue for normal people."

Just make the damn glue in whatever different colors, put the same wording (except the color name) on all the packages, hang them next to each other on the display, and everybody picks their favorite. If it turns out that most boys pick blue glue and most girls pick pink glue, fine. It's really not that hard.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:53 AM on January 2, 2015 [27 favorites]


Same deal with the origami.

One origami set with hearts and change purses, and another one with fish and airplanes? No probs whatsoever. It's the "for her" and "for him" labels that put it on the train to Stupidville.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:56 AM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Pet shampoo -- for HIM! Perhaps it's for when a man washes the pet instead of a woman because having washed a bunch of unwilling animals, I know that I end up with more of the shampoo than they do.
posted by jeather at 7:57 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


My 7yo son went to get a doctor's exam done, the nurse was like "sorry, we only have pink stickers, maybe you can give them to a female friend?"

Him : "I don't mind, I like all colors! My favorite color is purple!"

Made me proud.
posted by signal at 7:57 AM on January 2, 2015 [33 favorites]


Even more PGPs

The socks are pointfully gendered, yes? Aren't they different sizes?

Regardless, I'm glad to hear men can finally eat bread and wear earplugs. For too long the men of the world have been deaf and hungry.
posted by echo target at 8:10 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gender is one of the first parts of one's identity that children can intellectually understand, and consequently the underlying expectations about gender are very important to children and shape their development. You can try to insulate your kid from these expectations (we did and continue to), but the world at large will not be interested in your gameplan and the gender notions creep in.

Yes, I have also come to this conclusion. It's the only answer I have for why, as a child, I coveted toys such as baby dolls, prams and cooking sets that bore no relation at all to the adult I would become.

I think the impulse to be recognized as a particular gender is strong in most people and kids understand there are terrible consequences for those who don't conform.

What society therefore chooses to associate with that gender ends up defining a child's future to a greater or lesser extent, and that's a terrible thing for everyone, particularly for the gender that is designated inferior.
posted by Summer at 8:17 AM on January 2, 2015


Most of that stuff is pretty appalling... but now I really want a Nerf crossbow.

The system works.
posted by themanwho at 8:18 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you dudes are gonna choose damaging your nuts over replacing your bikes, I guess that's up to you.

Anyway, I do agree with Slap*Happy that well-done gendered products can be a bit subversive, given that uprooting gender anxiety is a long-term project, especially where kids are involved. The problem comes when the girl toys are not as good as the boy toys. It seems like the Rebelle crossbow, for example, is as good as the similar toys that Nerf makes for boys, and marketing crossbows to girls is something I can go for. But if the "girl version" of something is not only pink but also smaller/less powerful/incompatible with the "boy version" (thus preventing cross-play or mixing and matching), that's when there's a problem.
posted by emjaybee at 8:22 AM on January 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


These stupid practices are built on a feedback loop. Gender is one of the first parts of one's identity that children can intellectually understand, and consequently the underlying expectations about gender are very important to children and shape their development. You can try to insulate your kid from these expectations (we did and continue to), but the world at large will not be interested in your gameplan and the gender notions creep in.

I think this is balls. Even the first person agreeing with it explicitly in this thread, Pater Aletheias, actually gives a counterargument apparently unwittingly: "This. I must have said 100 times that there are not boy and girl toys, just kid toys, but it's an uphill battle. My kids never see TV commercials and have been raised in a feminist environment, but once they hit school the peer pressure is relentless". Did it really take them until school to have an intellectual understanding of any part of their identities? One rather doubts it!

The sociological images link is on much sounder footing: these stupid practices are built on the observation that if you have to buy two versions of each toy, you've bought twice as many toys. Kids are very susceptible to the kind of strong identity formation that this strategy uses, but if they weren't constantly exposed (explicitly or implicitly) to the idea that there are "boy things" and "girl things", with the insistence and ubiquity that they are, they wouldn't come up with it themselves.
posted by kenko at 8:23 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Not to say that the idea of gendered whatevers is unique to modern marketing, obviously, but the stereotyped gender roles that modern marketing preys on and exacerbates isn't the invention of the kids.)
posted by kenko at 8:25 AM on January 2, 2015


The nurse kit for girls and the doctor kit for boys is an issue, but I don't have a problem with "girly" binoculars or the pink magic kit, honestly. I do think there's some issues with the whole "make it pink for the ladies!" concept, but I often feel like the backlash against "pink" things comes across like "It's bad to be a girl." Boys toys are treated as a the default -- the "real" toys -- and girl versions are somehow inferior (whether in reality -- which happens -- or just by association).

I rarely see anyone talking about how awesome it is that a boy wants to play with a Barbie. Instead, I only see "Girls like superheroes! That's so cool!" Yeah, it is cool. But I also want boys to feel like they can play with what they want. (I love the Swedish catalogues that show that.)

I still haven't bought any of the Nerf Rebelle products, but as a kid who grew up with many Nerf products and loved them, I would've wanted the entire line. I think they would've been some of my favorite toys.
posted by darksong at 8:35 AM on January 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Did it really take them until school to have an intellectual understanding of any part of their identities?

I think identity construction is the act of dividing your peer group up into Us and Them. In our nuclear society, it seems pretty typical to not encounter other kids until school.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:36 AM on January 2, 2015


Pink LEGO should get a lifetime achievement award
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:41 AM on January 2, 2015


I'm agog at the idea of gendered sliced ham packaging.

I'm not really reading it as gendered: soccer players are very athletic, and must have huge quads from kicking that ball all the time - I bet they make delicious ham.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:45 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Most of that stuff is pretty appalling... but now I really want a Nerf crossbow.

The system works.


And apparently I've become an unwitting cog in a deviously-designed viral marketing scheme . . . Now I'm wondering if I will wake up encased in a pod made entirely of Nerf, filled with oxygenated Pepsi Blue.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:53 AM on January 2, 2015


I have a son (3) and a daughter (5), and it is definitely hard to fight against that peer pressure of pink is for girls, blue is for boys. My husband and I are constantly saying to them that ANYONE can like pink, ANYONE can like blue, ANYONE can like dolls, ANYONE can like trucks, etc.

My kids get a lot of stereotypical toys from relatives, so my daughter's room is full of dolls, a dollhouse, and stuff like that. My son has a train set in his room and sometimes he goes to bed with two little matchbox cars clutched in each hand. As parents, we try to buy what they're into but we don't buy the "girl" or "boy" version of stuff - and we will talk to the kids about it, asking them stuff like, "Why do you think this set has princesses and fairies on it, and it says 'for girls'? Do you think that boys could like princesses and fairies? Do you think it would be OK for a boy to use this set?" It's always a work in progress.

However, a nice side effect of having a boy and a girl is that we have both "sets" of toys and my kids get the benefit of it - they both LOVE playing with each other's toys. My son adores one of the dolls that my daughter has (it's a Bitty Baby Doll from the American Girl Co.) and it's not even in her room half the time - he's playing with it. My daughter will set up an elaborate train route or grab my son's remote-controlled cars and challenge him to a battle. I laughed for a long time when my son grabbed a truck and stuck it in a baby stroller and told everyone it was his baby - take that, gender roles!

It's hard to fight against it, but we try, and I'm glad my kids are exposed to all sorts of different toys. It's good for them to learn to be caring, and kind with their doll or stuffed animal role play; it's good for them to learn how to figure out which way the train track should turn around the corner; and it's good for them to play together and learn how all sorts of different things work. I don't want them to feel limited.
posted by sutel at 9:01 AM on January 2, 2015 [14 favorites]


It is just so sad that random strangers feel like they need to go out of their way to "save" other people's kids from maybe turning gay. Because I'm sure that showing interest in a doll is just the first step that my 18 month old cousin is taking on that pink sparkly road to fabulousness.

My cousin had her son out holiday shopping and this happened. Last month in Washington State on the liberal side. She made us all proud when she told her family that her response was that she didn't care if he was gay, as long as he is happy, and anyway it is just a doll! And she meant it. Two of her uncles are very happily married to other men and the best role models anyone could ask for.

I want to be a robot princess when I grow up. Because unicorn musicboxes, frilly clothing, and awesome science toys obviously warped my gender identity.

And I'd love to take the heart shaped lunchmeat to the next family dinner.
posted by monopas at 9:02 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue and pink, a nod and a wink
That's what sexist toys are made of
posted by iotic at 9:06 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


The 2013 winner still tops my list - - I at first thought the pink KinderEggs were a joke, since this classic European product had always seemed above that sort of gender pigeon-holing.
posted by fairmettle at 9:08 AM on January 2, 2015


Why stick with toys? HELLO KITTY DUCK TAPE.
posted by JHarris at 9:28 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm agog at the idea of gendered sliced ham packaging.

How about cheese? (source)
posted by ODiV at 9:41 AM on January 2, 2015


Oh, the patterned duct tape is A Thing, though. Kids use it for crafts (making wallets, my kid made a pretty cool cardboard shield with duct tape handles). And so it is gendered like all other toys. We have Angry Birds duct tape and Star Wars I think, also, somewhere around the house. He isn't that crafty and has lost interest in it so I suspect it will eventually be used for regular duct-tape purposes.
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Eh, at least that company offers a ton of different colored and printed options for tape, so that one's harder to categorize as "for girls." Duck brand tape.
posted by asperity at 9:45 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm not too upset about Hello Kitty. Pink is kind of that brand's color (for the Hello Kitty characater at least) and Ive never seen it marketed as "FOR GIRLS!"
posted by Twain Device at 9:46 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pink LEGO should get a lifetime achievement award

I resisted letting Lego Friends into my house for a long time. But the sets are really appealing. My girls (6 and 9) aren't really going to be interested in fighting ninja warriors or something. Somehow no one makes a Gus about all the super-boy-centric Legos.

But the lemonade stand, where you get to make a cute lemon squeezer and sell lemonade made from real lego lemons and limes? That's appealing. The "girly" Legos have lots of lego accessories (by which I mean plates and croissants and cups and stuff) and the friends minifigs really aren't that much bigger than normal minifigs.

I do wish the palette wasn't quite so relentlessly pastel, though.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:53 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's better than the Lego "for boys", which is called Bioncle and is fucking garbage.
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I encourage my daughter to play with whatever she likes. She prefers pink, frilly stuff, but she also has a few sets of play tools and ninja turtles. Toys are toys.

I have noticed that in some traditionally "female" gendered products, like diet programs, I have seen a recent trend in the same product being marketed "to the XTREME!" to appeal to the male demographic too. I think marketers want to be able to fit people into boxes because it makes their lives easier and improves sales more than anything.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:11 AM on January 2, 2015


> There's no way to stop this outside of thoughtful parenting, and good luck with that.
> posted by Mayor Curley


Might thoughtful parenting include something like Dad occasionally buying and using pink colored / "woman themed" products? Just to show that these supposed distinctions aren't essential and because they don't limit Dad they needn't limit the kid.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:23 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I found myself kicking around in a Disney store at the outlet mall north of Seattle yesterday. Naturally, I really only looked at all the Marvel toys.

Not a single Black Widow or Gamora action figure or doll or t-shirt or anything. Not a sign of either character. I didn't go in looking for them, but I noticed their absence pretty much immediately and then I started digging. Deep within a rack of action figures, I found two Dagger figures (a la Cloak & Dagger) and one Aurora (from Alpha Flight)...so I guess if you're looking for obscure superwomen who've gotten little or no attention since the '80s, you're set. But if you want superwomen your kid might recognize, you're screwed.

Oh. And the Star Wars stuff. I found a small rack of obscure figures that included Mara Jade, so hooray for Expanded Universe stuff if you're into that. But every single Princess Leia was dressed in slave garb, because of course she is.

This really pissed me off--didn't ruin my day or anything, mind you, but damn. I'm not collecting toys these days, but when I was a kid, I had literally every woman on the GI Joe team and the Baroness and Zarana, because they were all cool. To see the female characters absent from the shelves like this is just...argh.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:30 AM on January 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


Also, re: Strange Interlude's comment at the top: I own a Nerf Rebelle. It fit the specs for a post-apocalyptic zombie larp that I played in earlier this year. Granted, my girlfriend found the mods online to make it shoot straighter & farther and painted it up for me to make it look more like a gun and less like an accessory, but the damn thing works. I don't actually see why anyone looking for a Nerf pistol would get anything else. The only thing that "genders" it is the paint job. The crossbow piece isn't integral. You don't need to attach it.

...and now I have babbled about the functionality of Nerf guns online. 2015 is off to a great start. :)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:35 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]




I resisted letting Lego Friends into my house for a long time. But the sets are really appealing. My girls (6 and 9) aren't really going to be interested in fighting ninja warriors or something. Somehow no one makes a Gus about all the super-boy-centric Legos.

Same here - my daughter does like the LEGO Friends a lot. But I do wish they made the minifigs the same size as every other set, because it sets them apart as "other," IMO.
posted by sutel at 10:46 AM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


BTW, if you ever wondered what Captain America looks like with Lego Friends hair...

That reminds me of this comic that was making the Facebook rounds recently.

Here is an interview with the artist.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:48 AM on January 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


Likewise with girls and "Spaceballs: the Flamethrower". It isn't just boys who like to set things on fire.

To be fair, Yogourt's line there is "The kids love this one."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:48 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


One explanation for why companies resist androgynous toys and clothes for children — an arguably adults, too — has to do with money.

Ya THINK?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:52 AM on January 2, 2015


That reminds me of this comic that was making the Facebook rounds recently.

I did actually buy a batch of girl hairs when our minifig gender balance started looking off.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm fascinating how how the graph on gendered language for toys over the 20th century that MonkeyToes mentioned (link) maps so neatly onto Pikett's inequality graphs.
posted by doctornemo at 11:25 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Deep within a rack of action figures, I found two Dagger figures (a la Cloak & Dagger) and one Aurora (from Alpha Flight)...so I guess if you're looking for obscure superwomen who've gotten little or no attention since the '80s, you're set. But if you want superwomen your kid might recognize, you're screwed.

C&D got some time in the Ultimate universe of late working alongside the Ultimate Spider-man, Miles Morales, as part of the conception of the Avengers in that now well-beat-up world. I wonder if these figures reflect some half-assed efforts at capitalizing on Miles and those efforts.
posted by phearlez at 11:42 AM on January 2, 2015


Now I'm wondering if I will wake up encased in a pod made entirely of Nerf, filled with oxygenated Pepsi Blue.

That sounds nice.

(Still a bit addled from the shivering-sweating-coughing-hiccuping-tossing-turning-acheing flu that ruined New Years Eve)
posted by General Tonic at 12:20 PM on January 2, 2015


The nurse kit for girls and the doctor kit for boys is an issue, but I don't have a problem with "girly" binoculars or the pink magic kit, honestly. I do think there's some issues with the whole "make it pink for the ladies!" concept, but I often feel like the backlash against "pink" things comes across like "It's bad to be a girl." Boys toys are treated as a the default -- the "real" toys -- and girl versions are somehow inferior (whether in reality -- which happens -- or just by association).

I rarely see anyone talking about how awesome it is that a boy wants to play with a Barbie. Instead, I only see "Girls like superheroes! That's so cool!" Yeah, it is cool. But I also want boys to feel like they can play with what they want. (I love the Swedish catalogues that show that.)


EXACTLY! I think that's where labeling and merchandising could play a big part.

Put all the "dolls" and the "action figures" in the same aisle. If your store isn't big enough for one big aisle, separate them by target age instead of by target gender. Or at least have the two aisles next to each other instead of one in the "boy toy" department and one in the "girl toy" department. Boys and girls can both find what they want, and feel like equals while doing it. If a boy or girl sees something he or she likes that once used to be in an aisle he or she would have been discouraged from going into, even better! More sales!

You want a pink flowery version of a toy and a blue spiky version? Fine! Just don't use the words "for boys" or "for girls" on the packaging. If the appeal of each style is as obvious to either boys or girls as the gender essentialists claim, there shouldn't be any problem with them knowing which one is "for them." Put them next to each other on the same shelf. (In all fairness, sports and camping equipment seem to be ahead of other playthings in this respect).

Put "women's work" toys and "men's work" toys together. Little tool kits go right next to little kitchen appliances, just like the real thing at home. (And as long as we're going to keep up with the silly color coding, I guess pink and blue packaging for either should probably go.) Packaging and advertising should show both boys and girls using both kinds. Again, I'm no MBA, but couldn't this also result in increased sales by doubling the number of kids who consider the toys?

If manufacturers want to sell parents on a whole new set of toys for each kid, I guess they could just make them shoddier or something, so they wouldn't last to be passed down. But I'd hate to see the landfills.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:30 PM on January 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Pretty sure the kiddo would be up for the whole "shoot your friends with secret messages" concept, FWIW.
posted by Artw at 1:11 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thank you so much for posting on a marketing phenomenon that drives me nuts -- and I don't even have children of my own. The him/her thing persists in marketing for grown-ups and is even more annoying there, even when it's not blatant and tasteless.

For example, in well-known clothes catalogs, why are some color choices for guys and other colors for women? What if I want an olive green down parka from L. L. Bean (to name an utilitarian clothing brand that nevertheless is highly gender-stereotyped) that fits me? It seems that the utilitarian nature of outdoors wear clothing forces these companies to gender their offerings by color....

derail: why is metafilter blue not pink
posted by bad grammar at 1:19 PM on January 2, 2015


I read about a brown teapot with spikes (page 9 of this ) when my kids were still around toy age:

When a female-typed toy such as a tea pot is “masculinised”, by painting it brown and covering it in spikes, children respond to these metaphorical cues rather than to the ostensible sex-typing of the object

And I'm still not able to articulate my sense of horror than any child is actively discouraged (from social cues) from creative play based on colour. I find this just mind blowing. I have been wondering for sometime now why we still insist (as a society) on such division based on genitalia. Some people say it's because men and women are inherently different, but honestly, I don't think that is as true as person a might be very different than person B who might be similar to person C (in tastes, interests, capabilities, humour, whatever) and A & B might be the same gender and B & C not.
posted by b33j at 1:32 PM on January 2, 2015


You want a pink flowery version of a toy and a blue spiky version?

I want a pink spiky version and a blue flowery version.
posted by FritoKAL at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The nut-crushing bar is there to make the bicycle stronger.

Really we should all just ride girls' bikes because 90% of people never ride their bikes in such a way as to need the extra strength provided by the nut-crushing bar anyway. The step-through design is just so much more practical for people who have trouble lifting their leg over the frame.
posted by hyperbolic at 1:38 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twain Device: Yeah, I'm not too upset about Hello Kitty. Pink is kind of that brand's color (for the Hello Kitty characater at least) and Ive never seen it marketed as "FOR GIRLS!"

I was meh about Hello Kitty until I happened to see a HK plastic figure dressed like a member of the Shinsengumi (much like this one). Then it dawned on me that not only HK has some wacky souvenir designs in Japan, there's an endless number of gothic, punk, lolita and whatever Hello Kitty stuff. I'm writing this comment centimeters from a Yoshikitty phone strap. I also have souvenir hand towels with Kitty-chan as the Great Buddha of Kamakura and Ooishi Kuranosuke from the 47 Ronin.

Tl;dr: Kitty-chan is actually pretty badass in Japan.
posted by sukeban at 1:48 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would love to see Sigourney Weaver and Gwendoline Christie rocking the astronaut and "pirate" duvets (the latter reminded me of Brienne of Tarth's gear), preferably while flipping the bird.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:27 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've got no beef with pink glue and tape dispensers. I'd use them myself, and I'm a grown woman with my own keys and credit card! It's the "Just 4 Girls" label that's offensive.
Yeah, this. The whole myth that pink is only for girls is so ridiculously limiting - it's a fucking colour and nothing more. I though we got over that in the '80s when every man was wearing pink shirts, but that didn't last. I don't really care whether girls really do prefer pink, but we need to stop telling them from day one that they should prefer pink and stop telling boys that pink is for girls. Sure, present your products in different colours and let the market decide. But don't tell girls they have to prefer the pink one and don't tell boys they shouldn't. The thing that really annoys me is that this kind of marketing is at it's worst for products targeted at very young children, where there's absolutely no valid reason why gender matters at all with regard to toys.

The nut-crushing bar is there to make the bicycle stronger.
Yeah, maybe decades ago. The technology, in both materials and design, available today means there's no reason why a step-through design (or just one with a lower cross-bar) must be less strong, depending on the purpose it's intended for. It's ridiculous to suggest that there are 'girl/women bikes' and 'boy/man bikes'. The difference between this and this is nothing more than marketing - there's no functional difference between the two, but by marketing one 'for girls', a fundamental difference is pointed out. Just like toys, a bike should be sold by what you want to do with it and how you want it to look, not defined by gender.
posted by dg at 2:36 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pointlessly gendered products FTW.

I haaaaate to admit that I've bought those earplugs. Not because they are pink, and I remember cringing when I made the decision to get them, but they are softer and squishier than a lot of foam earplugs. Which makes them way more comfortable for sleeping. (I have very different earplugs for going to concerts and such.) I've gone through my supply and liked them enough that I'd like to buy them again, but ugh, why does marketing have to make things so fraught?
posted by misskaz at 3:39 PM on January 2, 2015


dg, the difference in bicycle strength is much more pronounced in touring bicycles where the nut-crusher runs from just below the seat to the handlebars. The real problem is that it's impossible to ride such a bike while wearing a skirt or dress, thus the girl's version. But designs which trade the triangle for a couple of upswept curved bars are very noticeably weaker, especially if you are deliberately crashing it. You can compensate for this by making the frame heavier, but that's a different problem.

In the bikes you picture the difference is almost entirely cosmetic but that's because the frame triangles intersect far below the level of the seat.

Incidentally, my wife and I had a bike which both of us rode regularly for exercise years ago. It was the "girl's" variety but a neutral color, and I never felt odd about riding it.
posted by localroger at 5:18 PM on January 2, 2015


Yes, true, although, for the vast majority of use cases, the extra strength imparted by a full triangle frame simply isn't necessary. It's most common use (apart from crushing nuts) is to denote that 'this is a bike for boys'. It's no hardship at all to build a bike that has more than enough strength, can be ridden in a skirt or dress and doesn't segregate users by gender. Sure, make it in pink and blue, but don't lock girls out of the majority of bike designs by making them explicitly gendered.
posted by dg at 5:30 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Both basic designs have a place, but it would make a lot more sense if they were called "step through" and "high performance."

The high performance form is going to appeal to fans of bicycling who know the ideal is a bike that weighs 4.9 pounds and can go 35 miles per hour, or at least looks like a bike that can do that. Step through is going to appeal to anyone who has a problem with the nut cruncher and isn't pretending to be riding the Tour de France.
posted by localroger at 5:55 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Step throughs are appealing to men and women of a certain age who find throwing their leg over the bike to be hard on their hips. Sales people don't call them women's bikes. They want to sell them to men too.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:54 PM on January 2, 2015


The pink nurse and blue doctor sets really passed me off. Women are doctors! My uncle is a nurse! Grr.

You know what really blows my mind? Look at this vintage doctor's kit, on eBay, from the 50's. See the pic of the doctor on the box? Yep, she's a woman.

It's like we're going backwards.
posted by misha at 8:23 PM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


-You want a pink flowery version of a toy and a blue spiky version?

--I want a pink spiky version and a blue flowery version.


Well, then it's the re-education camp for you, you pervert.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:01 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's better than the Lego "for boys", which is called Bioncle and is fucking garbage


Then you must not know any teenagers who were beside themselves over the New Years Bionicle Miracle. The 5-years-in-the-making return of the Bionicles made the relationship between my 2 boys - one a channer and one a Tumbrino - pleasant. My younger son was thrilled to buy some for his 6 year old cousin and was telling him all about his favorite character, the female warrior Gali. After they went out yesterday and bought her, my nephew wanted to know if they could pretend Gali was a boy. My son was very firm that the Bioncles need both males and female warriors in their society, and that girls are just as powerful as boys. My nephew adores him, so he happily swallowed some feminism with his mythology.

I am pretty sure this is my second ever Bionicle comment on the Blue. I swear I am not Greg Farshtey.
posted by Biblio at 10:35 PM on January 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


Also in the same lineup, though, you have crap like the Nerf Rebelle Messenger Blaster so you can write super-secret messages on your bullets and shoot your friends with codes.

I'm sorry, but that looks amazing and I would have loved one as a child and would love one now. When I teach younger students, we play a game where I attach secret messages to tennis balls and then they have to get them and decode them.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:55 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nephew got a really cool kitchen set from his aunt's family. Kept looking at the box like, "Can they really not have put a girl and a boy on it?" At least it wasn't blinding pink.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:50 AM on January 3, 2015


I don't have any problem whatsoever with different colors/themes of products existing. But as a person who grew up having my preferences mocked, doubted, and attributed to ulterior motives ("why do you insist on asking for the BOY version? Don't be difficult! You're just seeking attention by trying to be different!") I do think we need to be very careful about the messages we send to kids. I was, for whatever reason, apparently born impervious to cultural messages about what little girls were "supposed" to like, in the sense that I could feel the pressure to love pink but never internalized it and thought it was really annoying and weird. Luckily my family was sensible enough to actually get me the coveted space-themed Lego sets rather than whatever the girly alternative was in the mid 80s, but I caught no end of hell in other contexts (such as at school) for my apparently deviant fondness for non-pastel hues and science/adventure-themed toys and games. It makes me sad to think that this sort of thing hasn't changed to any appreciable degree yet on a wide scale. For the sake of girls AND boys. There's no reason any little boy should be shamed for liking pink and My Little Pony, any more than girls should be considered recalcitrant for NOT being likewise inclined.
posted by aecorwin at 12:55 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah. The monolithic pink aisle as as much a "No boys allowed." as it is a "Girls can only shop here." To me, the ideal toy store has every aisle looking like a rainbow.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:24 PM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


My girls and their girl cousin basically have no trouble with playing with any kind of toy- they get a bit miffed if girls are under-represented in figures but that's about it.

To their boy cousin anything even slightly "girly" is basically kryptonite. Kid doesn't even like to play dress-up. He is raised by Christians though.
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


BTW, if you ever wondered what Captain America looks like with Lego Friends hair...

Bernie America!
posted by MartinWisse at 3:49 PM on January 3, 2015




But if you want superwomen your kid might recognize, you're screwed.

LEGO Is Making A Set With Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet, For Real

Personally, I prefer this one.
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lego Friends power armour
posted by Artw at 7:51 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


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