Alex Blaze

Swedish school fights back against Toys R Us's sexism

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 13, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: boys, child care, gender binary, gender roles, kids, play, sweden, toys, toys r us

Well, they're right:

Last winter, a sixth grade class at Gustavslund school in Växjö in south central Sweden reported Toys"R"Us to the Reklamombudsmannen (Ro), a self-regulatory agency which polices marketing and advertising communications in Sweden to ensure they are in line with guidelines set out by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

According to the youngsters, the Toys"R"Us Christmas catalogue featured "outdated gender roles because boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive", according to a statement from Ro.

The group's teacher explained to the local Smålandsposten newspaper that filing the complaint was the culmination of more than two years of "long-term work" by the students on gender roles.

Toys R Us's catalogue is so sexist even the NRCC gets offended when thumbing through it. I know they'll say that boys actually do prefer certain toys and girls actually do prefer others (as if that expectation plays no role in determining what kids end up playing with), but it's no where to the extent implied in that catalogue.

We have a crowd here that didn't always fit neatly into the gender binary as kids: what toys did you play with when you were young? Me, the toy I remember playing with the most was Legos, and I'd make up stories for all the little characters after I built them houses. I don't really know where that falls in the gender spectrum.

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This may come back to haunt me but... I liked guns. One vivid event which was also photographed for posterity: I was about four or five, and I discovered that I really, really liked the sensation (yes, the pain!) of a fake bullet from my little fake gun hitting the palm of my hand. I made my patient brother hit bullets into my hand for the good part of an afternoon.

I also liked playing Batman and Robin fight games. I was given dolls of them both, and told that one was a gift for my friend Victor (I could choose which one). So I chose Batman, natch, and I constructed a game where Batman and Robin were, mysteriously, not on the same side. And proceeded to pummel Robin. Victor/Robin never had a chance - I would announce when we began every fight and then start into it with a lot of comic book "pows" and "whams!"

Not only does this prove that the whole girl-boy-roles argument is a crock, but that maybe pain-loving, aggressive pummellers can also grow up to be peaceniks.

"I meant to write "shoot bullets." I've even erased all knowledge of what it is that guns do, besides kill people.

How times change. Now it's less Batman and more Catwoman, if I recall the posters in your apartment correctly.

My secrets are out! But yes, 'tis true - Catwoman has edged out Batman ...

Drawing, Legos, Erector Set, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Rivetron, Easy-Bake Oven, Mom's sewing machine.

Now i draw buildings for a living, love to cook, and made a kilt for pride this year.

Sounds like ToysR Us has a way to go obviously, but it's parents, family and friends that make the toy purchases and who are actually reinforcing daily in their purchases of the binary.

Can't hold the store responsible for that...
blame the blind conditioning.

My favorite toys... bike, roller skates, miniature sewing machine and I LOVED my record player.

but there is more at play than what parents buy. For example, the easy-bake oven has changed from gender-neutral colors to pink and lavender over the last decade. Now, i have raised my son to understand that color is not gender (and to cook on a real stove, BTW), but the company is absolutely reinforcing the lie that cooking is women's work in the eyes of the vast majority of Americans by making a cooking toy in what the majority perceives as "girl" colors.

Combine this kind of product design with the number of ads kids are subjected to every day (even when raised in a house without cable, somehow my kid still recognizes characters and can sing theme songs of shows he hasn't watched here), and kids are bombarded with images of boys playing with constructive toys and girls playing with nurturing toys, constantly reinforcing the expectations of gender roles.

Most American parents are too busy putting food on the table to invest the energy it takes to combat that kind of conditioning, i can't see blaming them instead of the corporations that are selling the image.

Again... it's completely up to the parents, family and friends to actually have this conversation, to make it visible to the children themselves.

Leaving it for any Corp. is lazy child rearing.

The conditioned binary is around us EVERYWHERE... Starts in most hospitals w/either a blue or pink cap that they slap on the babies noggins and in every public bathroom that always has the cut out shape of woman always wearing a dress and man in slacks.

As I posted earlier "Sounds like ToysR Us has a way to go obviously, but it's parents, family and friends that make the toy purchases and who are actually reinforcing daily in their purchases of the binary."

The BIGGEST influence on any child will always be their parents, family and many of those adults friends. It's just up to the parents to be involved w/their children and AWARE.

oh, and i LOVED my record player, too. Still do :-)

I had THE coolest record player... it was battery opperated, so that I could take it outside, sing into the garden hose and play alllllll the Leslie Gore "You don't own me" that my little baby dyke self wanted. It was easier then listening to my Abuelita [[grandmother]] bitch to me in Spanish to stop playing the damn song over and over again in the house.


Legos were my favorite toy (I was 40 before I parted with the 30,000 odd pieces I had -- to my sons.

GI Joes, as well -- the tall, 12 inch sort. I asked for barbies, but got the joes. EH.

I also asked for an easy bake oven, never got it, but instead learned to cook very young (at 3 I making my own cinnamon toast).

Books, however, were my real toys. And from them, the whole world became my playground...

I ripped the clothes off my two fake Barbie dolls and, um, did unspeakable things to them. My mom gave up buying me dolls and started buying me stuffed animals, toy cars and toy horses. In addition I, like dyssonance, had books. Years later, I have a hammock full of stuffed animals, two real horses, and a Chevy I treat like the toy Monster Truck I trashed as a kid. And still, plenty of books.

I was a big fan of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs as a kid. I also spent a lot of time running around and playing in the dirt.

Now I take care of children and write blogs about cooking and crocheting feminist politics. Who'd a thunk?

I'm noticing a lot of Legos and Tinker Toys and Erector Set and Lincoln Logs..... I'm thinking this crowd is biased less "queer" and more "nerd."

I say that with the full knowledge that I posted that my own fave toy was Legos. :)

I agree. I suspect a considerable overlap between queer and nerds.

Friends and I often played with our knives during recess with the full knowledge and OK of our teachers. Times were obviously different in the 1960s school yards than they are today.

My nerdy favorites included legos, tinker toys, science fiction books and my beloved Etch A Sketch. I continued to play with an Etch A Sketch even in my mid 40s while my two youngest children were growing up. They always seemed to have Etch A Sketches from their birthdays and Christmas. :)

I begged my grandparents to order me the "Little Debbie Dollhouse" with all of the Little Debbie points they had accumulated. Once home, the Little Debbie dollhouse was concurrently occupied by both Little Debbie and her staff of cute little puppies and kiddies, and the 101st GI Joe Airborne unit. Much drama ensued. Especially when the Ninja Turtles sought out a place to crash. However, at the end of the day, I baked cupcakes for everyone in my Easy Bake and all was resolved. The citizens of Legoland pitched in to help provide more housing opportunities for everyone. At the time, Mayor Rainbow Bright was a great uniter, not a divider.

And my parents said had no idea when I came out...

Keep in mind that Toys R Us is a North American company and Sweden is a gender equal country while North America is still hardcore on traditional gender roles which is why the Swedes are against Toys R Us.