Hamleys had come under fire for their gender separation of toys in their store, and recently rearranged their floor labelling by theme and type instead of gender. Even this attracted some criticism – presumably in a large part from those parents who can’t work out which toys are otherwise appropriate for their kids without a gender label.
Perhaps it’s to avoid scenes like the one I witnessed in Toys R Us recently – I still can’t work out whether it was heart warming or heart breaking. It involved a little boy of probably about four years old, who had stumbled across a pink ride on pony. It was the only ride on pony in the store, and he loved it, riding it or leading it around the store with his parents as they shopped. His dad was not impressed. Towards the end of their shopping trip he exclaimed “Do they not have a better horse than that!?” – presumably meaning one of a more natural colourway. Sadly they didn’t, but luckily for the boy, his mum was a little less concerned by the colour and put the horse in their trolley anyway.
Regardless of whether or not aisles or floors in toy stores are labelled as for boys or girls, some toys are clearly marketed that way, thwarting any efforts of any retailers to encourage personal choice beyond possession of particular genitalia. One such example is the Playmobil Fi?ures, launched (I presume) in direct competition with the Lego Minifigure collectable series. You can even build these figures yourself unlike the main Playmobil sets. Here is the display:
You can see it’s split between pink and blue, labelled as boys and girls. Here are the individual packets – as you can see, the figures in each set are different:
In the pink set, there are 12 female characters, including a fairy, two princesses, a witch and a mermaid. In the blue set, there are 12 male characters, including a knight, an executioner, a footballer and the grim reaper. Take a closer look:
On seeing the display, my first thought was that it was such a shame to segregate these characters when many boys may want the rider or robber girl for example, and many girls may want the knight or guitarist. Why limit the choices?
On second thoughts, maybe the choices aren’t limited. A key point here is that there are twelve female characters and twelve male characters. This, as we discovered, is a much more natural gender diversity than that shown in the Lego sets.
For this, I suppose Playmobil should be applauded. There’s nothing actually stopping girls buying blue packs and boys buying pink packs (other than general society or peer pressure, and perhaps a parent concerned that their offspring may turn out gay). At least the display of both colourways is in the same place – the pink packets aren’t hidden around the corner with the Barbies, baby dolls and pink guitars.
As, I should mention, the Lego Friends sets were in Toys R Us – right next to the Barbies and toy hair straightners.