Gender-Neutral Swedish Toys 'R' Us Catalog
By Jerry Portwood
As we approach that time of year when parents are dealing with the toy shopping frenzy, there are those sensitive to the fact that some lil' boys don't want to be butch, and some lil' girls refuse the tyranny of the Easy-Bake Oven. Well Swedish retailer Top-Toy, a licensee of the Toys 'R' Us brand, has thrown off the gender shackles and features boys doing domestic duties (trumped up as play) and girls get armed with guns (not something that seems particularly smart, but kids will be kids). Is this "gender-neutral" imaging, or just savvy marketing?
In a country of 9 million people, gender equality is seen as a bedrock principle of a productive workforce and a healthy welfare state. Sweden needs women in the labor force to maintain output. State-funded child care structures put in place after World War II have enabled women to return to work after having children, and four different government entities are devoted to the issue.
Mr. Nyberg said the changes reflect cultural trends. “We want our catalog to reflect how kids are playing today,” he said. “It’s important for us to be modern.”
While the boys engaging in "beauty play" is one thing—and certainly something I never saw as a child growing up in the '80s—where are the images of gals getting typically male-focused gear? Is a gun really what we are talking about? Or wouldn't it rather be OK to give her a tool belt?
Honestly, as you start looking at these images, it's all a bit depressing: Instead of allowing a more imaginative approach to play, it appears that we want children to simply become nice little productive members of society and learn a skill like hairdressing or home economics (really, when has ironing or vacuuming EVER been fun?). Where is the swashbuckler or fairy tale imagination? Why must kids just instead of learn to play house?
But, hey, I'm not a parent, just a gay uncle. But I won't be buying a hairdryer for any of my four little nephews. No matter how cute the idea is.