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Toys 'R' Us to do away with gender-specific marketing

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 5:02 p.m. MDT

Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog) Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog)

It appears as though the traditional pink and blue toy aisles for girls and boys have seen their last days at Toys “R” Us stores in the United Kingdom, as well as some other children's stores in Europe. On Sept. 4, Toys “R” Us announced it would not label its toys according to gender and be more inclusive to both boys and girls in marketing its products.

“We’re delighted to be working so closely with a major toy retailer and believe that there is much common ground here,” said Megan Perryman, campaigner for Let Toys Be Toys, a UK-based consumer campaign group, in a statement. "Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are ‘for’ them, while others are not. This is not only confusing but extremely limiting, as it strongly shapes their ideas about who they are and who they can go on to become. We look forward to seeing Toys 'R' Us lead the way to a more inclusive future for boys and girls.”

Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog) Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog)

But this is not the first push to make the company’s toys more gender-neutral. Last year’s Toys “R” Us Christmas catalog in Sweden displayed both boys and girls playing with dolls and Nerf guns.

“My son is 2 and inherited a lot of ‘girly’ toys from his two older sisters. However, he doesn't recognize that they are considered 'girly;' to him, they're just toys. He loves babies, playing with the kitchen, and he has a toy vacuum that he loves but he also loves cars and fire trucks,” said Tawnya Lee Dilley, a commenter on the Huffington Post about the Swedish Toys “R” Us Christmas catalog. “My son is very affectionate and nurturing, which are qualities I want to encourage to make him a better dad and husband when he grows up. I love how the ad depicts both boys and girls playing together with the toys.”

Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog) Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog)

Some argue that gender-neutral toys encourage children to pursue their interests, rather than allowing stereotypes to shape their interests.

“The thing to remember is that there are many differences among girls as a group and among boys as a group,” said Rebecca Hains, blogger and associate professor of media studies at Salem State University in an interview with Fox & Friends. “And so it’s important to recognize that, yes, some girls love playing princess, and that’s terrific. But some girls want the chemistry set. And they shouldn’t feel like it’s just for boys. If we don’t say, ‘Hey, these are jobs for men and these are jobs for women,’ why would we say, ‘These are toys for boys and toys for girls,’ when toys are really kids’ work?”

Others believe that eliminating gender-targeted toys denies children's true natures.

Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog) Images from the 2012 Toys R Us Christmas catalog in Sweden, which aimed to eliminate stereotypes of gender-specific toys. (Screenshot Toys "R" Us Swedish Christmas Catalog)

“You can give a boy a doll, (but) it doesn’t mean he’s going to play with it. I have two daughters and a son. I recognize that my girls are not as interested in basketball as my son is; he’s not as interested in princesses as my daughter is," said Sabrina Schaeffer from the Independent Women's Forum in the same interview with Fox & Friends. “I think to try to deny them who they are is really sort of misguided. So the best thing we can do as parents is let our children be who they are, and not be ashamed of their gender. If boys want to play with guns, and girls want to play ballet, I think that’s a good thing, and we should encourage them to sort of embrace the gender they’ve been given.”

Abby Stevens is a writer for the deseretnews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

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