Monday, September 9, 2013

Leave Barbie to Her Pink Kingdom

Barbie and I had to have a talk this morning, she was very nervous about losing her pink kingdom.  Why?  We heard about this “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign that encourages toy stores not to continue in “gender marketing”, i.e. putting all the boys toys together in the blue aisles and the girls toys together in the pink aisles.  And if you aren’t sure what “boys’ toys” are, that general means the G.I Joe’s, Nerf aresenal, trucks, and Legos.  The “girls’ toys” include Barbie, the big head doll for hairstyling, tea sets, and princess dress-up clothes.  The campaign has convinced Toys R’ Us – U.K. to get rid of the gender designations in their toy aisles.

Why do we want to move all the toys around and make it even harder to find anything?  Boys (usually) like playing with trucks, girls (generally) like to play with dolls.  Every now and then a boy will set up a tea party and a girl will shoot someone with a foam dart.  We’re all cool with that. Why do we have to rearrange the toy store so that we can’t find nothing during the frantic shopping for Christmas or 15 minutes before our kid’s friend’s birthday party?

It's so simple when all the pink stuff is in the same aisle.
The campaign encourages the stores to arrange toys by “theme or function.”  Isn’t that what the doll aisle and the truck aisle do already? Are we just complaining about the color of the sign at this point? All I know is, as a parent, shopping is quite easy when Barbie and her clothes and cars and horse and pets and friends are all under that bright pink banner. If she’s going to be hanging out with Batman and I’ve got to go to the next aisle to get her pink-mobile from next to the Bat-mobile, I’m gonna be even more frazzled than I usually am when I’m toy shopping.

Even by "theme," my daughter & son are still grabbing the "girl" and "boy" boxes, respectively.
This seems to be another case of where good ole’ fashioned parenting could step in, instead of upsetting everyone else’s life. If you want your son to bake some cookies in the Easy Bake Oven and your daughter to push around a dumptruck, here’s an idea.  Ready? Buy it for them. What about that? You can buy your kid whatever toy you want to, no matter what aisle it’s in, no matter what you think the toy store is forcing upon you. You, mom and dad, get to choose what you spend your hard-earned money or the giftcard from Grandma on. Get your son the toy vacuum and pick up the box of Legos for your daughter. You will not be tackled by the toy police.

Do we really think that by rearranging the toy store, our daughters are going to pick up the tool set and our sons are going to choose the purse set?  I’m not so sure about that. I think it has more to do with the message that we send them at home.  It’s up to you as a parent to convey to your kids that girls can fix stuff around the house and ride skateboards and boys can cook dinner and take care of the coo-ing baby doll. If that’s what you want them to believe, you’ve got to invite your girl into your real garage and your boy into your real kitchen.

We can’t let the toy stores raise our kids. Otherwise, they’ll all think that you can cook anything with a lightbulb and that bullets stick to you with suction cups and no-one gets hurt in warfare.

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