Toys are more gendered now than they were 50 years ago


I’ve noticed that a kid’s gender is more clearly established now than when I was a kid. But I also seem to remember adults being routinely embarrassed by getting the gender wrong back then. I wonder if the current state of affairs is a response to that phenomenon. Makes me see the hidden wisdom of the Victorian era practice of dressing all kids under 7 as girls.

I work in the toy industry, and did a degree in toy design… I can tell you it is an uphill battle trying to design toys without having marketing try to force gendering onto your ideas. Gender of a toy is something that is drilled into you on the school side, and is unquestioned by the marketing and sales people. They just don’t see the problem, in their mind it makes things better because they can sell twice as many SKUs, as gendering makes a pink toy undesirable to a boy, and vice versa. Parents are unwilling players in the game, being “forced” to buy the “colour correct” toy…

The problem isn’t the people like myself who dream up fun things for kids, its the marketing and sales people who answer to retail buyers. Retail establishments like the “pink” aisle as it makes things easier, and again helps push twice as much product… Many designers cringe at having to colour code a toy just so it passes through the higher ups and can make it to shelves.


The most basic thing taught in marketing is market segmentation. You target a segment of a market instead of the entire market because your ad dollars go further. The most basic segmentation is demographics (age, gender, ethnicity,family income). Since the goal is to sell the most with the least cost, it is inevitable that these characteristics would become the most important things n the minds of a business.

It is a lot easier to sell something to a specifically defined group than to “anyone who might like it”.

The discovery that focusing on the differences between people helps to sell things, and basing an industry on it, has helped to strengthen the differences.


Essentially this is more an effect of the hypercommercialization of childhood.


Hell, the Disney Network is gendered. The “normal” Disney channel is almost 100% focused on girls and Disney XD is focused on boys.

Indeed. Although at some level, that’s not dressing them as girls, but as children.


Kind’a like what’s going on in movie making. With marketing departments controlling a sizable portion of a movie’s overall budget, they get a equal say in what gets made. Brands = franchises, etc.

I can’t help feeling that some of this is due to a continuing barrage of a slightly mixed “Girl Power” message that equates girliness with empowerment rather than empowerment with achievements by girls.


My Dad made my Mom return a Easy Bake Oven. This was late 60’s. I wanted it because I liked the science and loved the making stuff aspect of it. But it was a ‘girl toy’ and it would make me gay.

So, Instead I got lots of GI Joe stuff.

Now, I’m Married to a Former Marine.


And yet there was this surprisingly successful non-gendered campaign…


My Mom and my Nana had the worst fights one Xmas because Nana gave me a Barbie Doll.
I knew I wasn’t allowed to have one, Nana knew I wasn’t allowed to have one, and as soon as my Mom, in all her 1970s feminist glory found out what Nana had done it. was. on. (I got to keep the doll but only cuz I had destroyed the box in opening it and they couldn’t take it back, but the dog ate her within the year, “accidentally”) This is when I only started getting Legos as presents.

I worked in manufacturing for year, QA, making sure everything was built according to the specs.
Lego is good prep for that. :wink:


I’ve often suggested that the first place a visiting space alien might go in trying to understand human civilization is a toy store because it offers a good back-channel into what’s really going on in a culture, what a society really values and seeks to communicate to (or impose upon…) subsequent generations.


If you’re blaming deregulation… Does that mean we have to force people to treat men and women as equals? Will chokeholds be involved?

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