Today, I'm going to talk a little about marketing. I figure with the holidays coming up in a few months, this is a great time. Okay, I've been noticing a disturbing trend. Toy companies are coming out with "boy toys" painted pink and are branding them as "girl toys." Not only that, but they are claiming that this is an amazing step towards gender equality and they are happy to lead the way. Umm, huh? For example, have you seen the Nurf Rebelle toys? They are basically the same foam shooting toy guns Nurf has always had, but now they're pink. So girls can play with them.
Newsflash Nurf! We girls have been playing with the original orange and yellow guns for decades. I guess we weren't aware we couldn't play with them unless they were pink. Not only that, the f-ing name is Rebelle instead of Rebel. Isn't that cute? They made a tough boy name into a name that sounds more girly. Awe. (By the way, that's my daughter on the left. Note the color of her Nurf gun. She HATES pink.) Then, there is another big headline grabber called Goldieblox. This toy was designed to encourage girls to become engineers by giving them a lame building set that isn't near as cool or as useful as all the other building sets on the market. Oh, but wait! It comes with storybooks that have a girl as the hero. That will keep the recipients of this toy from tossing it aside for something more interesting, like, say, Legos or K'nex.
There are three major problems with girl toys that are designed to break down gender barriers. First, we girls have been playing with "boy toys" for decades! I don't think I have ever heard a girl, armed with a Super Soaker, say, "Gee, I wish they made these for girls." You know why? Because for most of us girls that were born after 1975 didn't think about whether a toy was meant for girls. If it was cool, we played with it. Period.
Second, you know why some girls don't play with Legos or toy trucks? Because they genuinely like dolls and pink things better. It's not that hard of a concept.
Third, the only people who create gender barriers for little girls are grownups. Thankfully, my
parents and grandparents didn't subscribe to the whole girls should play with this and boys should play with that bullhocky. One of my first toys was a yellow, metal Tonka dump truck that I played in the dirt with for hours. Note how it wasn't pink or targeted towards girls. I also had dolls, princess dresses, race cars, building sets and a science kit. Yup, that's me, in the early 80s, riding on my race car toyI didn't grow up thinking something had to be pink or named with a cutesy name before I could play with it. I guess that's my whole point. Girls don't need special toys. They need special parents that don't care what color a toy is or what an advertisement says. Throw all kinds of toys at your kids, both boys and girls, and see what THEY like.
And for Pete's sake, if you daughter picks up a toy hammer and your son picks up a Barbie, don't squeal about how progressive you are or how they are making great choices. Just let kids be freaking kids already and forget about labels.