Labels. We slap them on just about everything from food to people. Well ladies and gremlins, one type of labels might disappear forever in the near future.
Gender labels. More specifically, TOY gender labels, are falling out of fashion as more and more corporations join the “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign, which discourages toy stores from separating toys into “Boys” and “Girls” sections. An interesting concept for sure, but I have mixed feelings on the subject.
I’m all for equality among the sexes. Women can work on cars and men can be nurses. That’s cool. I’m no stranger to being treated like a second class citizen based solely on the fact that I am a female. Like really, dude? You somehow managed to figure out I’m a woman, but you can’t gasp the fact that I’m also a human being, JUST LIKE YOU. It’s 2013. Come on.
So clearly the feminist in me is like, “Yeah! Who says little girls have to play with tea sets? Bring on the dinosaurs!” And little boys, feel free to play with dolls. That’s totally fine.
But wait, hold the phone. “Let Toys Be Toys” simply pertains to labeling aisles and sections of toys, not the toys themselves. Last time I checked, a lot of the big toy items have products geared more toward a specific gender. For instance, the new Nerf Rebelle collection. Pink Nerf guns with names like “Heartbreaker.” I don’t know what’s worse, the cliché names or the darts that look like something Avril Lavigne inspired. Which gender is more likely to take interest in these doohickeys? Even if all the stores in the world abandon the concept of “Boys” and “Girls” sections, some toys will stand out to one gender quite obviously.
Example. The Barbie aisle is pink. BARBIE is the girliest thing ever. She’s a symbol of the “perfect woman.” You don’t have to put a label on Barbie and Skipper to know that they are more likely to appear on little Susie’s Christmas list. Granted, Billy could have some interest in these (ridiculous) dolls. But the odds don’t look so great.
Part of me can’t help but wonder, is there some OTHER reason behind this labeling deal? Because it kind of feels like a way for companies to reach out to children “questioning their sexuality” and let them know that it’s okay for girls to play with Monster Trucks. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but these are CHILDREN. The other day I walked into the BOYS section of Toys R Us and bought a medieval bow and arrow play set for myself and guess what? I DIDN’T burst into flames, or get struck by lightning, or anything. Anybody can buy any toy they wish, regardless of what section it’s in. So yes, girls can play with swords, and boys can play with ponies. No worries. But don’t get all mad about how girls and boys are being told what they have to play with, what they have to like, what they have to BE. It’s up to the child. I grew up with my fair share of “masculine” toys and it didn’t drastically control how I turned out. Sure, I’m not super girly, but I’ve certainly uttered the words “Crap, I broke a nail!” before. If Susie grows up to be gay but she’s scared to come out of the closet, I really doubt that fear stems from getting a Polly Pocket out of the girls section rather than a Polly Pocket in the a section that has no gender affiliation.
Lastly, “Let Toys Be Toys” just sounds wrong to me. Do toys suddenly have sexual preferences? Uh… No. Give me a break, people. There are more constructive ways to spend your time. If you think THAT’S the biggest problem in our world today, I feel sorry for you.