I've become so accustomed to my daughter Gabi's preference in toys I don't think twice about it anymore. When we walk the toy aisles, we go straight to the "boys" section. When I'm by myself shopping for her, I go nowhere near the "girl" aisles. After all, she has no interest in baby dolls, Barbies, Hello Kitty, princess garb, makeup, etc. and she knows exactly where to go. Here are some of her toys: But you don't see a lot of girls in boy aisles or visa versa. And there is a delineation--just take a look at this short video from UK's PinkStinks that shows how one-sided the girls section is. This has made me think about easy ways that toy stores and departments could change this feeling of separateness and demarcation that would allow kids to feel free to choose things they might not have chosen otherwise. Perhaps a little boy would love a baby doll but feels weird going into that aisle. Or a little girl really wants that Tonka, but her parents don't even think to go the boys side. Here are some suggestions that I think would be easy ways to change the stigma:
1) Remove the terms "girl" and "boy" from all signage (I think this should be the same on websites that offer toys). Allow children and parents to explore aisles without knowing if it's a "boy" section or "girl" section.
2) Do not group things together by color. Often, there is one entire aisle (mostly in girls departments) that is all pink and sparkly; largely, boys items are black and blue. Mix them up. It can be done.
3) Put ALL dolls together; after all, there are boy dolls (action figures). Can't Barbie be next to GI Joe? Maybe she's sick of Ken!
4) Put ALL dress-up clothes or costumes together: Spiderman with TinkerBell; soldier gear next to tiaras.
5) A very basic way to make a change would be to make one an entire side of an aisle boy and one side girl which would still allow all children to be exposed to all items.
6) Train staff to understand these changes and have them use language that doesn't automatically assume boy or girl.
These suggestions could be implemented without changing a toy itself or the packaging--which should come later. (But how about some pink race cars? Or a girl in a Bakugan ad?) Can you imagine a world where boys and girls can have the freedom to look at anything they like without someone looking at them strangely (it's happened to my daughter)? Wouldn't their worlds open up just a little bit more? At the very least, we could start to eliminate the notion that "dolls are just for girls" and "trucks are just for boys." Because, as you can see, that's just not true.