I’m deep in Fairyworld working on my book (really, almost done) but I had to visit cyberspace to bring you this amazing news! Amazon has dropped its boy/ girl categories for toys and games. This is a huge step forward for gender equality, and it was taken because of you speaking out and creating change.
Just this weekend, I was at a soccer game for my 6 year old’s team, and another mom, knowing I have three daughters, said to me, “Your house must be so girlie!” Ugh, people say this all the time. I responded: “I try to keep their worlds big and open.” She told me she has two sons and let me know when her only daughter chose what color to paint her room, she picked pink.
“That’s the problem,” I said. “It’s not really her choice. Everything marketed to girls is pink, from Toys R Us to TV, that’s what they see.” I explained how pink used to be a “boy” color.
Her reply? “So, is everything in your house beige?”
I burst out laughing, but her comment reminded me of why I’m not a fan of the term “gender-neutral.” I prefer to use “gender inclusive.” I don’t want less colors for kids, I want more. I’m so sick of having versions of these conversations with parents about the limited gender boxes they buy into, hearing again and again about how boys will bite their toast into the shapes of guns because “that’s just how boys are.” I live in progressive San Francisco and when these words come out of smart, educated liberal parents, I’m still shocked (though my poker face is pretty good now.) At best, with children growing up in a world created by thousands of years of sexist narratives, where females are sidelined and sexualized, from the Bible to the Avengers, with brain plasticity/ development based on activities kids engage in, you’ve got to AT LEAST say that you don’t have a fucking clue what girls and boys are “naturally” like.
So when I see parents affirm girls for being quiet, reading, or doing art, admonished not to get their clothing messy, complimented on their shoes or hair (which is, of course, designed to receive those compliments) while the same parents tolerate boys being “wild,” “disruptive,” wrestling, shouting, and running around, it stuns me that people really buy into the sexism that girls and boys are just different.
I’ve blogged before that I believe that people will look back on this time and be blown away by how sexist we were in the USA, that children were segregated by gender in the aisles of Target. Didn’t we learn that separate but equal doesn’t work? That so-called utopia doesn’t exist. My whole blog Reel Girl is dedicated to imagining gender equality in the fantasy world. If we can’t imagine equality, we can’t create it. It makes me sad and angry to see a whole new generation watch Hollywood movies made for kids where girls go missing. These kids get trained to accept and expect a real world where females go missing. This sexism in kidworld is so prevalent, that, ironically, it’s invisible. Parents don’t notice it. I get mocked all the time for even writing about it, for not being a real feminist because I care about trivial issues like cartoons and toys and, you know, children.
Amazon’s decision to refuse gender segregation is inspiring and exciting, but we have more work to do. Toys we sell come from the stories we tell. As I blogged in the posts If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist? and When Hollywood excludes girls, how can Lego market to them? until females are recognized as heroic protagonists in narratives, removing gender labels from the merchandise will only take equality so far. Kids– girls and boys– need to experience stories where females (plural, not just one, not a Minority Feisty) are front and center, being brave, making choices, and taking risks. Which reminds me, I better get back to writing mine. Huzzah Amazon! THANK YOU
Update: On her blog, Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals writes:
But Amazon didn’t drop the gendered categories. It just moved them. To the top of the page and under the “Toys & Games” heading above the item images.
On the left side bar under “Age Ranges” we used to see “Gender” and the binary options of “Boys” or “Girls”. Now we see the left side bar offering search options of “Popular Features”, “Shop By Price”, “Age Ranges”, “Toys & Games”, “Featured Character & Brand”, and “Interest”.
This is truly great and reflects how merchants should offer toys to children and families: age and interest.
The problem is, I still see “Boy’s Toys” and “Girl’s Toys” pages, as well as this when I go in to shop “Toys & Games”…
If there were a word for that deflated sound a party blower horn makes when it runs out of air, I’d insert it here. Because shoppers will still get the following message:
Boys go out into the world, build the world, explore the world, save the world, and play hard when they play outside. Girls, on the other hand, stick close to home, think of home, decorate the home, need things to be pink, play with dolls, and sit in pink folding chairs during “Sports and Outdoor Play”.
There are no robots, globes, vehicles, nor firefighters for girls. There is no pink, dolls, princess dresses, nor homey items for boys.
On SFGate, Amy Graff makes a similar observation about moving the gender category to another area of the site, but sees consistency with Amazon refusing stereotypes:
Amazon still features special girls and boys pages noted at the top of the toys page and the current highlights on the girls’ page seem to be further proof that Amazon is taking a stand against gender stereotyping. On the girls’ page, you’ll find a plug for summer outdoor equipment such as swing sets, an ad for STEM toys and games and a promotion for package toy deals that allow you to bundle everything from Barbies and Avengers figurines for discounts.
I will do my own research on this, but it seems pretty obvious that keeping ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ categories for selling toys is archaic and meaningless. Amazon should get rid of them all together.
Update: As reported by Melissa and Amy, on the Amazon site, if you click on ‘Toys and Games, you’ll see this:
Toys & Games
The good news is this small print, gender sub category is much harder to get to now. The bad news is its still there. I’m hoping Amazon is phasing the gender category out, and taking it off Amazon’s main page is the first step.
I will continue to research what Amazon is selling under ‘boy’ and ‘girl,’ but at this point, when I click on “girls,” I see a sea of pink and dolls. When I click on “boys” as Melissa wrote, I see robots, globes, and colors (except for pink.) I’m still blowing my horn, but I hope Amazon makes another move very soon to completely give up these limiting categories.
Amazon, are you listening? Your customers don’t need this kind of sexist assistance shopping, except maybe one, who wrote on Reel Girl’s Facebook page: “But my little lady brain is too small to figure out what to buy my kids without gender categories!”