Toys "R" Us Licensee Offers Gender-Neutral Toy Catalog in Sweden:
This holiday season, how about a toy gun for the girl on your shopping list, and a doll for the boy?
That vision of gender-neutrality in toy-buying is coming to life in Sweden, where Top-Toy Group, a licensee of the Toys "R" Us brand, has published a gender-blind catalog for the Christmas season.
On some pages, girls brandish toy guns and boys wield blow-dryers and cuddle dolls. Top-Toy, a privately-held company, published 12 million catalogs and owns the BR Toys chain, with 303 stores in Northern Europe.
Sweden's top advertising watchdog—known as Reklamombudsmannen, or RO—has taken the retailer to task in recent years for catalogs and ads that showcase girls playing with dolls, scrapbooks, and kitchen and beauty toys and boys with guns, cars, trains and tech gadgets. RO also has criticized Hennes & Mauritz AB, owner of the H&M chain, for ads with bikini models who were too tan.
A comparison of Top-Toy's Swedish catalogs with their Danish counterparts shows girls have replaced boys in some photos featuring toy guns, and boys have swapped places with girls in photos featuring dolls and stuffed dogs. In one picture in the Swedish catalog, a boy is blow-drying a girl's hair whereas in the Danish version, a somewhat older girl is blow-drying her own hair.
So now, Swedish boys will play with dolls and Swedish girls will play with guns. Because that’s what they’ll be seeing in a toy catalog. Because we know that gender roles are merely constructs of culture that are not fixed but malleable and that a society can shape gender behavior by how those behaviors are modeled. Right...
It’s hard to believe that anyone who actually has children can buy into this nonsense. As a father of three young boys who, almost from the moment they exited their mother’s womb, have shown an inclination (some might even describe it as natural) toward what would traditionally be considered masculine activities and roles, I know that changing pictures in toy catalogs is not going to change how most boys and girls choose to play.