Girl like pink, boys like blue: girls like dolls, boys like superheroes – or so the toy industry would have us believe. But what do today’s little girls really want this Christmas? And who will speak up for them?
Hoping to avoid the usual last-minute scramble for Christmas presents, I recently visited a toy shop near my home. There, I saw two young girls running ahead of their mother, before stopping by a Playmobil pirate ship.
“Look, Mummy! Can we get this for her?” said one girl. “But darling, that’s for boys,” she said, reaching for a “Princess” bathroom set. Unlike the ship, the bathroom would never show them anything about being energetic, adventurous or brave.
Those girls impressed me, since among the dolls, tea sets and frilly costumes, they’d identified a toy that wasn’t designed to appeal to them. Most girls might have been put off before they even arrived at the blue sign depicting an area for “boys”, full of action toys, chemistry sets and warrior costumes. Adventure and exploration were absent from the “girls” area.
Overt gender segregation of toys like this was something about which Riley Maida, a diminutive but articulate four-year-old American girl, caused a minor sensation on YouTube in 2011, protesting, after her father filmed her in a toy shop near her home in New York State, “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses, some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses. So why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different-colour stuff?” she questioned