Is getting rid of stereotypical aisles of “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” a good idea?
Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women’s Forum and I appeared live on Fox & Friends to debate that very question. I spoke in favor of de-gendering the toy aisles, while Sabrina argued in favor of the current system.
The impetus for this discussion: A new organization called Let Toys Be Toys recently convinced several major toy retailers in the UK and Ireland, including Toys R Us, to stop organizing their aisles by gender. The stores have pledged to reorganize their toys based on theme and function, instead–a major accomplishment.
The Fox & Friends video and a transcript are below.
What do you think? Is this a good thing? If you’re in the U.S., like me, would you like to see the toy stores here reorganize in this way?
Video [note: segment begins at the 47 second mark]:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): Sorry, Barbie! Toy stores in the UK will no longer be separating the girls’ section from the boys’ section. It’s all thanks to pressure from a group claiming gender stereotypes are harmful to a child’s development. Here to debate this is Sabrina Schaeffer from the Independent Women’s Forum and RebeccaHains, a blogger and associate professor of media studies at Salem State
University. Ladies, thanks for being here.
SABRINA SCHAEFFER: Thanks for having us.
REBECCA HAINS: Thank you.
ALISYN: OK. Sabrina, I know that you are against the idea that these toys will now be co-
mingled. There won’t be any segregation of the aisles anymore. But, but why, Sabrina? Why pigeonhole little boys and little girls into certain stereotypes? Why not just let them choose whatever toy they want off the store shelves?
SABRINA: Well, I think little boys and little girls will choose what they want to play with, but the bottom line is, I don’t think companies like Hasbro, for instance, are trying to stem the tide of gender equality. They just recognize from a lot of market research that Transformers sell better with boys and Easy Bake Ovens tend to sellbetter with girls. And there’s nothing wrong with sort of recognizing that boys and girls are different, that we have different interests and preferences and aptitudes. It doesn’t mean that girls can’t go on to do anything that little boys can go on to do. It’s just that they like to play differently, and that’s okay.
ALISYN: And Rebecca, why not let children just gravitate towards whatever toys they choose?
REBECCA: Well, you know, it’s interesting. Organizations like Let Toys Be Toys in the UK, and BraveGirlsWant.com here in the US, are hearing from parents that their kids are interested in toys that would cross the gender aisle, but they’re embarrassed or ashamed to ask for it. And that’s not right. We want kids to have access to any toy that sparks their interest.
ALISYN: You know, as you’re speaking, we’re showing these advertisements–they’re sort of these newfangled advertisements, where Toys R Us–but of course this is just in Europe, it hasn’t made it hereyet– are showing boys playing with dolls, girls can play with guns, boys can play dress up, do hair, things like that– Sabrina, does that make you uncomfortable?
SABRINA: It doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but look. You can give a boy a doll; it doesn’t mean he’s going to play with it. I have two daughters and a son. I recognize that my girls are not as interested in basketball as my son is; he’s not as interested in princesses as my daughter is. I think to try to deny them who they are is really sort of misguided. So the best thing we can do as parents is let our children be who they are, and not be ashamed of their gender. If boys want to play with guns, and girls want to play ballet, I think that’s a good thing, and we should encourage them to sort of embrace the gender they’ve been given.
ALISYN: And Rebecca, talk about that. Aren’t some stereotypes true? Isn’t it true that most girls will gravitate to a doll over a truck?
REBECCA: Oh, sure! It absolutely is. But, the thing to remember is that there are many differences among girls as a group and among boys as a group. And so it’s important to recognize that, yes, some girls love playing princess, and that’s terrific. But some girls want the chemistry set. And they shouldn’t feel like it’s just for boys. If we don’t say, “Hey, these are jobs for men and these are jobs for women,” why would we say, “These are toys for boys and toys for girls,” when toys are really kids’ work?
ALISYN: You guys have made excellent points in a very thoughtful way! This is a fantastic learning segment here, ladies! Sabrina Schaeffer, Rebecca Hains, thanks so much for pointing out all the different angles.
REBECCA: Thank you for having us.