The Let Toys Be Toys 2013 Silliness Awards

It’s been a busy year at Let Toys Be Toys, full of tweeting & posting, organising events & meeting nice people, with the odd nerve-wracking radio appearance thrown in.

But amongst all that serious stuff there’s been a lot of silliness.  During our forays into the gendered world of the toy industry we’ve come up against some gems of utter daftness, from pointlessly pinkified pens to insults that liken us to both Hitler and Marx in one fell swoop.  We felt that such silliness should not go unrewarded.  So we decided to honour it with the <drum roll please>

Let Toys Be Toys  2013 Silliness Awards… 

The Most Needlessly Gendered Product Award

elmoNow it goes without saying that we don’t think any toys should be gendered, but some marketing decisions are slightly more baffling than others.  Take this Elmer the Elephant or this Gruffalo slipper, both characters much loved by boys and girls, yet both found in the ‘Boys’ aisle.  Puzzling to say the least…..

Of course if there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the last year it’s that few things are safe from the big gender carving knife, be it bedspreads or yoghurt, or even the sacred EnglisPink and blue kinder eggsh language.

But even we were surprised when Kinder Eggs jumped on the bandwagon and came up with the superbly original idea of pink and blue chocolate eggs.

After a slew of complaints they argued that they did not “promote [their] products as gender-specific” which must be why all the pink eggs gave birth to toys such as ponies and bracelets and all the blue eggs gave birth to things that go whizz.  Not gender-specific, my ….

Ahem…. anyway we are pleased to announce that Kinder Surprise are the worthy winners of the Most Needlessly Gendered Product Award 2013, for taking the surprise out of Kinder Surprise and for proving that there is nothing that cannot be split up according to gender in the name of commercial profit.

The Most Pointlessly Pink Version of the Same Toy Award

Now thjengaere you were thinking that Jenga was just a fun game to be enjoyed by all members of the family.  The concept of falling wooden blocks followed by laughter all round – it doesn’t get more universal than that.

But think again, my old-fashioned friend because there’s Jenga and there’s “Girl Talk Jenga”!  This year’s runner up in The Most Pointlessly Pink Version of the Same Toy Award has bricks that are “pretty in pink” and questions like “What is your favourite clothing store?” and “Name someone you have a crush on right now”.

To be honest, the concept of adding questions to blocks isn’t necessarily a bad one but why oh why does it need to be just for girls?!

pink globe

From inflatable pink orcas and Boutique monopoly to pink superman costumes and pink glue (we kid you not!) the idea of taking a regular product, giving it a pink makeover and selling it back to girls is so common that one wonders how girls will cope when they grow up and find out that the world is not covered in pastel pink.

Which brings us to this year’s worthy winner of The Most Pointlessly Pink Version of the Same Toy Award for taking not just the sea but pretty much the whole of the earth and painting it the colour of bubble-gum.

Ah yes, it’s the infamous globe, or as one follower called it “the globe, the goddamn pink globe”.  We feel your pain, we really do!

The Funniest Insult Award

Oh my – where to start?  Well the Daily Mail Comments Section would be a good place, for here we have been called all sorts, from PC-lovers to Marxists, from Feminazis to spineless liberals who are funded by the tax-payer (we wish!).

If you had just landed on earth you might be forgiven for thinking that we were single-handedly responsible for the downfall of western civilisation.  Adelaide from Adelaide certainly thought so when she wrote:

“The cultural Marxist busy bodies are at it again undermining the traditional family culture in their objective to destroy one of human societies most fundamental bonds the family structure.”

Sheesh kebab!  And we thought we were just campaigning about toys!  Whilst the Daily Mail comments are reliably predictable there was one that we didn’t see coming:  from blogger (and runner up in this prestigious category) Darragh Mowlds who said that we were “like the far-right of parenting groups”.   

Yep, we’re still scratching our heads about that one!

But our Award for Funniest Insult goes to the hapless chap who penned this lovely comment and who kept us chuckling till the early hours of the morning:

“[this campaign] is a gimmick invented by quangos & adopted by middle class buffoons who live on Keynoir Salads!”

‘What’s Keynoir?’ you ask. A macro-economic policy?  A posh way of pronouncing an African country?  No, it is in fact that staple of every tree-hugging, vegetarian, leftie’s diet: Quinoa!  Available from all good politically correct health food stores and as far as I know, not yet gendered.

The Straw man Argument (aka. Yes, that’s exactly what we said!) Award

If at any point in your lifetime you have publicly aligned yourself with anything remotely resembling a feminist viewpoint you will be quite familiar with the concept of the Straw man argument.  The Straw man argument is designed to make the opponent look beyond foolish by attributing to them opinions that no rational person would actually believe.

The most popular Straw man argument against our campaign is that we are hell bent on insisting that all boys and girls   are or should be EXACTLY the same.  As Eilis O’Hanlan writes in what is possibly the most confused article ever written about the campaign:

‘The campaigners insist .. that you can change human nature by political will alone because, ultimately, differences between male and female are simply social conditioning, not based on anything inherent at all — but that seems naive at best. Girls and boys are different. They just are.’

It seems that the belief that people don’t have to be the same in order to enjoy the same opportunities is a bit too nuanced for our Eilis, as it is also for Johnnic from Bradley, who envisions a terrifying future of gender-neutral nonsense when he cries:

 “what ever next, buying tampons for boys so they don’t feel left out?”

But whilst we sit here at LTBT HQ twiddling our moustaches and planning a world of “sexless clones” one thing concerns us: in the post revolution what will everybody wear?  Thank goodness we have Madeleine Teahan, winner of this year’s Strawman Argument Award to give us the answer:

Image

Because yes, that’s EXACTLY what we said!

Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Sexism

Usually sexism in our society creeps up on you like a silent ninja but sometimes it just hits you square in between the eyes and leaves you with your head on the keyboard whimpering “Why? Why? WHY?!”  Such is the case for this year’s runner up in the Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Sexism which lays out bold and clear the different aspirations for the sexes.

howtobegorgeousWhen challenged on the messages that publishers Scholastic were giving out to children they gave this reassuring response:

“It is a fairly established part of children’s publishing that covers featuring girls are not appealing to boys, so we went with the image that gave the best opportunity to the book in the market”

Ah, that’s ok then!

But even such self-confessed sexism pales in comparison to this year’s winner of the Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Sexism:  www.fridgemagic.com for taking that most basic of things: language, and dividing it into words appropriate for boys and girls, and then trying to give themselves gravitas by claiming  “to compliment [ahem..sic]  National Literacy Words”:

 

Magnetic Girls / Boys Words - Asda Sale

Words such as tiara, lipstick and jewels are of course crucial to every princess’s education whilst her future prince gallivants in the mud fighting monsters and scary spiders.

kristelhayes

credit to Kristel Hayes

 

And that’s how we leave it at the end of 2013: that boys and girls are so different that they actually need different words.  It seems that the only things that we have in common are bubbles and chocolate.

So here’s to bubbles and chocolate and a slightly less silly 2014!

17 Comments

  1. Eleanor Rylance

    I am constantly amazed at the cognitive dissonance of people who claim on he one hand that it’s fine for boys not to want be like girls (hence not possibly ever wanting to use anything with a girl on the front) because it’s viewed as an inferior status, yet say in the same breath that we’ve achieved equality between the sexes so what the heck are we bleating about??

    Good awards! I am always in awe at your campaigning spirit. I’d be very depressed by now, especially at the numbers of women who are against the campaign.

  2. Brilliant article! Really made me smile. After all, I think we have to rise above such silliness and laugh at it. Your work has been fantastic and inspirational this year, well done! Your campaigning has given validity and support to my own feelings which I have held for so long but had always felt alone with. What a relief to have finally found a group of people who also see the confusing, sexist, pointless gender stereotypes surrounding our children, and are prepared to stand up and challenge it!
    Keep up the good work!
    Thank you!

  3. Fab post-made me laugh so much! I can’t bear to enter Toys-R-Us, I’m not sure what’s worse the pinkpinkpink girls aisle or the boys aisle which darkens as you set foot in it! Can’t believe fridgemagic- it’s so funny but tragic at the same time.

  4. beverly f

    Thank you so much for bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds. I grew up receiving dolls and makeup growing up even though i wanted the GI Joes and ninja turtles my brother received. Needless to say i had very frustrating christmases and birthdays. I did not become a lesbian, nor am i manlier in any way. I grew up to be just as feminine as any other woman. so why do people think that if children play with toys made for the other gender it will “change” them in some way?

  5. Bobbie

    All sexism aside – the magnetic fridge note wotsits actually misspell “complement”?!?

  6. Paul F

    Initially I thought this was all a fuss about nothing but some of the products highlighted here are eye opening. However, I do think some people are going too far with their protests. My daughter got a whole mix of toys for Xmas including remote control car, Disney Infinity (Pirates), science kits etc. However she also got a pink-boxed Girls World which she loves as much as all the other toys. This is, rightly or wrongly, aimed firmly at girls, but so what? She enjoys playing with this as much as she does her electronics kit, but the impression I get from this is that you’d see toys like this banned or with a boy and girl on the box instead of a girl?! There will always be toys more favoured by one sex than another, you will never stop that, but let it be the decision on the child and give us parents some credit. I will never buy my daughter a pink kinder or globe (!) but equally I don’t need people telling me what is right or wrong, especially by putting protest labels in toy shops (which some groups have been doing this year).

    So yes, I do appreciate you highlighting some of these ridiculous products, and the whole boy/girl aisle needs to go, as do boy/girls specific books etc. But do I want shelves full of genderless grey boxes? No! Please give kids & modern parents some credit for making the right choices themselves!

    • Jem D

      Paul, go and have a look at The Straw man Argument Award again. The point isn’t that pink and sparkly exists; it’s that it is becoming (has become?) the only thing that girls are allowed. Yes, parents and kids are quite able to make their own choices, but why on earth do we have to put up with toy producers making it so difficult? Congratulations on raising a well-balanced daughter who knows what she likes and doesn’t pay any attention at all to the massed ranks of manufacturers, marketers and media men, who are constantly and consistently telling her she’s wrong to want that science kit (unless it’s pink) or r/c car (unless Barbie is driving). Unfortunately you and she are in a minority.

  7. Susan Cashmere

    I dream of a world where I don’t have to stand in front of a Vanish advert to inform my boys that it’s not just women that care about clean clothes, or only women who wash them. I dream of a world where Page 3 is abolished and the estate agent doesn’t call me darling, like that’s OK. Starting with toys is genius.
    I hated girls toys, and only played with Lego, machine guns and raced my bike against the passing busses. Despite this shocking revelation I am surprisingly normal.

    BTW the fridge magnets are also not punctuated correctly – they should read Girls’ and Boys’ as they are plural possessive nouns.

  8. Dougal

    When the Daily Mail runs articles such as “Wives and partners STILL do 82 per cent of housework”, but defend toys that encourage this status quo.

    I wouldn’t want my children playing with any of this rubbish to be honest. I’d like my children to play with something that encouraged them to grow into normal human beings.

  9. claire

    Lets face it however silly these pink versions of toys the marketers know what they r doing. They r selling more & making more money. I know people who have bough a pink toy for their daughter then when they had a son bought a different colour of the same toy.
    I personality would just let my son play with the pink one. I let my kids have their own minds & try not to encourage gender stereotypes. Despite this my daughter has always loved pink & girlie stuff & my son wants more typically boy toys. But saying this they play together & share their toys. My son loves playing with princess dolls & my daughter is happy to play with his Batman toys.
    Although I consider myself a feminist I am not concerned that my 6 year old daughter has been obsessed with pink for the last 4 or so years. Because she has just started saying she now actually prefers blue. I’m glad she has not gone completely off pink because I like it. Saying that I like blue & lots of other colours. I also like dressing up, being girlie, climbing trees, play fighting and toys of both gender types.

  10. Sarah

    My 7yo daughter wants to be an astronaut. She wants to be one so much that she has her life mapped out; from independently finding a high school that offers aeronautical engineering, to devouring over 100 books on space and being an astronaut.
    It breaks my heart that I have already had to prepare her for the opposition that she’s actually already encountering. Why are all the space toys for boys? Why are all the astronaut costumes/ bedspreads/ books/ decor for boys?
    Worse is the people she tells her dream to “but you’re so pretty” “are you sure, you have to be good at maths, girls can’t do maths”

    So, fuck you toy manufacturers for making my daughter feel her dream is odd, fuck you for making random strangers think they have the right to tell my son his baby doll is for girls, fuck you for perpetuating the stereotypes my children have to defy every day to follow their dreams.

    And thank you, LTBT, for trying to change things.

    • Eleanor Rylance

      Sarah, your daughter sounds awesome! Tell your wonderful children that even grown-ups can be silly sometimes, teach them how to sweetly avoid interference and let them continue to develop their own interests in their own way and their own time. And encourage both children to the hilt (which you must already be doing for them to have such a strong will). Stay strong!

    • Eleanor Rylance

      Incidentally the science museum has a rather decent and entirely non-gendered range of science toys for children, with a whole space range.

    • Jennie

      Hi Sarah, my four year old daughter is obsessed with being an astronaut too! She doesn’t have her life mapped out (yet) but she knows she has to work hard. She loves engineering and maths and science. All she wants is to go to space, she already knows all the planets and most of their distinguishing characteristics. We’re planning space camp for her (and us, it’s never too late! They offer family space camp!!) :) she never leaves home without her NASA hat. I’m so glad there are other moms like you out there encouraging your girl and I’m so glad there are other little girls who want this so badly. You both rock!

      I ditto the science museum, they have great toys!

  11. Bridget

    I’m in eighth grade and my speech topic for the upcoming speech festival is gender bias in toys. I came up with the topic by remembering my seven year old self innocently asking my father “Why do boy toys do such exciting things and girl toys do nothing?” Whenever the drive-thru woman at McDonald’s asked if I wanted a boy or a girl toy with my Happy Meal, I would ask what each toy did and make my decision based on that. I’m quite proud of my child self for standing up against gender stereotyping before I even knew what it was, and I’m sure there are children like that today too, although with more and more sexism in toys it’s probably becoming harder. Anyway, in my research for my speech I stumbled upon your organization and I am in full support of what you’re doing. Two thumbs up from today’s youth! :)

    • Rebecca

      Thanks Bridget! Yes the Happy Meals always used to drive me mad too. Good luck with your speech and let us know how it goes (if you want!)

  12. Joseph

    I personally consider the problem to lie not with how toys are marketed/advertised, but with society itself.

    Take for example the blue/pink Kinder Surprise issue raised within this article. People were all up in arms about what I presume they considered to be sexism and gender-stereotyping, and Kinder Surprise replied by saying they did not “promote [their] products as gender-specific”.

    To this, the author of this article said: “which must be why all the pink eggs gave birth to toys such as ponies and bracelets and all the blue eggs gave birth to things that go whizz”. The author even went as far as to seemingly imply a rather rude (not to mention unnecessary), statement to highlight just how profound they found the situation to be.

    Personally, I believe Kinder Surprise did no wrong. As they said, the pink toys were not labelled as for girls and the blue toys were not labelled as for boys. It was us, the wider peoples, who immediately made the connection between blue and boys and pink and girls. It was also us- in specific the author of this article- who were scorned by the fact that “the pink eggs gave birth to toys such as ponies and bracelets and all the blue eggs gave birth to things that go whizz”.

    In that instance, it’s once again us who are making the connection between things that “go whizz” and boys, and ponies/bracelets and girls.

    All this says to me is that even if this organization does achieve their goal, people will still automatically associate blue with boys and ponies with girls, no matter how things are marketed.

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