Toys “R” Us, a retail giant in the toy industry, bowed to pressure from U.K.-based lobbying group Let Toys Be Toys and will now market its products in a “gender-neutral” fashion within the U.K. Not only will advertisements eventually depict both boys and girls playing with the same toys—everything from guns to dolls to kitchen sets—Toys “R” Us stores will also be removing any explicit references to gender within their stores.
In a press release, a Let Toys be Toys campaigner said, “We’re delighted to be working so closely with a major toy retailer and believe there is much common ground here. Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are ‘for’ them, while others are not.”
Let Toys Be Toys is a parent-run organization that campaigns to remove gender bias in toy sales and marketing, saying such bias restricts children’s choice. “Kids should decide for themselves what they think is fun,” their website says. “Children need a wide range of play to develop different skills.”
This change follows the Toys “R” Us of Sweden’s decision last year to launch a gender-neutral advertising campaign for the Christmas catalogue. After being reported for gender bias to a self-regulatory agency that polices marketing and advertising, the Toys “R” Us of Sweden chose to remove gender stereotypes from its advertising. This yielded advertisements depicting a young boy playing with a doll:
Another young boy, playing as a hairdresser:
And also a child dressed as Spiderman pushing a pink stroller:
Within the U.K., this decision by Toys “R” Us follows similar commitments by other major retailers such as Boots, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s.
When asked if they had plans to promote the gender-neutrality of toys abroad, Let Toys Be Toys campaigner Megan Perryman said “Let Toys Be Toys is (for now at least!) focused on the UK and Ireland.” In America, Toys “R” Us, a franchised U.S. brand, still retains traditional gender divisions, including sections within its website labeled “Boy’s Toys” and “Girl’s Toys.”