Gender Neutral Toys

What's the harm in splitting toys by gender?

Answering this question fully would take an entire book, and it's a question that lettoysbetoys.org.uk website addresses very thoroughly. One particularly pertinent example, for me, was when I read an extract from Chi Onwurah (MP)'s interview with The Guardian. She pointed out that within the last 30 years, the number of women enrolling in engineering degrees in the UK has fallen from an already tiny 12%, down to 8%.

In other words, the involvement of women in engineering has, in a single generation, taken a step backward. This also happens to be the pink/blue, "girl's toys," "boy's toys" generation (remember, this is a trend that only really kicked into gear in the 80s). Since its inception in late 2012, the 'Let Toys Be Toys' campaign has done much to persuade retailers to revise the way they label and present toys to children in their stores and online.

So why is pink/blue packaging still so prevalent?

Far fewer changes have been seen on the part of the manufacturers themselves. Why is this?

- Any 'grass roots' movement takes time to feed back through the system and to the source, and the pressure now put upon retailers has not yet impacted the manufacturers. Until pressure becomes financial (i.e. consumers and stockists stop buying) and not just ethical, there's little motivation for manufacturers to invest in changing their designs, colours, and packaging, nor think of more inventive ways of marketing their products besides labelling things as "for girls" or "for boys."

- Manufacturers profit even more directly from colour coding toys, as it can double their market in households that have both female and male children. It also adds a gender barrier to toy sharing and 'hand me downs' between friends and family.

So what can be done? 

In the context of the relative prosperity and complacency of the 80s, 90s and early 00s, calamatists would say that this end result is just more proof that a generation has been lost. We slept, and have woken up to a world where our children's freedom and imaginations have been stolen, our young people feel disenfranchised, and Donald Trump - a poster boy for racism, sexism and ableism - holds arguably the most powerful office in the world.

But, this 'lost generation' are becoming today and tomorrow's parents, and since there's no way to say this without sounding like an insipid motivational quote from social media, I'm going to embrace it and say: it's time to be the change!

"One step back for two steps forward" idiom is truer than ever, and this was eloquently expressed today by The Mirror, in an article entitled "This is why Meryl Streep's speech proves the world needs Donald Trump." When things get bad enough for the majority of us to notice, we finally start to realise that we need to do something about it. We can no longer trust that humanity will naturally and inevitably evolve for the better. 

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