Have a boy who desperately wants to take a stab at the sewing machine and a girl who dreams of driving the big rigs? Swedish company Top-Toy Group is tearing down the gender walls in their holiday catalog this year, reflecting the country’s emphasis on effecting gender neutrality.
The catalog is just a start, though; the company is also adjusting store displays and packaging to reflect the changing culture, and while employees on the ground haven’t noticed a dramatic change yet, they are in training to focus on asking what a child’s interests are before steering customers in traditionally male or female directions.
While plenty may cheer the change, some experts feel the new approach is as much about marketing to a new demographic than a change for altruistic causes:
Lisa Wade, a sociologist and professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, said Top-Toy’s gender-neutral approach is significant because it challenges common ideas about masculinity by putting dolls and hair dryers into the hands of boys. “You may give tool toys to your daughter, [but] you don’t give the lipstick bag to your son,” she says.
In many cases, she says, she suspects the gender-neutral platform is a marketing ploy. “It’s a mistake to think that companies typically do this out of ethical belief,” Dr. Wade said. “Most of the time they are doing it strategically.”
Cynical or not, it’s about time a girl can protect herself against marauding aliens or a boy can whip up a meal without shame. More power to them.
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