Lego to remove gender bias from its toys: Taking note of the gender stereotypes in its own toys through a worldwide survey, Danish toy company Lego said that it will work to remove the gender stereotypes from its toys and their marketing.
The toy company, in association with Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which is a research organisation that advocates equal representation of women, surveyed 7,000 people from seven countries–the United States, China, Japan, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.
The survey was to explore whether parents and children see creativity as gendered. In the process, Lego tested if the parent’s definition of creativity with respect to a son to a daughter. The survey was conducted in two sections–first parents of children between the age of six and 14 participated, second the children, themselves were made to take part in it.
Stating the findings of the survey, Lego said that “the girls are ready for the world but society does not seem to be supporting it through their play.” They came to this conclusion when 76 percent of parents associated Legos with boys and only 24 percent with girls. In the same survey, when girls were asked about their creative restriction 62 percent of girls agreed that some creative activites are gendered while 72 percent of boys felt the same.
If the creative restrictions on girls are overbearing, so are those burdened on boys who are discouraged from picking toys that do not cater to society’s notions about masculinity. For example, a boy playing with a doll instead of a car or superhero is seen as feminine. Very few boys in India are encouraged to pick up kitchen sets as their choice of toys even today.
Following the survey, Lego has decided to make reforms which also includes eliminating gender filters while catering toys to children. This reform and initiative is not exclusive or the first of its kind. The Governor of California Gavin Newsom signed legislation that requires large retailers to have nongendered toy sections from 2024.
Earlier in 2021, Mr Potato Head’s parent toy brand, Hasbro announced to rename the game and reform it to a potato family without any social conditioning of gender. Not only was the game targetted by its critic in the past for its racist overtones, but also its patriarchal theme. However, the brand’s decision did not go down well with fans of its traditional version. After getting heat on social media, Hasbro said that it is not changing Mr Potato’s original identity, but creating a new toy called, “Create your own Potato head family”.
Not just Hasbro, even toymakers like Mattel and retailers like Toys R Us, Target and Kmart are placing the blue and pink toys together in a gender-neutral toys aisle.
Toys are harmless. They are for kids to play with for entertainment and to keep them occupied. Agreed. But at an age when the mind of a child is growing and registering the games and their rules, is it wise to offer them regressive games that reinforce problematic stereotypes?
Many Parents today are trying their best to ensure that their children get a gender-neutral upbringing- that boys and girls can wear, learn, play as they want. However, their determination is often negated by heavily gendered aisles of toys where boys and girls have different sections, depriving our children of a chance to even explore what all is available to them.
The part of the blame also needs to be taken by the corporate business toy world who takes the popular idea of gender and implies categorising games for children. The toy world is filled with gendered marketing, in terms of colour, game, packaging and advertisement of particular games.
Creating a nongendered space for toys is important, but the first is to accept that segregation like this exists. From a young age, a lot of people shop for toys based on the gendered ideas that they have grown up with.
A girl can love to play with cars and trucks, while a boy might find cooking on fake fire more interesting, if they are given a choice to choose for themselves, rather than being burden with gender-based norms that breeds reluctance for toys that we associate with the opposite gender.
Views expressed are the author’s own.