This secret is out. Sometimes, girls like to play with He-Man action figures and boys like to nurture dolls. A Swedish toy catalog is getting a lot of attention for swapping out traditional gender roles by depicting a boy playing with a dollhouse and a girl blasting an imaginary foe with a Nerf gun.
Top Toy created the holiday catalog for toy chains BR and Toys"R"Us. The catalog was released in both Denmark and Sweden, but the Swedish version features some Photoshopped changes. Perhaps most notably, a boy wielding a toy gun in the Danish catalog was replaced by a girl, while a boy appears on another page playing with a very pink dollhouse.
Jan Nyberg, Top Toy's director of sales, was quoted telling Tidningarnas Telegrambyra news agency, "With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It's not a boy or a girl thing, it's a toy for children."
According to reports, Swedish advertising watchdog group Reklamombudsmannen had criticized Top Toy back in 2008 for propagating gender stereotypes in its catalogs. I'm not sure why it took Top Toy so long to break out of that mold.
Perhaps the most telling part of this story is that such a big deal has been made out of it. This isn't really news to me. I liked Legos, He-Man action figures, and rubber band guns just as much as the next girl when I was growing up. Why can't we seem to bridge this gendered toy divide?
To get some perspective, I went to browse Walmart's ToyLand 2012 catalog. I found a little girl dressed as a princess playing with a pink and lavender dream castle. Another girl plays with a pink kitchen set.
The first boy to make an appearance does so next to the marginally science-themed Contraption Lab. The next boy eats fake guts from an alien autopsy candy set while a pink-clad girl looks on in disgust. The boys get all the awesome construction kits, radio-controlled helicopters, guns, and superhero toys. The girls get kitchens and endless waves of pink.
OK, so it looks like gendered toy depictions are alive and well. Maybe it's time to take a vacation to Sweden and do my holiday shopping overseas.