Gender-neutral toy department

Harrods, one of London's most iconic department stores, has bucked the established practice of strongly gender-segregating its toy department, contracting with Shed Design to create a "gender-neutral" toy floor.

The London department store commissioned the multi-million pound Toy Kingdom to be grouped by theme rather than gender, with new zones including an enchanted forest, a miniature toy world, a circus big top and a sweet shop.

Shed Design create gender-neutral toy department at Harrods (via Wonderland)


  1. This just increased the chances of adding Harrods to the agenda on my trip to London next year significantly.  Do they still charge an outrageous fee to use their bathrooms?

      1. As someone who used to work in a toy store, I’m wondering if that also goes for the children about to pee their pants. Because I wouldn’t charge for that, I’d just tell them to go right ahead.

  2. Hooray! I’ve never been a fan of “gender” themed toys, at least not before an age where the kid is able to figure out for herself/himself what the hell he/she likes, regardless of plumbing. In all fairness I have no idea when that is. I definitely gravitated to traditional “boy” things around 4 or 5, but damned if I can say whose fault it was. My toys were very generic at the beginning, just blocks and stuffed animals (they were all hand-me-downs from my sisters anyway). When I cruise the Toys’R’Us nowadays, it drops my jaw how they start in with that “Space Police Rocket Pistol” vs.  “Ballerina Princess Dream Kitchen” crap pretty much in the cradle. It looks more than a bit ridiculous.

    1.  When I was a kid (and they might still do this now) at McDonald’s, they ask if you wanted the girl toys or the boy toys. Pretty silly, and with three girls, we obviously didn’t always want the girl toys. Hell, I insisted on having one of the “under age 3” toys once because I thought it was cool. But working in a toy store, yeah, there’s a pretty drastic difference, and it’s kind of disturbing.

      1. If the manufacturers can convince us that we need gender specific colour-coded toys it reduces the possibility that children might share toys and so boosts sales. It is both cynical and disturbing. The daughter of an acquaintance wanted some roller skates in a sale. They had no pink skates but they did have blue skates. The thought of blue skates seemed worse to her than no skates so she chose to go without. She was seven.

          1.  Being the owner of a once seven-year old, I can attest that yes, they can be very upsetting (not as upsetting as the sixteen year old she turned into though. I need a goddamn shrink-ray or something).

        1.  Manufacturers also don’t design around what options might be best for a child, at least not for the most part. Children don’t have money. For the most part manufacturers come up with things to satisfy the parents’ agenda. In a capitalist system there’s no way you can really object to that either. It’s on the parents to decide what their agenda is and how to reflect that in what they buy. The US market is all full of crass and reactionary ideology, but the only way you can fight that is through individual choice.

          Now, if only I had a pile of money to go to Harrod’s and a child to buy something for. :P

          1. Yeah, if you favour capitalism you can’t really complain.

            Harrods sells toys for kids of all ages, you don’t really need a child.

          2. Kids have no money, but they control large sums of money via their parents. 

            If toy sales were up to parents, the ads would run at prime time, during CSI and Game of Thrones, not Saturdays mornings and afternoons, during Hannah Monatana, Kim Possible and Avengers.

    2. Question is, do we really so many/such precise inherent preferences that we gradually have to “figure out” for ourselves, or do we simply ‘learn’ what to like by observing/aping/participating in whatever arbitrary activities that happen to form some consistent part of our early experiences?

      If the latter, the gendering of toys is particularly pointless/bizarre, but then it is also no more arbitrary or imposing than careful gender-neutrality. In other words, it may well be that it is after the age that we have preferences that flexibility/neutrality makes a difference, rather than before.

      1. I don’t know which it is, or if it’s even necessarily one or the other. I assume that I probably picked up my attachment to “boy stuff” through my peers. My dad who was in charge of my toy procurement was definitely more neutral in what he presented to me compared to what the other boys around me had. On the other hand when kids who have had the gender roles clearly pushed on them go counter with their own choices (for example ) I think there must be something else at work.

        A forcibly gender-neutral selection may be no less arbitrary, but if there are going to be “pink and blue” choices they will be more polarizing at the point where the kid’s community is saying “this is what you’re supposed to like as a boy/girl” because those toys get incorporated into that process, which is early on. If the received that conditioning by the age of (let’s say 6 just for the sake of whatever) without the help of gender-stereotyping toys, then at least you can say the outcome of it is not skewed by what their toys have told them. If at that point they ask for a Cammo Warrior Helmet or a Pink Unicorn Leotard and you give it to them, it’s more likely following their preference than setting it.

        If you’re talking about flexibility making a difference in that you can buy them what they ask for vs. what they’re expected to want, I think it should be that way at any age. At an earlier age, they might actually pick out G.I. Joe based on color alone, but if it’s either that or Barbie I definitely wouldn’t say that flexibility makes less of a difference in that stage. They need as much variety of choice of shapes and colors as they can get for whatever will help their visual and spatial development. If those choices would otherwise be limited or categorized by gender baggage then flexibility is more important at that stage than ever.

      2. A friend of mine was recently invited to a baby shower; she was told the baby was a ‘girl’.  she bought a light purple, lavender colored baby bottle as a gift.  All the people present, including the parents of the baby were shocked and extremely disappoving that the bottle wasn’t pink, even though it was a fru-fru color.  The mother has never used it.  When she related the story, every other adult in the room asked her what the hell she expected, duh.   Kiddos eyes probably aren’t even focused yet, so I can assume that these strongly gendered objects (even asthma inhalers come in pink or blue) are not just a reflection of children’s innate gendering, even in the rare cases when the kid pops out cis-sexed and sterotypically straight. 

          1. No, you are mistaken.  Pink/blue is a purely 20th century conceit, with many “experts” and outlets advocating pink for boys even into the 1930’s. 

            In Victorian times, both genders wore white or unbleached, and mostly dresses for the sake of simplicity.

          2. That’s possibly the only thing that makes me wish I’d lived in Victorian times. Once when I was very young I told my mother pink was my favorite color. She didn’t overreact, but with an edge of fear in her voice said, “Oh, no, pink is a girls’ color.”

            It bothered me, although, at the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I didn’t resent girls for being lucky enough to “have” a color I liked, and I didn’t stop liking pink, but I never said again that it was my favorite color. I think it was, for me, the beginning of learning to lie.

          3. I toured a Victorian home and at one point the docent showed us a portrait of the owner’s son when he was around 7 years old. He was dressed in a frilly white cotton dress, had long hair curled and with a bow. 

        1.  Sheesh, what ever happened to just saying, “Thank you.” when someone gives you a gift? Having bad manners is more pernicious to a kid than any “wrong gender” gift.

          1. Ahh… but don’t you know??? His might fall off, or she might grow one. Horrors of horrors, think of what almost happened!!!

      3. There’s pretty good indication that the specific things are entirely arbitrary (even things like “active toys” vs. “nurturing play”), but that at preschool/kindergarten age, kids are in a stage of development which demands order and static rules. This means they latch very strongly onto things like gender coding — it’s nice to be secure in being a boy or a girl, since we continuously reinforce how important the distinction is in our own behavior and language.

        This means that toy marketers are just giving kids what they want when they push things into very segregated markets. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. The things that preschoolers want aren’t necessarily the best choices for a functional grown-up society, after all. And it’s particularly disturbing when the message is “girls can be anything they want, as long as it’s a ballerina, fairy, princess, or unicorn”. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but it’s sad that we as a society are providing such limited choices at a crucial age.

        Additionally, little boys and girls playing together is documented as leading to healthier relationships and attitudes when they grow up. If the toys are segregated, playing together is even harder than we make it already.

        1. Additionally, little boys and girls playing together is documented as leading to healthier relationships and attitudes when they grow up. If the toys are segregated, playing together is even harder than we make it already.

          Makes sense. If you don’t grow up thinking of the other gender as ‘peers’ then, deep down, you will see them simply as ‘others’.

        2. Can you cite any data that shows that small children are even aware of something as relatively esoteric as “gender”?  Small children have a strong urge to please, and to conform to expectations.  “Gender coding” is a social projection, not innate.  If you change the social expectations of “Gender coding”, a child’s behavior invariably adapts to reflect the new expectations.  

          Marketers are NOT giving young kids what they want they are giving the Parents what they want their kids to want.

          1. Children are much more aware of ‘size’ and wanting to be grown up than gender – pretty much until puberty if they are left alone and not required to try to solve their parents gender hang-ups for them. 
            Of course, after puberty size can still be an issue….

      4.  Our parents made a very conscious decision to raise us (two girls) as gender neutral as possible. Some concessions were made, as my mother had absolute control over interior decor – which meant floral paisley couches, carpets, douvets, and, yes, floral paisley dresses . . . but the dresses were reserved for special occasions. Otherwise, pants, shirts, and functional haircuts until we expressed an opinion otherwise (I still haven’t bothered to change my “look”).

        My sister wanted Barbies, Cabbage-Patch dolls, makeup, Lego, and books.
        I wanted Tonka trucks, He-man, Lego, books, and videogames.

        If you’d looked at the toys in our house, or even watched us playing, you’d think our parents had a boy and a girl. I even pulled the heads off my sisters Barbies and hit her with their decapitated corpses.

        What does that say about gendered toy choice? Well, not much because that’s a tiny sample size :D

        But I think it says that some kids will pick distinct and internally consistent types of toys, but it doesn’t have to be linked to sex or gender.
        Either that, or I’m just not strongly gendered. *shrug*

  3. I always find Harrods extremely disorienting. Once you find your way in it takes hours to find the exits. I think they are just trying to confuse all their Arab and Russian customers to keep them in longer to spend even more money.

      1. I never have any trouble! But I live about five minutes from I-5, up in Northgate area, so nyah. ;) 

        Where are you at? I know there are some really convoluted highway exits south of downtown… It’s hilarious, my boyfriend used to make fun of me for getting lost in Seattle until he moved out here himself. “It’s a GRID! How on earth can you get lost?” I would just laugh and laugh at him and he never knew why, until he saw for himself. :)

    1. “They are just trying to confuse all of their customers to keep them in longer to spend even more money.” 

      FTFY. And, I would be surprised– nay, shocked– if an established luxury store such as Harrod’s didn’t employ a standard retail/merchandising space organization tactic designed to maximize total purchase amounts by both disorienting and overwhelming customers and keeping them in front of products longer.

      Ikea doesn’t just worship at the altar of this religion; they built the temple. That’s a literal maze practically constructed of collection plates.

      1. I’ve never been to an IKEA that didn’t have shortcuts to bypass large sections of the store, though.

        Intentional shortcuts, mind you. I think they are even marked and on the maps.

        1. Beware – they just did away with the cut-throughs on the merchandise floor at our local Ikea. 

    1. IIRC Hamleys has five gender-neutral floors, and a boys’ floor and a girls’ floor, both of which just have dolls. (Yes, it’s huge.)

  4. When I was a kid, I was a huge He-Man and the Masters of the Universe aficionado.  As I  was collecting the figurines, I eventually got around to getting the Teela figure.  But if somebody called around, I actually used to hide the Teela, because I was afraid it was too close to owning a doll, and hence unmanly (or boyly, or whatever.)  How crazy is that?  Owning a blonde beefcake in a loincloth was cool, but owning a girl figurine was sissy!

    1.  Then you get to about 12-ish, suddenly He-Man seems a bit crap and yet the Teela figure starts to make you feel funny. So you continue hiding it, but for different reasons.

      When Reverend Whogivesashit babbled about how 11-year-olds have a “good instinct” to be afraid of homosexuality, he proved what I always suspected: the only creature more effed in the head than an 11-year-old boy is a fundamentalist preacher.

      1. The tone of your reply seems vaguely harsh, although I may be completely misreading it.  My point was just that gender specified toys don’t make any sense – even by the standard of the supposed norms that they are designed to inculcate.  I don’t  think that many 11-year old boys are effed in the head – but the cultures that they grow up in may frequently be.

        1.  Damn… I didn’t mean that to be harsh to you in any way. All I was trying to do was riff on your “How crazy is that?” sentiment, which I completely agree with. I was trying to portray the irony of how it goes, in a sympathetic way. If it sounded sarcastic I must have really botched it.

          When I said that 11 year olds are effed in the head, I meant in so far as that’s what puberty normally does to you. Fundamentalist preachers, on the other hand, have no excuse.

  5. Hopefully this catches on. I have met a few women in my day that struck me as being over exposed to pink at an early age. Also a lot of men that have horrible taste and spend their entire life surrounded by broken plastic junk.

    1.  Now come on, there’s NOTHING wrong with that stuff! I just haven’t got round to fixing it all yet…

  6. The current the Olympic soccer balls are somewhat pink – am I a bad person if I originally assumed this was specific to the women’s game? (and that one might make an interesting gift for a friend’s little girl).

  7. When I design and build my own toy store, I will make sure the critters from the enchanted forest are grouped with items from the miniature toy world and the sweet shop.

  8. For a moment I thought they wrote “sweat shop” instead of “sweet shop” ;-).
    THAT would be an idea!

  9. Not for nothing, but these photos make this toy department seem like the most joyless, drab place on earth  (particularly the beige-toned first image).  Isn’t it possible to be gender neutral AND colorful / fun? 

    1. It’s the photos, I can see that there must be more colour there than the photo/lighting seems to depict based on the toys themselves. 

      Although it is certainly brighter in person by my estimation, bright primary isn’t the only way to have fun colourful environments. Look at the way the display tables in the candy department work for instance. 

      Personally I’m tired of red, blue, green & yellow everything in bold primary colours being the choice for kids environments. The kids have it in them to excite themselves and the environment without that or the way it is in many places, with pink sections and blue sections.

      Funny that though, you can find in the blue sections all bright colours save pink, but int he pink section most other colours are hard to find.

      1. If you want your home in Architectural Digest, you have to coat the inside, including all the contents, in a thick coat of amber varnish.

  10. When my son was 5, he wanted to be Sailor Moon for Halloween.  I very cautiously explained that his hair wasn’t long enough, and he bought the line.

    But not long after that, he started picking up sticks and saying “bang bang.”   His mother, who forbade him to have any toy that even MIGHT suggest violence, was horrified.  Which makes me think that maybe nurture isn’t everything.

    1. Apparently we can’t influence gay or straight, and I’m not sure it isn’t the same when choosing between a football or dolls.
      Kids are going to emulate their role model… but how do they choose between Barbie or Brett Favre? At some point doesn’t it come down to predisposition?

      1.  I don’t know about gay/straight, however I was with a woman for five years who was also attracted to women. She has a very strong memory of her mother (at about 5 or so) telling her that ‘girls like boys and boys like girls and that’s the way it is’. Her reaction was to decide to like girls, just to spite her mother. I’m not sure if she might have simply found a memory to explain her feelings, however I wonder if variations between numbers on the Kinsey scale are affected by more than just nature. Stories of the Spartans seem to indicate that Huge amounts of environmental pressure can in fact change someone’s behaviour quite drastically.

        1. The Spartans are a pretty good example, and I’ve always thought that environmental influence must play some role. On the other hand as a “predisposition” argument, I could say I was told basically the same thing at that age, and though I had the urge to spite my parents on enough things during my life, never that one.

          But I really just shrug, since I think that once you get past the proposition that a particular orientation is Evil because somebody’s giant imaginary friend says so, then it ceases to matter very much.

          1. Tokugawa Japan is an even more interesting example.  When samurai announced themselves on the battlefield they’d devote time to recounting which mighty warriors they had slept with as young boys.

            Here’s a book on the subject.

        2. perhaps her mum felt the need to “guide” her because she had already sensed her daughter leaning that way? Perhaps the anger your girlfriend felt wasn’t rebellion, as much as an insult to her natural instincts?
          My cousin was a soccer player as a youth, while his younger brother (I would say 5 years old at the most) pretended to be a cheerleader on the sideline. Today the cheerleader is hair stylist. :)

          Good point about the spartans- it suddenly dawned on me that of course society plays a role in behavior. And it brings me back to my earlier thought- is it really the toys that are influencing our children, or the hundreds of other people and opinions that they come into contact throughout every day? It’s going to be difficult to surround them with a gender neutral society.

    2. My girls went through a stage where they made everything into guns too.

      One is still very gun-focused.

      Did I mention that they’re girls?

        1. It is what it is.  I was just countering the idea that boys are innately interested in guns and girls aren’t.

      1.  I think that rocks. I’m a 40-yr-old woman and I still love guns and motorcycles, helicopters and jets. But I also thoroughly enjoy putting on a pair of high heels and a skirt and totally wowing the guys too. *shrug* It’s not mutually exclusive! :)

    3. You raised your son with no exposure to television, films, books, toys, billboards and the internet?

        1. Or daycare teachers… I’ve heard waaaaaay too many times of daycare teachers showing the child to a bit more “appropriate” play when the child was playing with toys geared for the other gender. And at least for my daughter, some of the teacher were clearly uncomfortable with my rambunctious daughter who loved to play with boys as she didn’t like playing any “boring” girl play (that is… sitting nicely in the corner playing with dolls). Fortunately, my daughter couldn’t have cared less, but a more sensitive child would surely have picked up on that what they were doing wasn’t really approved by the adults.

          Kids don’t grow up in a vacuum. And even we as parents send messages all the time, even when we don’t realize it.

    4. Why can’t a 5-year-old boy dress as Sailor Moon? (Yes, I know who Sailor Moon is.) When I was about 10, I dressed as a character that was of the opposite gender for Halloween and I’ve been fine ever since.

      1. I think it is really sad that girls can (and do!) dress up as male characters (my daughter has been a Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Darth Vader… and she sure isn’t the only little girl I’ve run into dressed as such), but when a little boy wants to dress up as a female character it really asks for _really_ big balls from the parents to “allow” him to do it. Why, oh why??? Yea, I do know why… a “girly” boy is a horrible thing, because… oh, my goodness… he might turn up to be gay!!! Yeah… we live in a screwed up society. But… I do think there is going to be a day when little boys can dress up as Supergirl or Sailor Moon and nobody bats an eye.

      2. I went as the Flying Nun when I was ten, in 1967.  My mother made me a very nice habit and wimple.

          1. And yet, every time the BB banhammer comes down on some troll or spammer, I will henceforth picture it being wielded by the Flying Nun in Palm Springs.  

    5. But… um… you just told us that you didn’t approve (or felt uncomfortable… well, at least not supportive) of your son’s choice to dress up as a female character. Are you sure you aren’t doing more “nurture” than what you think you are doing. Your son isn’t stupid, he wants to please you and not do something that you don’t approve of… and he will pick up on you being or not being uncomfortable with his choices.

      Do you have a daughter? How would you react if she picked up a stick and went “bang bang”? Nature or nurture? For instance, for my daughter every stick is a light saber.

  11. I know there are only 4 pictures, so it could be deceiving, but in that 4th picture there seems to be an awful lot of pink and Hello Kitty. Since when was Hello Kitty gender-neutral?  Or by “gender-neutral” do they really mean “no boy stuff”? Also, putting the sweets anywhere near the plush animals seems like asking to have your merchandise ruined, no?

    1. The point is that Hello Kitty isn’t segregated to the pink section.  There’s a Stegasaurus behind it in one picture, and lots of other non-pink items (too small to distinguish) in the other.

      1. I wasn’t talking about the giant Hello Kitty in the second picture, I was talking about the “other” picture.  In the other (the 4th picture),  there is one room, with one table of Hello Kitty stuff and two tables filled with pink stuff. If that room isn’t a “pink section”, I’d love to see what you think constitutes one then.

  12. As laudable as this effort is (I guess), they won’t do it twice.  When the season’s numbers are in, they will then know that both parents and kids were confused and didn’t know what to buy.   No Christmas bonuses at Harrods this year, folks.  Sorry.

    1. Not likely. It ha the potential to cut in either direction. The assumption present on this board is that gender specific toys/packaging/display are good for the manufacturer/retailer for preventing sharing of toys, reinforcing stereotypes that demand an equal number of gender specific toys per child per gender, and that parents are who fall victim t this, or rather, the children fall victim to their parents falling victim to it.

      But this is Harrods. Cost is less a determining factor in this market, these toys don’t hold a candle to some of the offerings for grownups in this market. 

      By no longer limiting the parent or child to a gender expectation with regard to their purchasing from a marketing culture aspect, they effectively offer twice as many toys as before to children whose parents can afford whatever they choose.

    2. Huh. Whenever I enter a store with my daughter, she picks up stuff, whether it’s pink, blue or some random plastic tubing in the hardware section.

  13. I’m all for letting kids decide what/who they are, but these photos are so drab and dull, it looks like they’ve just taken a toy department and ripped all the joy out of it.

  14. It’s amazing what adults will focus on as very important (gender identification in toys) yet most kids could care less.  This is not a gender discrimination or identification issue but, as others have pointed out, a marketing issue.  Caveat emptor…

    1. “most kids could care less”  I agree, but only because you mixed up this expression in the canonical way.  You meant “most kids couldn’t care less.”  In fact, kids do care; not because of any intrinsic masculinity or femininity of the toys themselves, but because young children are biologically programmed to watch how adults react to their behaviors and adapt their behaviors to achieve more desirable reactions.

      So the problem is that if adults care the kids will eventually care too.  If adults set up the store displays to enforce gender norms kids will catch on and enforce them too.  “If you choose not to decide…”  If the norms already exist then there’s no way to be neutral about this.  You either reinforce them or you don’t.

      1.  They also care about other kids. Kids want what “everyone else” has, because they don’t want to stick out. Sticking out makes you a target.

      2. The adults aren’t the only influence, however.  My kids’ preschool is a pretty relentlessly progressive place, and they’re heavily into avoiding any prescriptive gender norms and things like that.  They encourage all the kids to build things, to play dress-up, to run around and roughhouse, to sit quietly and read, to wear whatever colors they like and identify themselves any way they wish… all that kind of stuff.  And my wife and I went out of our way (because these days, you do have to go out of your way) to give our daughter and son as gender-neutral an upbringing (at least when it came to clothing, toys, decor, activities, attitudes, etc.) as possible.

        And yet, near the beginning of her second year at this school, our then 3 1/2 year old daughter really began embracing pink, and princesses, and fairies, and rainbows, and all that appallingly stereotypical “girly” stuff.  She doesn’t decry cars and building-toys and sports and mud puddles as “boy stuff,” but she just has little interest in that stuff.  Since she’s never been exposed to very much TV, movies, or other pop-culture media, it seems she’s absorbed these preferences at least in part from some of her classmates.  And despite the best efforts of the teachers to promote inclusiveness and gender-neutrality among the kids, when left to their own devices, they still tend to mingle mostly within their own genders.

        Our son, who turns three in a couple of weeks, inherited many of his toys from his older sister, and doesn’t mind putting on a dress and tiara for laughs, or occasionally snuggling with a baby doll.  But he has really embraced cars and dinosaurs and robots and monsters and tools and machines lately, even though our house and his schoolyard are full of plenty of fun things for all tastes.

        My wife and I scratch our heads a bit at this.  We’ve presented varying opportunities, and pushed nothing on them one way or the other.  When we were expecting the birth of our daughter, we painted her room a pale robin’s-egg blue to minimize the effect of an expected deluge of pink baby gifts from well-meaning friends and family.  Fortunately, that deluge turned out to be merely a trickle, but now that she’s moved into the larger bedroom, leaving the pale blue room to her brother, she claims to want us to paint her room guess-which-color.  We’re delaying any paint job for at least a year or two, so she can see how she likes the current beige-with-brown-trim for a while.  Anyway, despite our efforts, our kids (daughter in particular) are turning out to be pretty stereotypical in their tastes.

        I hope I don’t sound disappointed, because I’m really not; I’m just surprised at how they’re turning out.  But that’s kids for you.  Who knew they’d have opinions and tastes of their own?  ;^)

        1. My wife and I scratch our heads a bit at this.

          Do your children have zero exposure to all media? Do all the children with whom they interact have zero exposure to all media? Do those children’s parents all do everything possible to create a gender neutral environment? It only takes one child seeing one television commercial for the whole preschool to end up believing that girls who wear pink and play with dolls are superior to those who don’t.

          1. That was my overall point.  My children have more-than-zero exposure to media (a couple hours of NickJr a week, lots of books, a very occasional movie), but their classmates are a different story.  Peer influence has turned out to be considerably stronger than parental influence in this instance, even among 3- and 4-year-olds.  (Christ, I am so not looking forward to the junior-high years…)

            To their credit, the teachers at this school also go out of their way to combat the worst of the heteronormative gender crap, so that on those inevitable occasions when a kid tells a boy he shouldn’t wear that princess gown “because those are for guuu-rrls,” or a girl is excluded from the sandbox dam-building project by the boys, the teachers are always quick to challenge those underlying preconceptions.  And to good effect, too: watching the kids at play, particularly the five-year-olds who’ve been there for a couple years and are now getting ready to leave for kindergarten, one sees a heartwarming degree of collegiality, tolerance, and mutual respect among the kids.  This often leads to a bit of parental unease about whether their new elementary school environments will buttress or tear down these healthy mindsets.  Very few of the local progressive private schools (and practically none of the public schools) will bother to exert a hell of a lot of effort toward discouraging the pink-vs-blue gender stereotyping. They feel they have bigger, squirmier fish to fry.

            I don’t worry overmuch about it all.  So our daughter adores pink and rainbows and wants to be a ballerina and put tiaras on her baby dolls, and our son loves to crash his toy cars and terrorize miniature cities with his 2″ Godzilla figures… so what?  They both have friends and classmates who are different from them–kids with two moms, kids with very few toys, kids who attend church, kids who were adopted, kids of every race and shape and size imaginable, a girl who still has the penis she was born with but who insists she’s a girl–and they treat those differences akin to differences in hairstyle: occasionally useful for identification but otherwise largely unimportant.  Personality clashes have more impact than physical differences, and for that I’d say the school has been a good choice for us.

          2. replying to Donald:

            “(Christ, I am so not looking forward to the junior-high years…)”

            LOL.  You SO aren’t.  But it does get better.

        2. 1) As Antinous points out, our kids are much more exposed to social cues than we think…even that young;

          2) Kids go through all sorts of stages, including the ones that make us cringe….this too shall pass;

          3) Parents who have children of both genders have a tendency to ascribe specific behaviors to those genders when they might actually be individual differences instead.  I have all girls, and they couldn’t have been more different.  The one who went through a very long princess phase vs. the one who never cared for it at all, etc.  If the one who never wanted to play princess (despite all the hand-me-down items readily at hand) had been a boy, it would have been easy to assume I knew why.  But because she’s a girl, I knew it was just her nature.

          4) Just wait until the goth stage.

      3. My daughter was so completely gender identified when she was 3, 4 and up that she would only wear dresses. I couldn’t get her to wear pants until she was at least 8. It actually got difficult to find daily wear dresses for her after age 5 because most girls will get into pants by then. She also only wore “girl” colors – all colors except green and blue. She only listened to “girl” music – the soprano opera parts. I have no idea where she got some of these ideas. I mean, almost all the other girls wore pants long before I could get her into a pair, and no other kid I knew listened to opera at all. 

        Nevertheless, she is currently planning to become a scientist. She enjoys building toys and electrical types of toys. I spoke with a woman engineer at my company and she told me to encourage this by having her do any activity with complex instructions, such as building doll houses. I’ve bought her Kinex and arduino. She also took a computerized Lego class geared toward girls.

        I don’t believe that gender identification is bad,  but I’d like to see more engineering and building related toys geared toward girls and more of traditionally girl type play (nurturing, cooking, crafts) geared toward boys.

  15. Oh thank @#(*&! If I never seen pink again, it’ll be too soon. Denieces know my thoughts about this but choose to play it safe and who can blame them. This problem starts at 3 or earlier. Girls have eyeballs.

    Y’know, fwiw, there was a conservative family in my redneck town that only had two daughters. The elder one was consigned to the mother, and became a perfect little miserable homemaker. When it became clear they weren’t going to have any more children, the dad “got” the younger daughter, who became a good basketball player and an Olympian sharpshooter. Full scholarships to state universities in Alaska and West Virginia.

  16. When my niece was 2 we were browsing a toy brochure together. She commented it with “boy’s bike” and “girl’s bike”. She got them all “right” and nobody confessed to ever have thought her that consciously in any way. It was quite scary really. She couldn’t answer the question how she decided which bike was which and when asked “what if  a girl/boy wants to ride on that (opposite gender) bike?” she very adamantly replied “She/He doesn’t want to!”. Somewhere along the line our kids pick up the segregation very early in their lives. 

  17. I don’t know of any young person who could possibly be attracted to that dull, colorless isle of  drabness. 

    As an aside,  I designed toys for years (Mego, Vanity Fair, HG, etc)  and I can promise you the ONLY thing they care about is sales.  Period.  I am quite sure that Harrods is attempting to use this as yet another marketing technique targeting “enlightened” young (upscale) parents.  It has nothing to do with what a child may actually like to play with.

  18. In the near future, when 3D printers get even better, kids can make their own toys from what they imagine and design themselves. I wonder if gender will be a major theme then? 

  19. Gender is obviously a Very Big Thing in society and gender transgressions typically get worse reactions from more or less tolerant people than gay people get from bigots. Transgender and people far disproportionately face low income, legal employment discrimination most everywhere, crap housing, significant danger of being the victim of extreme violence, dangerous discrimination in the penal system, and marginalization even in the queer community (whom I believe added the “T” mostly to run their head count up). There is no way to raise kids without exposing them to this.

  20. Don’t know why so many people think it looks drab. I think it looks awesome, and very British Earth Tone which is quite attractive to me (and which I liked as a kid too). And, well, there’s a lot of bright red in the Hello Kitty section anyway :)

    I really enjoyed wandering around Harrod’s a couple years back. Amazing and endlessly neat stuff in there, including of course the multiple toy sections which did not seem super-gender-segregated at the time (though probably more so than this), actually.

    1. It looks neutral because of the scale.  It’s probably very colorful in real life.  You alternate red and green, then pull back the camera and you get gray.

      1. Yeah, I guess I’m just naturally focusing on the details? It’s the opposite case, where everything is bright and multi-colored and big and in your face, that blends into drabness for me.

  21. Knowing that boys have historically tended to do better in math than girls – starting in the primary grades – I did research in the ’70’s and found that one data-supported theory was that traditionally “boys toys” were more based around mastering spatial concepts than most marketed for girls’ – and that spatial concepts help vastly in grasping math as having roots in the real world.So I bought my three nieces (and my nephew) every kind of Lego kit I could find back in the day. This was at a time when the packaging and themes of most Lego sets felt more “masculine” than many today.  

    (“Girl’s toys” conversely, according to the same research, encouraged more practice of verbal and relating skills – and the girls got plenty of those from the rest of the fam by my lights.  Meanwhile, on a hunch, I concentrated on art and arts supplies for my nephew.)

    Four college degrees and three post-grad degrees later, the young women can all figure restaurant tips in their heads and one is a CPA!!  While my nephew has his MFA in photography and was recently published in National Geo.

    [Insert learned followup treatise on nature, nurture and such here.]

  22. I’m pretty convinced that this new grouping system won’t have any effect on the nature of the toys themselves, which will still be aimed, whether subtle or obvious, at boys and girls.  Because boys and girls remain the only acceptable gender expressions, sadly.  

    I hate to view this negatively, especially as a gender variant person rooting for change, but if you’ve ever been to Harrod’s you’ll know how painfully traditional it is (a bit of modern art doesn’t cut it I’m afraid) – I can’t help but seeing this as a way to garner positive press and attract increasing numbers of liberal and reasonable people.

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