Gendered crayons

Here's a set of gendered crayons from Melissa and Doug, whose image is of a cool, progressive toymaker. I found the "Truck Crayon Set" and "Princess Crayon Set" in the gift-shop at the Rochester, NY Hyatt yesterday, after checking in for the RIT appearance that I'm doing with Charlie Stross later today (tell your friends!).

One thing that surprised me about parenting was how gendered EVERYTHING is: gendered diapers, bottles, wipes -- even kid toothpaste comes in princess or butch action-dude versions.

Gendered crayons, Hyatt gift shop, Rochester, NY, USA


    1.  But actually they don’t.  Take a closer look.  “Princess” has 1/2 the crayons in a spectrum from purple through violet & pink to red.  There’s barely any green nor even a decent orange, and the angle makes it difficult to see if the two next to the blues are brown and black which are also important colors for drawing..  And “Truck” doesn’t get a decent purple.  (I’m not too keen on pink–OD’d as a kid I guess—so I’m not going to complain they aren’t there).

      1. This is the first thing I noticed. 20 shades of lavender are fine – if you buy the legitimate crayola 128 color box set. No green in a set of ten? What is this, North Korea?
        Why, back when I was a young genderless lad, our crayon boxes were a gender-neutral yellow! And the beige crayons had names like “skin color,” and in the suburbs we kids REVELED in our non-progressive crayoning ignorance.

    2. Yeh, that’s all very well until your kid wants crayons but all the pink boxes are sold out and there are only blue boxes left and she’s all upset cos she wants crayons but not in a blue box and she doesn’t even know why…  this shit totally pisses me off.  In Spain and Germany you can get clothes in y’know, green and yellow and purple and red and blue and black; in the UK all, but all, girls’ clothes are pink or white and sparkly.  In Spain for a week, my daughter got a wooden sword, drew the Eye of Thundera on it and was inseparable from it for a week.  She slept with it in her bed.  At home, it’s just different.  She is who she wants to be, but who she wants to be is controlled by forces beyond her control and it pisses me off because there’s only so much I can do to protect and empower her.  One Hallowe’en she dressed up as Batman and seriously everyone was like “Oh Batwoman, how cool!” and couldn’t understand why she was getting upset.  Cos she obviously wasn’t Batwoman.   She was fucking BATMAN!

      1. ” and she’s all upset cos she wants crayons but not in a blue box and she doesn’t even know why…”

        THIS. They’re being brainwashed and they’re helpless. :( It’s fucking hard to be what you really want to be when all the world is telling you you should want to be something else. Most kids crack under that pressure and conform. 

        1.  Yep, just like religious indoctrination.  I’m one of the lucky ones who grew up to think for myself.  (it took a lot of hard work, and some great teachers who could easily counter the bullshit party lines drilled into my impressionable child skull by my parents and sundayschool teachers.)

          Religion is so pernicious, in that the indoctrinated adults think it’s imperative to brainwash and shelter children to the point that they simply won’t engage with thinking society.  The thinkers are all unrepentant sinners.  Everything they do is “against god’s will.”  You can’t pay attention to anything the agents of say, because satan’s tricky and uses logic to confuse you.

          Well, logic works bitches.  It works, and so does science, and freethought.

          And I wasn’t even part of a cult.  Just brought up in churches that liked to think of themselves as “god’s spiritual army, tasked with speaking out against all evil.”

          especially if that “evil” is “unnatural desires of the flesh” or “unnatural ideas about the world.”

          Long story short:  Children are damn vulnerable, and teaching pro-faith pro-shame anti-thought ideology to children is tantamount to abuse.  It’s dangerous, and perpetuates a cycle of anti-progress in the world.

      2. You must have been to exactly the right stores in Germany then, since usually, it’s just the same here: girls get pink or pastel-colored stuff which doesn’t even have decent pockets or something. Even as a grown-up woman, it took me ages to find gym clothing that wasn’t pink/purple/turquoise/yellow, ridiculously low-cut and ridiculously tight-fitting. Nothing wrong with wearing that stuff if you want to, but personally, I don’t, and you rarely get any choice. Men get all the colors I like, like black, red or a decent (non-pastel) blue. Also, yay for your daughter and her sword :-) I do historical fencing and combat reenactment and I always love seeing other women or girls who like that sort of stuff. Hope she won’t be discouraged.

        1. Isn’t the historical reenactment world particularly hard on modern concepts of gender equality? In my limited experience, women trying to portray roles which were almost exclusively male are frowned upon.

          (just curious)

          1.  Guess it depends entirely on who you’re with. English Heritage are complete arses about it, but from my experience most re-enactment units are fine.

          2. Historical fencing is a martial art, and like any such is entirely open to both genders – it only requires the willingness to practice with your sword.  (Historically, medieval female soldiers were more common than most people suppose, although still rare. I:33, pretty much the oldest fencing textbook we’ve got, clearly illustrates the student with sword and buckler as female in one sequence.)

            General reenactment groups tend to have bigger problems, but there’s a lot of variation.

          3. As for fencing, Tynam is perfectly right: it’s sport/a Martial Art, so no problem. Of course, the groups are still male-dominated because fewer women think something like that could be their thing. But it’s not banned or restricted for women… you train with the guys, and if you want, you do tournaments with them.

            With reenactment, it mostly depends on groups. My group is fine with it for the most part. Of course, serious historical groups won’t like it if you run around in Xena-like armor or ten women at once play Joan of Arc or something. In practice, it means you play a male role when you’re fighting – put on pants and “normal” armor, tell tourists who ask that, as a modern woman, you’re free to choose, but you’re in a male role. For the most part, it’s a non-issue anyway, since you’d need superpowers to even notice the difference under all that metal, padding and a visored helmet.

          4. You also have groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism which at times can be more like a historical culture fandom, depending, like rednick said, on who you’re with. There’s the phrase that the SCA is “the medieval ages as they should have been” with gender equality, sanitation and religious freedom.

          5.  There was actually a tradition going at least as far back as the late middle ages, and very probably before that (however the documentation is absent) of women who disguised themselves as men, apparently passing themselves off as men and fighting within armies.  Obviously the records reveal when these women were caught, but given that many appear to have “passed” for years it is reasonable to think that many did evade detection — or at least detection by somebody who had a problem with it. 

          6. Here in Qld, Australia, at a recent Medieval Festival there was thrice-daily jousting, and one of the the participants was a woman from England, an organiser of jousting tournaments. At the end of every run, she would push back her visor and laugh out loud joyously, a habit which quickly endeared her with the crowd. She gave the more experienced male competitor a run for his money, and the younger male competitor a very fierce battle.

    3. Except ‘princess’ is a feminine noun. 

      And, wait, are you saying the use of monkey-wrenches and dildos is restricted to a particular gender?

      1. Historically, construction has been a male endeavour. I can’t remember the dark/light situation, but it varies by culture and time period, so the guess there is “arbitrary”.  Most important, it makes marketing easier by widening and strengthening an already existing cultural trend. It plays to insecurities while making purchasing decisions easier.

        Labels mean we can stop thinking. There are pros and cons to their use. But marketers really really like it when we stop thinking. There’s lots of ways this sort of arbitrary division feeds into profits.

    4. Because it’s pointless and not helpful. I never got confused about my gender because crayola had a yellow box? What the hell is wrong with us that we are so obsessed with this?

    1.  Somewhere in the cavernous offices of  Melissa and Doug, the hidden cameras show an angry parent who  has bought the two sets while screaming at the top of his/her lungs:  “We must not allow our children to be manipulated!  Let’s show these bastards what equality means!”.
      The full wall projected sales graph points to the heavens and someone quietly murmurs:  Excellent.

    1. I like both too. The only problem with that was that, for a very long time, I was put into the blue category thanks to my biology. I’m finally resolving that problem, despite all the stumbling blocks of money, money, health insurance companies, money, and the psychological hell I’ve spent most of my life in, both from inside myself (trying to pass as a given gender when you just plain don’t fit is cognitive dissonance gone too far) and from outside (societal pressures and well over a decade of bullying from people who done spot sumfin differnt and gave me hell for it).  And, yet, the parts of me that like the mechanical engineering, the hacker’s spirit that got me on the Internet twenty plus years ago, the hardcore geekery won’t change.. much.. 

  1. Not only are they not “gendered”, they don’t even make any appeal to any specific gender. If pink and blue and trucks and princesses make you think they’re for children of one gender or another, that’s in your head, not on the packaging.

    OTOH, if it said “crayons for boys” or “crayons for girls”, that would be another matter, and it would be the worst thing I have ever seen, and would make it all the more horrific when they inevitably are mashed into your brand new couch, melted into your clothes in the wash, and scrawled on the bedroom wall.

      1. The point soodonim is making it that it is *your* supposition that makes blue boxes and trucks for boys and pink boxes and princesses for girls. After all, blue and pink are just wavelengths of light. And light could care less if your children have some sort of debilitating truck or princess obsession.

        Yes, the products play on existing cultural tropes but they are only meaningful if the consumer buys into them.

        So why not buy the pink princess crayons for your son? Why not buy the blue truck crayons for your daughter? That is *your* choice of how you ascribe meaning to colors and objects.

        1. “After all, blue and pink are just wavelengths of light.” 

          Well, if everyone understood that, there wouldn’t be a problem, would there? In reality, however, kids are bombarded from all sides with the idea that blue construction toys are for boys and pink beauty toys are for girls. Some of them are strong enough to withstand the brainwash, but 9 times out of 10, if you give a boy a pink princess toy, he will not be happy. Because he’s been taught that pink is for girls, and if he likes pink, he’s not a real boy.

          “Yes, the products play on existing cultural tropes but they are only meaningful if the consumer buys into them.”

          Pointing them out as harmful is a way of not buying into them, you know.

          1. …you really don’t understand that the packaging in question is part of the problem? You think it has to say ‘boys only’ and ‘just for girls’ to meet the criteria?

          2.  No, they are human perceptions of mixtures of wavelengths of light.  Two objects which a person perceives as identical colors could be sending entirely different wavelengths of light to the eye.

        2. I have not ascribed that supposition to pink and blue, neither in this thread nor in our household discourse.  At the fear of repeating myself, I have laid down a challenge to find truck crayons in a pink box and princess crayons in a blue box.  (There is a point attached to the challenge…)

        3.  OR  buy some other brand that works with your politics(is it politics? I’m not sure) and tell these stereotyping asshats that your child likes tangerine crayons!

        4.  this point would only be valid if the set was labeled more descriptively to itself: i.e. “Blue Shades Color Set” or “Pink Hues Set”…. However, it did not.  It was labeled with heavily gender-implied labels with “trucks” and “princess”.  These convey a clear marketing message where the target consumers for the blue set are boys and the consumers for the pink set are girls. 

          It is not “our” choice to ascribe meaning here – the meaning is already ascribed and strongly implied to the point that I’d even say it’s functionally explicit.  The use of symbolism to target boys v. girls is too heavy to dismiss.

          Your point would further be bolstered if there were some other sets such as “tree set” with a green-bias set of colors, or a “Lemon set” with different shades of yellows and oranges.  However, this is not the case.  We have clearly set and recognized use of pink “princess” and blue “truck” symbols only. 

      2. I challenge @soodonim:disqus to find a “PRINCESS” that isn’t female. To the best of my English-speaking knowledge, “Prince”=male and “Princess=female. So, yes, it does imply, at the very least, that boys shouldn’t get the crayons in the pink box.

        1. @soodonim:disqus  Thank you for trying.  I think we must now ask ourselves howcome there aren’t any pink truck boxes out there, or blue princess boxes? If the gender stereotyping was all in my head (and it isn’t) then there would surely be pink truck boxes, right? And blue princess stuff, because the colour is just a wavelength and has no rational meaning attached to it.Our society has, however, imposed symbolic meanings to certain symbols and colours – it was not ever thus, there is evidence that in Victorian England pink was considered the “stronger, more masculine” colour – and so it is not the words which convey the “for boys” or “for girls” but the colour. Unless one cuts off all connection from local parent/toddler groups, television, toy shops and grandparents, it is extremely difficult to avoid that a child picks up on this social conditioning.
          Now, there is no problem with being a girly princess girl, nor with boys who like trucks. I, however, find it difficult to accept that, from an extraordinarily early age, that my kid has felt constrained by gender stereotyping from doing things she wants to do. She was worried she shouldn’t pretend to be a pirate. She has needed repeated reassurance that it’s OK to wear her dinosaur pyjamas because they were bought in the boys’ section.
          Crayons have no inherent gendering. The non-random (as your research has discovered, thankyou) and ubiquitous assignment of colour, in combination with the word “princess” assigns a gender to each pack which does not need to be there. This is a de facto reinforcement of the pre-existing cultural limitation to which my daughter is subjected. She should not feel excluded from liking trucks. I, as an adult, understand that TECHNICALLY, she is not excluded from buying the blue truck box, but she’s only a kid and, despite our best efforts, has received a very clear societal message about what is expected from her. This kind of marketing is part of, and reinforces, those messages and expectations.
          She should not have to repeatedly worry about what people will think of her when she simply follows her interests. It is good and appropriate when manufacturers are called out on this sort of thing.

    1.  You could not be more full of shit here if someone reversed the polarity on your enema bag.

      They do not have to *say* “crayons for boys” for it to be the case, and to pretend otherwise is staggeringly disingenuous. The kids will know exactly what gender roles are intended, the manufacturer obviously knows that they will know, and their actions are perpetuating the whole stupid system. Objecting to this is not just some kind of delusion, as you seem to imply.

    2. Its not in our heads, its in the culture. The binary is presented and rammed down your throat from the time you’re born. Blue balloon, “It’s a boy!” Pink balloon, “It’s a girl.” Peruse the toy catalogues sometime. You’ll see girls playing with kitchen sets and princess dolls, and boys playing with trucks and science sets. Try to find an example of boys clothes that are pink, or any marketing towards males that use pink.

      The reason its important to point this shit out is that its NOT explicit. It’s coded. And it’s pervasive. And the fact that you think these aren’t enforcing lockstep gender roles is incredible to me and one of the best examples of willful naivete I’ve ever seen.

      1. What you call willful naivete is what I and soodonim call nuance.

        Asside from your takedown, I agree with you. But the wrong castle is being stormed here. It’s not what the crayon people are doing to us. It’s what we’re doing to ourselves. That’s the endgame in there being no explicit gender assignment to these crayons.

        And maybe that’s what Cory had in mind for his post. But what he got was a whole lot of “Kill the monster.” When in actuality the real monster… IS US! IT’S A COOKBOOK!!! IT’S A COOKBOOOOOOK!!!

        1. Bull-fucking-shit! The only reason people buy into the gender assignment crap is because of MARKETING. Its awesome that you’re so wonderful and enlightened and liberal, but guess what, the moron market researchers control all of the megaphones that matter. THEY’RE the ones flooding the stores with gender propaganda. THEY’RE the ones that insist that Lauren Faust’s female superhero cartoon show could never succeed. THEY’RE the ones that made it a social death sentence for a boy to wear pink on the playground. Fuck your concern-trolling masquerading as “nuance.”

          1. “the moron market researchers control all of the megaphones that matter” Don’t know how they got so much control, being morons. Clever, greedy bastards, maybe. And I disagree with your statement “THEY’RE the ones that made it a social death sentence for a boy to wear pink on the playground”, nope. That would rest on the shoulders of the parents of the bully handing out the death sentence. And the teachers/adults in charge who didn’t shut that bully down the SECOND they made noise about someone else wearing pink. And Honey Boo Boo’s parents. 

          2.  Nuance!? That’s, um… bullshit. I’m going to take a stab in the dark here, but I’m guessing that the gender of your mind matches the gender of your body and you’ve never had the slightest discomfort or realization for a very long time it was any different. Gender is such a deeply ingrained part of cultural identity that it oft requires someone for whom gender is not automatic in order to realize that gender.. isn’t automatic, but that it pretty much seems that way. One learns gender cues from an exceptionally early age. The best way to describe gender’s role is hegemonic: as in, it’s pervasive, it’s all around us, you don’t – and most people can’t – think of any alternative, and most people wouldn’t want to anyway.

        2. Yes, we’re the ones who ultimately make the choices, but it’s the crayon people who are encouraging everyone (and they have a HUGE influence) to live in a world filled with bullshit. After I’ve made my own, reasonable choice, I choose to call them out on that crap.

      2. Actually pink shirts for boys of all ages are easy to find online so someone must buy them. That doesn’t mean they ever get worn. Obviously the marketeers like to keep it a closely guarded secret. They don’t seem to be so easily available in high street shops.

    3.  Clearly you don’t have children (or ones that have a sex) (or you’ve never bought them anything at a store, ever), or you wouldn’t touch this argument. Or you’re just playing with us. Actually, never mind. You’re just playing with us

    4. Even if they said, “Boy Crayons” and “Girl Crayons” those are just collections of shapes that we call “letters” and “words.” So if you ascribe some sort of gendered meaning to whatever shapes and colours that coincidentally happened to appear on these crayons, you must
      be the one that’s sexist.

      1. While Melissa and Doug typically put out a good product, these crayons are actually the worst drawing devices I have ever seen.  Terrible color imprinting and they have a tendency to break due to their brittle nature.

        However, they do not roll.  That’s about the best thing I can say for them.

        1. I respectfully disagree.  These (well, the nongendered 12-pack that includes purple, pink, and gray) are known in my house as “the good crayons,” and my son will look under furniture for a missing one rather than pull its analog from his Crayola 64 box.

          They’re not the least bit brittle, either – maybe ours were warehoused differently or they changed their formulation.

          1. This makes me feel better, as we’ve been pleased with Doug and Melissa in the past, but nobody has been impressed by these.

  2. Gah, I hate gender enforcement like this. I guess I’m biased, but I like the idea of raising children with a bit more fluidity when it comes to gender. Let them feel how they want, regardless of how society dictates. Crayons really shouldn’t be a determining factor, haha

  3. That reminds me of season 2, episode 15 of Punky Brewster. She sends in some cereal box tokens or something, and expects a tea set, but gets an all-terrain RC car instead. The rest, just needs to be watched.

  4. Anyone notice how the truck box doesn’t have pink and purple and the colors are bolder than the princess box? The princess box looks to have pastel shades and colors and has several varieties of pink and purple. Jeebus, the kids are hog-tied in their color choices, too!

  5. And what is the supposed harm from this? If there continues to be discussion and debate about equality of the sexes that girls as they grow up will be exposed to, then won’t these girls be able to choose to leave such gender identifying material if they want to? Are they to be vilified if they don’t? Should mothers be vilified for trying to recreate, for their daughters, the joy and fun they felt when they were younger playing with gender identifying stuff? Making a negatively big deal about gender identifying crayon boxes, to me, falls into the realm of absurdity.

      1. It seems people are practicing a form of sexism by believing that girls who play with “gender identifying” stuff are allowing themselves to become the weaker gender. I don’t see how allowing girls to play with stuff that they are attracted to will harm them as they grow up in a world that continuously demands for more respect and equality of treatment amongst each other. It seems time and energy would be better focused on those laws, rules, or practices in organizations that don’t allow an individual to be treated equally. Not demonizing people who buy certain things or wish to present a certain image about themselves. The cartoon you linked to is based on the false premise that white men are not rolling their own personal stone up a hill either.

        1. This isn’t about not letting girls play with pink princess toys if they like them. This is about pink princess toys being pushed on girls whether they like them or not, so in the end they end up thinking that they HAVE to like them. 

          Why do you think the company made the crayons like that? Because the method is already well in place. They’re adding to an already established division between genders because they know challenging it is difficult. They could have made the boxes in any other shape and colour, but they chose a well-known gendered model. 

          As to the comic, it’s not based on that premise at all. Try reading it again, especially the man’s response in panel four. You can even re-imagine it with a man pushing the stone up a hill, and talking to a woman about how, for example, he actually does want to be a nurturing, gentle parent without being considered ‘unmanly’. 

          The point is, ‘stop worrying about it’ only works for those who are privileged enough not to have to worry about it in the first place.

          1. First, most importantly, I’m not typecasting you as anyone, I’m just responding to what you wrote with things that I believe could change your mind. I have no idea who you are, what gender, colour, or nationality you are-  all I have to go on are your stated opinions. I don’t think you need ALL of the information from that video, for instance, because just now you’ve talked about the issues it addresses, but I do know there are some very resounding quotes in it that might give you a different idea about how to solve them. As to the comic, it was your suggestion that we were making ‘a big deal’ that reminded me very much of of the ‘stop worrying about it panel’.

            Sorry if you felt stuffed into a box. I hate when that happens to me- I assure you I was not trying to do that to you.

            Anyway, again, I am not arguing against girls wanting girly things. I already said that.

            Of course, if the issues you list are resolved, sexism will be over, but toys divided by gender are part of those issues. You can’t get to equal rights for adults unless you start with teaching children that girls and boys are equal. This is where the prevalence (not the mere existence, but the prevalence!) of pink princesses and blue trucks is a huge problem, because it teaches kids at their very youngest that the choices they can make in colours and toys are limited by their genitalia.

          2. Girls and boys are biologically and neurologically different though. That in no way excuses limiting or stopping their own pursuit to happiness. I agree in equal access to pursuits of interests(I think it’s ridiculous that their are not a lot of co-ed sport teams)  and equality under the law. I recognize that since boys and girls are neurologically different, a majority from a gender might prefer a certain structure of toys, and if an entrepreneur wishes to cater to that interest than I don’t see the harm. I see where limiting or stopping a child’s ability to play with a toy they really want to play with can be cruel if based off of fear of how “others” will react to such allowance.

    1. The harm is that children are being asked to choose whether they want to be able to use green or purple in their art, and they get the message that one choice is in line with a love of trucks and one choice is in line with a love of princesses. We’re already in the realm of absurdity.

      (also, why did you write about girls and not boys? is it hard for you to imagine that boys might grow to identify more with regal dresses than heavy machinery? I don’t think it makes you sexist in anyway, but it also doesn’t oppose femmephobia.)

      1. “also, why did you write about girls and not boys?”I had the thought of raising my own little girl on my mind when writing that response.
        You act like those two crayon boxes are the only choices for the child or parent to make. That’s absurd.

        1. Almost all toy marketing implies that these are the “correct” two choices. There are ZERO toys marketed towards boys that use pink. All the pink you see are being played with by girls in the ads. The coded message is that if you’re a boy and you wear or even TOUCH something that’s pink, you’re breaking some rule. You’re being weird.  You will be mocked and shamed by your peers.

        2. Well then, I’m glad you have this option in the market, so you can mix the joy and fun of gender performance with her love of coloring. And I hope some day there are so many toy options that your daughter will never be forced to play with something that doesn’t reaffirm and gently guide her femininity.

          1. Response to Vance:

            Sounds like you’ve got a pre-schooler.  You’ve got a long road ahead of you.  Hopefully you will allow yourself to learn and change as a parent as a result of all the life lessons that are going to be hitting you in the face.

    2. So, you think I enjoyed not being allowed to play with Legos, etc., when I was a child?  That I would want to continue the same limiting patterns with my own children?

      Or that women who grew up with gender-identifying toys and thus have fond memories of them did so because their parents made educated choices for them?

      You act like this is the first generation of girls being exposed to the idea that there could be equality of the sexes some day.  In the 60’s, I was told that I was so smart some day I could grow up to be the first female president.  (Remember when being smart was considered a prerequisite for the job instead of a red flag?)  I have yet to hear any girl be told that in my children’s generation, whether at school or among family and friends.  So much for ongoing “discussion and debate”.  Seems like retrograde motion to me.

      And yeah, I think of that as “harm”….to my generation, my children’s generation, and beyond.

      1. But by the same token my wife grew up playing with Lego and other construction toys.  She went on to get a degree in graphic design.  I played with Lego and a bajillion other building sets and I went on to get a degree in Engineering. 

        Now a days the only “tools” she really uses are gardening ones and a computer.  The only thing she creates are documents and plants.  Just because a child plays with a certain types of toys doesn’t mean she’ll end up being a specific adult.  More proof is the fact her younger sister (who played the more girly girl role when they were kids) now does home renovation projects and is comfortable with power tools.

        I will say my wife’s less girly nature as a child did carry over to being an adult, while her sister’s girly nature did as well – just not in their likes and hobbies.

      2. Not allowing someone to play with legos based on gender is very odd and sad. Is there proof that this is still a current dilemma faced by girls in first world countries where equality under the law and such have been obtained? 

        “(Remember when being smart was considered a prerequisite for the job instead of a red flag?)” As someone who helps out the small family business, I can honestly say that being smart and not needing to be micro managed is very much a current need.

        Equality of genders has been discussed since grade school for me. Which would be considered around 20 years ago. 

        1. “Is there proof that this is still a current dilemma faced by girls in first world countries where equality under the law and such have been obtained?”

          According to your definition, I don’t live in a first world country.  I’m in the U.S.

    3. “If there continues to be discussion and debate about equality of the sexes
      … Making a negatively big deal about gender identifying crayon boxes, to me, falls into the realm of absurdity.”

      They posted a picture on the internet for you to laugh at. If that’s making too much of a “negatively big deal,” I wonder what “discussion and debate” you would find palatable.

      1. Originaly my post was very close to this one:
        “tiredofitWow, that pisses me off.”I can see how with such a separation now, from other people’s comments, have made it difficult in trying to connect where I was coming from. A palatable debate would be in which someone is not emotionally whipped up at such a consumer item. Remember, these crayon holding options are not the only choice. Also, understanding that children that were purposely raised with gender identifying toys does not equal a life of despair for them as they mull over “what might have been?” if they played with product X.  Recognizing that a person can choose to no longer follow in the ways they were raised as well would be nice too.

  6. This goes on in all areas. I was looking at earphones at a local big-box store yesterday. They had a separate display of earbuds labeled “For Her”. All pinks and purples and whites and glitter gels.

    1. In TKMaxx, the assumption is that the entire store is for women (clothes! trinkets! bags! kitchen supplies!) and so the relatively small Men’s Section is clearly labeled. That’s where you’ll find all of the electronics. 

      1. Shit! I didn’t even know they sold electronics because I never go to the “Men’s” section. Why would I? 


      2. But your implying that women aren’t the target audience for clothing.

        Gap, Old Navy, hell just about every clothing store has a women’s section that is 2 to 5 times the size of the men’s.  Or you also have stores like J. Jill or Ann Taylor/Loft which are women only (at least in the store, don’t know about catalog.)

        Of course men have many less styles of clothes to focus on than women, and of course there are men oriented stores for things like suits.

        I’ll agree that there is a certain sexism if you will to marketing toward specific groups.  Tools and auto parts are good examples.

        1. Men wear clothes too, so I’d say the target audience for clothes is Humans In General. But that’s not what we’re used to.

          I really just find it funny that I always end up in a section specifically labeled MEN, when the products within are universal. Most clothes aren’t unisex- but ipod cases and earbuds aren’t exclusively male products.

  7. I don’t see any bias here, my daughters would be equally happy with either set. Just as they are equally happy playing with their tonkas or their dolls, or both at the same time.

    Although the girls probably have a bit more freedom to choose than boys who tend to get locked into “boy things”.

    1. Well, that’s your good parenting at work, but not all kids have parents who understand the problem of merchandise being colour-coded and gender-coded(and I wonder how you’ve raised yours so well if you don’t understand it either…). 

  8. Any adult buying this crap is imposing palette constraints on art created by freedom-loving children!
    (I still remember a Christmas in the 1950s when I received a Crayola 64-hue super-set with a sharpener built right into the box.)

    1. I grew up in socialist Poland, and every now and then our friend from the US consulate would give me a little gift, usually hand-me-downs from her kids. But once, it was a brand new box of Crayola.

      I swear, I heard angels sing. To this day, just the word ‘crayola’ makes me feel happy.

  9. what I hate is their stupid package design never has a cover so the stuff always falls out and gets lost.

    1.  These actually have a cover.  But this just means you don’t lose these terrible crayons.  They’re the worst I’ve used by far.

      1. great they figured it out for the product that was already broken, I miss when they were Camera Lights Action

  10. It’s not quite as bad as some people seem to think. These sorts of sets are the exception rather then the rule.

    Litterly the verry thing that google spitts out at you when you search for crayons are these:
    Kind of how almost every crayon set in stores look, sorted by color pallet and age with a green packaging.

    1. It’s one example. Step into a walmart toy section and tell me that gendered toys are an exception and not the rule.

  11. Technically, it doesn’t say ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. But we’ve been taught for years and years that blue trucks are for boys and pink princesses are for girls. Couldn’t they have made a red truck and a golden crown? Or a brown pony? Or a green flower? Or anything else that didn’t play into the stupid, stupid gender assignment?

  12. If you saw the catalog from the maker you would realize this is a choice of the store. They also make sets for mathematicians (all black and white with one red), Occupiers (various shades of ochre and olive with one red), news anchors (skin tones, includes mirror), homeless (small broken crayons and some bits of plastic), Soldier (many shades of gray with one red), and blogger (just the saturated primaries.) It is a really lovely line they have put together.

  13. If you’re considering buying anything other than the BIGGEST box of Crayola crayons you can find, then this is a moot point to the much bigger problem at hand. ;)

  14. The “everything is gendered” thing really bugged me as a new parent.  Neutral baby clothes?  Good luck!  Any store might have one or two things in yellow or green – a problem I just ran into again when trying to buy a gift for my brother’s baby shower, since he and his wife have opted not to learn the child’s gender ahead of time.

    And then it doesn’t even work.  I’d have my infant daughter in a flowered onesie and ruffly socks and people would ask “how old is he?”

    1. Yup.

      I was changing my daughter at a car dealership. She was dressed head to toe in pink – with ruffles – that day. A guy came into the restroom and asked how old he was.

      I don’t know if it was because of it being the men’s room or something or if he had all boys or what.

      But she also has an outfit that’s dark blue with guitars on it (it was on sale) that is clearly intended for boys given which side the top snaps are on. 

      Interestingly, in the Carters product line at least, all the “gender neutral” colors (yellow and green) we’ve bought have snaps on the “boys side” not the “girls side.”

      1. Okay that snap thing is SUPER baffling, and I’d never noticed it.  I know the historical reasoning behind men’s and women’s shirts buttoning on opposite sides, but how would that apply to an infant?  They’re not dressing themselves!

        1. Exactly.  Both genders should have the “girl configuration” snaps for those historical reasons.

          And the people that design the clothes where the entire inseam is constructed of snaps that fasten in all different directions should be sentenced to several years of trying to fasten their creations onto squirming 9-month olds, but I digress.

        1. yes – I am sure my daughters will grow up with horribly scarred gender identities from the ones that did up the wrong way. :)

          (It was a “Wait, What”? moment for me when i discovered this as well)

    1. Thanks for your input, old person. As someone who remembers what being a kid in the 90’s was like, I can tell you that when kids say they “like” something, they’re looking for approval from those around them, not expressing a fully formed preference. 

      Little Mermaid was one of my favorite movies as a kid, but I never would have dared to wear that on a shirt (had they even put shirts like that in the boys clothes) because I cared more about not being ostracized.

      1.  Exactly. When I revealed the things I really liked in elementary school, that was day 1 of my long career as school weirdo and outcast. At least, I was weird/fit enough so I wasn’t usually bullied, just utterly left out of everything.

  15. A) If you want to see gender specificity: just try to buy clothes. The designs and colors for kids are horrid. (Designs and colors for adult men are also mightily constrained).
    B) If you’ve ever bought Stockmar Block crayons, your kids and you will never use any other kind of crayon. Beeswax, saturated color and shaped like little bricks, they never break, smell great, and you can carve little patterns in the side and draw with them. 

  16. I once had a male friend who had a daughter that was starting to get into Barbie and other girl center toys and clothing.  He told me that he refused to get her any of this pink girly stuff because it perpetuated the idea of gender inequality.  I’m sure his daughter wanted to play with girls things because her friends played with girls things, and not letting her socialize with her piers could create other problems.  I suggested that instead of not letting her enjoy the things she wants, why not show her that men can wear pink and dress in the traditional feminine colours as well as girls.  I told him to go out and buy a few pink T-shirts.

    While I disagree with the word princess being used with these crayons, I would let my son, or daughter buy which ever one they wanted, and I would use it with them. 

  17. I’m a bit less sad about some little girls wanting to play with pink princess things than so many little boys thinking that being compared/associated with girls is no less than a profound insult. It sets a certain tone for gender identity and relationships for both genders (and not a very nice one).

    The pervasive ghettoizing- not only in toys- has effects that we easily see in our kids and even more in adults. If ‘pretty princess’ and ‘tough dude’ toys were just themes among countless others, it wouldn’t be an issue. But it happens to be the default categorization of toys.  Next time you’re in a toy shop, look at the boxes and count the ones you find that portray boys AND girls playing together. You will notice that they are the exception (in some cases, you won’t find any).  I don’t want every single princess/explosion-boy toys to be cast into a fiery pit and prohibited, I just think a WAY more balanced, diverse way to present toys (or any products/concepts) would be beneficial.

    1.  This! How many times have we seen groups of men being called “girls” or “ladies” as a form of insult.

      Toys should be for CHILDREN!


    These are the crayons you seek from Melissa & Doug. The triangle thing is awesome, can’t speak for any other aspect. Melissa & Doug are “meh” IMO 

    I don’t have any, but I do appreciate non-cylindrical marking utensils. When my lil boy broke all his Crayola crayons into bits I scooped them up and made them into large crayons using silicone  ice trays with cool shapes I had around and the oven I found in the kitchen. Now he has cool crayons that are too bulky to break and don’t roll around. He loves them.

    They don’t have crayons, but this company does a bang up job of offering things kids like without all the pink and blue nonsense, and the toys are top shelf, rubberwood, safe water-based paint that seems to dye more than paint leaving the surface feeling natural, and ours have yet to chip. These hand down from sibling to sibling with all the joy of a new toy.

    Also I’m going to buy the entire “Plan City” collection for my lil ones, so I can set it all up for them and help them play with it.

    1. Was waiting for that comment – yes, the crayons themselves are awesome, both for the triangular shape and for their overall crayonistic qualities – they’re harder than Crayolas and don’t try to stick to the paper with that little snap when you lift up after scrubbing them, but they leave a nice line without applying a lot of pressure unlike cheap hard “kids menu” crayons.

      My son has flatly refused a Crayola 64-pack in favor of looking under all the furniture for a missing color from the “good crayons” on more than one occasion. 
      They come in a nongendered 12-pack that looks exactly like the truck one was edited with a bandsaw.

      As for Plan City – that’s a serious chunk of cash for the whole collection, and the width is nonstandard for any other vehicle system I’ve encountered (the cars are too wide for a non-plan car track/table).  They’re very nice, but Plan has so much other awesome stuff that won’t be annoying in that “why can’t the logging truck make a delivery to Sodor Station?!” way.  

      The set of traffic signs has been a hit for years though.  

  19. A question for the audience. Why is it that women can wear pants yet men can’t wear dresses (at least according to social norms)? Is it because people think they look like sissy’s or that they really do look like sissy’s and if so, what does that say about our view of women?

    1. We live in a patriarchal society.  A woman tending towards the ‘masculine’ is seen as elevating herself towards the superior status.  A man doing the reverse  is lowering himself in a patriarchal society.  It’s the same reason that tom-boys are humored and ‘feminine’ boys are told to ‘man-up’.  As long as they don’t go so far as to upset the balance, it’s seen as cute.

      *Please remember that explaining isn’t the same as agreeing!

      1. Someone told me that in Japan it’s the other way around: men can be feminine, but a woman who is too masculine gets a lot of social disapproval.

        If they told me right, then “patriarchal society” doesn’t explain anything, because Japan is also patriarchal.

        1. Before we could even begin to address this, we’d need to understand what Japanese people of their generation understood to be masculine or feminine.  Remember that these definitions are *cultural*, and so we’d need to look at the culture they originated in.  For instance, in a culture which celebrates communal work, as Japan historically has, traits which we might view as feminine could be regarded in a more positive light than in a culture like America’s, which views the individual as the most important thing.  Without an insider’s (emic) perspective, it’s very dangerous to extrapolate from one culture to another.

          1. So, indeed, “patriarchal society” is not a explanation, or at least not a complete one, American individualism also plays a role. It’s not so much our lack of inside view of Japan as our lack of outside view of America.

          2. Not quite the point I was making.  Patriarchy is prevalent in both cultures.  What is defined as ‘masculine’  and ‘feminine’ may be very different, as may behaviours between different social ranks.  For instance, an American might view being supportive of other’s work at their own expense as feminine, and see this as an apparently acceptable feminization in Japanese society, where it would not seem to be from within.  What we value in a strongly patriarchal society (usually ‘masculine’ traits) may be different to theirs, warping our interpretation of their distinctions.

            Additionally, we don’t know which generation and age group this was referring to – adults or children.  Some cultures (and this changes with time) do not view children as having a sex or gender until puberty, and so the rules again may vary.

    2. As far as I understand it’s because there is a history of women being considered inferior, so a woman acting like a man is stepping up. She will either be praised for striving to be better (more like a man), or chastised for stepping out of her womanly, lower place.

      A man trying to be more feminine…well, according to that model, he’s always stepping down, lowering himself, becoming lesser than all the other men.

    3. I know I’m probably gonna get flamed for this, but here’s my take:

      Culturally, males have a lot more power/advantages than women do. It’s assumed that CEOs are male, doctors, scientists, etc. —  anyone with a position equated with power, influence and expertise is assumed to be male. And, as much as people hate to admit it, to be male is to have a distinct advantage in life. So, when a man chooses to adopt behaviors/roles strongly associated with being female, he is voluntarily giving up the power bestowed on him simply because he’s male. Many people (mostly conservative) are made uncomfortable when someone chooses a less powerful position in society. We like our rules, unfair as they are, because without them people would have to figure out who they are on their own, and what is acceptable and what’s not. Too scary! Easier to hate people who are different.

    4.  This is sort of hard to answer without there being dresses actually made FOR men. If a dress is tailored for a person with wide hips, shaved legs and cleavage they want to show off, it’s definitely going to look less-than-impressive on somebody without those features. Pants may be traditionally male, but they don’t emphasize any male-specific features. If you have legs and a butt, pants will probably look fine on you, no matter your gender.

      The only examples of dresses actually made for men that I can think of are kilts (more like skirts, really), lava-lavas (again, more of a skirt, and actually meant for both women and men) and Picard’s dress uniform from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The first two actually are pretty acceptable by social norms, even outside of their countries of origin, the latter… um. Your mileage may vary.

      1. Those Trek skirts disturbed the hell out of me, not because men wore them but because they were so short, they seemed designed specifically to make the wearer uncomfortable.

    5. Well, David Bowie did try to introduce Man Dress. Didn’t seem to quite catch on.

      But yes, I as a woman have more options than a man does. I work in a man dominated field, I can wear more or less what I damn please (skirt, dress, pants…), can have my hair short or long… can go all out silly cute, or suit up totally business like. Men have much stricter parameters they can move within without needing some really big balls. Or… a girl playing with a truck or a boy playing with a doll. Even though there are parents who wouldn’t like their daughter playing with a truck, I would bet they are very few, but I would also bet there are plenty of parents (especially dads) who would never allow their boy to play with a doll (and I don’t think the only thing is that they fear their son is a sissy, but that it will make their son gay… which is just so wrong and sad on so many levels).

      1. And yet, in other ways, our options are limited, too. What passes for perfectly tidy casual wear on a man is considered unkempt on a woman. Men can get away with jeans and a clean, good quality t-shirt even at a theatre (stage, not movie). If I show up dressed like that…weird looks.
        Also men don’t have to wear make-up. Fucking hate the stuff, refuse to use it…so often people treat me like I’m not a serious grown-up.

        Ever heard the phrase ‘she doesn’t take good care of herself’? Yeah. Code for ‘she doesn’t use make-up, style her hair or wear heels.’

        (that said, men still have less choice, so I’m more concerned with that. Just needed a little rant.)

        1. I was at a wedding yesterday.  Most men were in t-shirts or Polo shirts.  A few wore business-style shirts with ties but no jackets.  Only a handful of men who were not in the wedding party were wearing an actual suit or at least a blazer…all over 60 years old.

          Need I say how the women were dressed?

          One thing I learned this weekend: it is vitally important for your fingernail polish to match your toenail polish, which of course must match your dress.  Which in turn must have matching shoes, purse, and jewelry.

          I think my first mistake was not wearing fingernail polish at all.

      1. Best dad ever. Because it’s one thing to say ‘it’s ok to be yourself’ and quite another to say ‘I wouldn’t be ashamed to act just like you do’.

    6.  It’s about skin showing-the more the better. Look at the women on FOX news. They all wear very short, sleeveless, low cut, little dresses. All year round. They sit crossed legged surrounded by men in suits with ties. They act as a distraction so their brainwashed male minions don’t get a chance to ask questions or think about anything else.
      I know that’s an extreme example but in a society where women are valued more for their looks than intelligence, abilities, and talents in all fields of endeavor that’s what it comes down to–a meat market and men simply aren’t judged the same way. Lucky for them.

  20. Is it just me, or is this sort of gendered reinforcement more of a thing than it was when I (we?) were young… I’m mid-30s, BTW.  Toy stores seem more gendered now, and there is more of a concerted effort to promote distinct roles through toys. Maybe it has something to do with the Disney Empire and it’s reach into childhood now a days (I know a fair amount of folks here love Disney, but I think we need to wrestle with how Disney especially impacts how toys and the like are marketed to our kiddos – I don’t want to let other large corporations off the hook here, but I think it’s clear that Disney is a leader in marketing to children in many ways)…  Just a thought.  I also think that there is much more of a distinction between the “adult” world and “child” world, if that makes sense?  Maybe this is the just the “logical” outcome of the creation of youth/childhood/teenage years/tweens as a demographic to be marketed to (see Jon Savage’s argument in Teenage)?

    1.  Yes, it is. I’ve got two kids, seven years apart, and I noticed the difference even between the two of them: when the older kid was a baby, it was still possible to find baby clothes that were orange and green and generally geared towards babies, not female or male babies. When the younger kid was born (seven years ago), all the new baby clothes on offer were either blue or pink, occasionally white with blue or pink trimmings.

      1.  Glad to know I’m not the only one seeing this.  I often wonder if I’m being paranoid about such things and if others are thinking similar things maybe I’m not…  :-)

    2.  I’m in my mid-twenties and I think so– I spent a lot of time in toy stores as a kid and an adult, and I remember being in the “stuffed animal aisle” or picking up Littlest Pet Shop or RC cars without feeling like I was leaving “my” turf. We had the doll section, but the Little Pet Shop toys weren’t in the doll section. Now, they are, if we consider the doll section to be the pink part of the store that’s grown to encompass all toys that might be pertinent to girls. It’s an island of pink when before the pink was pretty much the Barbie and babies aisle. Also there’s no stuffed animal aisle. There’s the plush girl pet toy area, though, within the pink island.

      And I dunno if it’s just being an adult now, or what, but at least going into other parts of the store can actually feel kind of forbidding in ways that it didn’t when I was a young girl (mind, this is the SAME Toys’R’Us, only just realizing it’s probably 30 years old and wow.)

    3. It’s more than when my MOTHER was a kid. I’m amazed to see that, but she was going back and digging up some old ads and commercials to show me even boys being shown playing with their little sisters together. Baby dolls were definitely girl toys, but a lot of things we think of now as in the girl ghetto used to be more unisex even in the era of more rigid gender roles.

  21. I gotta side with the not really gendered crowd. They’re sets of colors chosen for coloring particular types of things, but not necessarily *for* one gender or another. It isn’t Boy colors and Girl colors, it’s Trucks and Princesses. Trucks are usually found in bolder color schemes, while princess tend toward the pastel. If the child likes to draw princesses, a set of crayons in princessy colors is a delight. 

    1. But why are those colours more suitable for those drawings?  We’ve gendered them.  Trucks are found in bolder colours because we’ve created an image of them as ‘masculine’ and therefore coloured that way.  Princesses need to conform to a stereotype we’ve constructed of ‘feminine’, and we’ve ascribed a set of colours we’ve decided are ‘feminine’ to them.  The crayons are just reinforcing/following the gendered systems that society has established.

      1. Not necessarily.
        Darker coloured trucks show up the dirt less. They also blend better with their surroundings.
        A princess will want to stand out from the crowd, to be noticed. And she doesn’t need to worry about getting dirt on her Balenciaga because it won’t happen… or if it does she can just give it away to a lacky.

    2. But *why* are pastels “princessy” colors?  Serious question.  Real princesses wear every color available, not just pale pink or lavender.  In fact, when was the last time you saw a real princess in either of those colors?

        1. Yes, but the pink super feminine blonde princess is a new fantasy that has been heavily transmitted as a consumer concept for girls in the last 15 years +/-

          Which sort of disgustingly dovetails with all the Victoria’s Secret pink horrors that have the word PINK written on them — or worse even the concept of “Diva” — which then dovetails with the pink “fundraising for breast cancer” crapola.

          I like pink as a color (but not the new generic pink being discussed here). It seems to me that it now has a deep cultural subtext of efficiently working as a signifier to trivialize and marginalize products for girls and women.

  22. If you live in certain parts of Canada, and like to take your truck apart and put it back together, you’ll be familiar with a shop called Princess Auto.  I’m not sure exactly what that adds to the debate, though.

    1.  I thought this was about gendered crayons.  Do diapers that are constructed differently need to have stereotypically different things on it (cars for boys and princesses for girls)?

    2. You just fold the diaper slightly differently.

      Oh, you mean the disposable kind.  You’ll notice it’s only somewhat about where the extra padding goes….most of the difference is that they have the same color and pattern gendering as toys.

  23.  Out of frame (you can just see the edge of the box, to the left) are the stereotyped crayons marketed to our third and fairest gender: Apologists.

    Featuring 18 precise shades of grey, they come in a plastic case shaped like an armchair.

  24. So how will we get more crayons if we don’t have gender crayons. Next you will be telling me that we get new crayons from parthenogenesis. 

  25. I don’t see the danger here at all.  I would rather be subjected to societal expectations and be allowed to make my mind up later in life than I would be denied all exposure to gender identification.   Children do not have the experience base necessary to make life decisions and parents that think they do are being stupid at best.  What you will end up with is an amorphous blob that identifies with nothing and nobody but its parents. This is not preparing a child to live in the real world, this is a crime. I agree that the market takes it way too far, but what else is to be expected?  It will get much worse. I swear, Princess-based anything is beamed directly into the minds of little girls. I can see why fathers would want a counter to that.  But telling a young child that he/she can be whatever gender he/she wants to be is damaging and wrong.

    1. You vastly underestimate children — and the power of our genes. Hard-line gender roles are good for exactly no one.

    2.  I think it’s probably better to try and equip kids with critical thinking skills as early as possible in order to help them negotiate these sorts of things (including consumerism in general and how that shapes our identities).  Because they crop up early in life and they crop up often.  The sooner a kid knows to take the world around them with a grain of salt, the better you set them up for a life in which bias and at times outright propaganda is constantly presented as fact. Hell, there are plenty of adults who need this lesson.

      And why is telling a kid that she/he can be whatever gender they want to be damaging and wrong?  Citation, please?  And by the way, we should not that we often celebrate the girl who embraces boy things yet we very quickly condemn a boy who embraces the feminine, which adds a whole new wrinkle to trying to understand the construction of gender in modern/post modern society. 

  26. Interesting that no one has mentioned that the girl oriented box is associated with royalty yet the the boy oriented box is associated with a blue collar occupation.

    1. Yeah, but it’s royalty with no real power behind it. A princess is considered an object to be fetishized and traded from father to husband (or to seal a political deal).  Also it’s associated with feudalism, a dead economic reality that only lives on in our collective mythmaking that reinforces various ideas about gender roles or class structures.  By way of contrast, a manly blue collar job (though in reality often looked down upon in our culture, treated with contempt in our economic policies) is celebrated in the american consciousness as being a doer and a breadwinner, the heart of the industrialized economy. I think it is also  intimately tied in with our collective mythologizing of the 1950s, when men were breadwinners and a man (provided he was white at least) could provide for a family 4 in an honorable and respected way in a blue collar field.

  27. I was dissapointed by Melissa and Doug’s products too. I went to a toystore to get gifts for neices/nephews and found huge M&D sticker albulms. The pink ones were clearly marketed to girls (princesses, gems, other pretty things), where the blue ones were clearly for boys (robots, trucks, sports). It seemed so over the top that it seemed almost worse than standard gendered toys.
    I bought something else and changed my opinion of the company that day…

  28. The gendered diapers actually do have a point. Well, not the stereotypical patterning, but different diapers for girls and boys as they need the extra absorbent stuff in a bit different places.

    1. Not as big an issue as the marketers would have you believe, at least not until kids get to the “training pants” stage. My boy/girl twins both wear Sesame Street branded diapers, which is a relief because it’s a big enough pain to buy them as it is. 

      I’ve noticed that all the muppets prominently pictured on the set (Elmo, Oscar, & Cookie Monster) are male, however.

  29. Write a note to Melissa and Doug and see what they say.

    From their site:To Reach Melissa or Doug Directly:

    Meanwhile, to route around the problem because children won’t wait, get some other crayons (those in the picture look kinda suboptimal to me anyway) and keep them in an old tea or cookie tin. Though those harder to open, tins don’t fall apart the way cardboard cartons and brittle plastic do, and tins can be very easily recycled. As a parent I benefited (and our white interior walls benefited) from knowing when the art tins were opened and art supplies deployed; very young children need help opening them and those tins make some noise when they are in motion. A useful heads up.

    Here are the crayons we keep in our tins:

    as well as the old standby Crayolas… though Crayola these days has many a regrettable product out there too. No idea if Crayolas are widely distributed but they are certainly cheaper. They don’t smell as good as beeswax crayons though.

    I think other people have weighed in well on the gender issue. Thanks, bOINGbOING community.

  30. Heck yes! My son received the truck crayon set for his birthday, and there is NO PURPLE in it! Two shades of grey? Yes. Three shades of blue? Yes. No Purple. I can see ditching pink–don’t like it myself, but isn’t purple one of the fundamentals? Would I ever buy my daughter that shit-sappy princess set? Ugh, made me so mad. 

  31. I see that neither set of crayons have any colors approaching any skintone of any ethnicity. Do they think that children don’t want to draw or color people of any gender ? Or that people have hair of a natural shade  ? Or do those people just have to be an outline that shows the white paper color ? Or are kids more sci-fi these days and prefer a green or pink colored person ?

    Yes, the gendered packaging is problematic, and stunts imagination all around.

  32. Those crayon sets are hideous.  That said, is it really so surprising that a company would use traditional gender marketing to make money?  It’s a strategy that works and making money appears to be the goal of most businesses.  The only way I can see to change this is to either not buy the gendered products or come up with alternative products that are financially more successful than the gendered products.  With the internet and etsy it is easier than ever to find alternatives to most products.  Or create  your own.   If gendered products stop selling, businesses will stop making them.

  33. This marketing divide is bullshit because it is not innocuous or cute.  It hurts both sets of consumers that are targeted by this segregated method by limiting what their perception of a “set of color” to be.   Art is a universal activity that needs no influx of gender-bias in it.  One entire rainbow should be available for kids to pick from, not these blue-biased or pink-biased sets that narrow the available field of colors.  When a kid gets the truck set and sees that the set of “all colors” (at least to them, this closed set of colors implies a representation of “all the colors”)  contains a mostly-blue distribution of crayons, that shifts and adds a bias in the mind that is absolutely unnecessary and unproductive.  Likewise of course, for the kid who gets the pink set. 

    1.  I think the mindset behind the marketing is more about being able to sell more products.  Sure, they sell them that way to appeal to the gender gap, but some number of kids are going to want both sets to have all the colors, and then you aren’t buying one set of crayons, but two, and they’ve increased their sales. 

  34. I have seen the real time appearance of these colours and gender associations coinciding with school.  At 4 my older son’s favourite colour was purple and he had no issues with any particular colour.  He did like trucks and guns and climbing, but so did some of his girl friends.  Shortly after starting kindergarten he abandoned purple and became very clear that pink is for girls and girls and boys are better at different things.

    The change was most clear when his 2 year old brother wanted pink sandals this summer.  He got them, to the theatric horror of his big brother.  It isn’t us, but the gender roles are clear in their peer groups.

    1.  I’m curious, how do you handle it, especially the shoe thing? Do you point out that not everyone thinks that way?  While I think as parents we have to contend with outside influences (advertising, schooling, peer groups and so on), isn’t the family unit the strongest influence on a child (in the long run)?  I’m not judging, cause I think this is tough stuff to handle…. I’m curious how you handled it…

      1. In the long run we are a strong influence.  But even at 4 or 5 kids (or at least my kid) become very conscious of fitting in at school, and most importantly not being singled out for teasing/bullying.  My 7 year old is a very confident, popular boy with high physical ability (much more than mine at that age) and 3 years of martial arts training.  He has no reason to be afraid of bullies, and he isn’t.  But he is afraid of being teased, and it is very clear that a boy wearing pink is going to be teased at school, or worse yet excluded from playtime at recess and lunch.

        I can’t do much about sly comments at school, but I do make it clear that he must not ever be the one making the comments.  That aside, he knows where the fitting in boundaries lie and he does not wish to cross them.  It sucks, but I am not going to let him be a martyr for my political/social views either.

        As far as the two year old goes, he has pink sandals because he wanted them – he is very proud of them.  When he gets to school in two years, he will be himself and handle the social dynamic in his own way.  I’m sure it will be completely different and we will support him any way we can.

  35. I’m going to split the difference on this one. There’s nothing wrong with the “truck” collection, as trucks pretty much use those colours. And if a girl happens to be into trucks, is there anything on the box that would discourage her? The blue?

    But coming from a British perspective, where we think of princesses as being women of any age with lots of money, prestige, and not much to do, the whole American girl’s “princess” fantasy seems odd. It encourages girls to act entitled and narcissistic. Of course it is possible to become a princess, a young woman in England did last year for instance, but it’s statistically difficult and not particularly useful to the rest of the world. It’s not a very sensible aspiration.

    1.  It is odd considering the whole reason for the War of Independence was to throw off the shackles of a royal government that taxed the colonies despite the fact they had no representation in Parliament. I would say this princess worship is down right un-American. But between ignorant, uninformed Americans and the 1% that would feel very much at home with an aristocracy, the narcissism and sense of entitlement makes both camps feel better about themselves. It fits into the same pattern as white Americans who are suffering but continue to vote against their own self interest because maybe someday they’ll win the lottery and when they’re rich they won’t want to lose any of their fortune to taxes that help the common good.

      1. Un-American…only if you focus on the royalty connection. I’m pretty sure  that what ‘princess’ actually means in the fantasy is ‘pretty girl with nothing better to do than be pretty and spend money on it’. AKA the housewife of a man who succeeded in fulfilling the traditional American Dream. Which is also a fantasy that needs revisiting…

        1. That’s what I meant when referring to the ignorant and uniformed American princess ideal: they have little or no knowledge of royalty, past and present and how modern governments live with them or without them. As you said, it’s a very personal, internalized fantasy that toy makers, Disney, and every other entity seeking to make money from the delusion are all too willing to exploit.

          1. Since Augustus was the first person to hold the title of princeps or prince, the first princess would be Livia. So obviously, a princess is a manipulative, older divorcée who assassinates anyone likely to impede her son-from-a-previous-marriage’s rise to power.

  36. I suspect this has to do more with hyper-market segmentation, than gender identity reinforcement.  It is my theory that the typical person who buys these gendered, generic products like those mentioned here, do so more for a feeling of “customization”:  e.g.: a generic box of crayons takes on a precious, personally selected aire when labelled as “truck” or “princess” – it is more tailored for YOUR SPECIFIC child.  That said, I do agree that this trend does perpetuates gender stereotypes   

  37. I look forward to the gender-tracking apologists’ commentary on the Bic For Her. Take your time, I’ll make some popcorn.

  38. Cefeida, you’re my hero. Nobody could have explained the social/corporate implications of brainwashing girls and boys (and their parents) better than you have, un-relentlessly despite the slings and arrows of less aware people.
    The sad irony is this crap might have been made in factories in China or elsewhere by child labor. By girls and boys who are virtual slaves to the nauseating pink and blue princesses and trucks, exposed to carcinogens in the process, and never to have a time of pure, innocent childhood.

    1. Not sure if being mocked or getting legitimate praise online..squee?

      I’m passionate about this issue. Here’s why: I’m a girl, but I just happen to dislike most of the activities, colours, behaviours and products that are marketed as being typically female. I’ve been like this ever since I can remember. 

      Here’s where it gets scary: the dissonance between how I wanted to be and how society and advertising was telling me I should be was so significant, that by the time I was a teenager, I had actually become a misogynist. I hated women. I wished I was a man, not because of a gender identity crisis, but because I actually thought men were BETTER.

      It took years to realise that I don’t actually hate women, because 1. I am one and 2. that’s stupid. What I actually hated, and still hate, were the limitations placed upon me because of my female gender, the rules that say ‘if you don’t do this, you’re not a real woman’.

      Now, I am fortunate enough to live in a fairly large city in a relatively modern country. No laws are stopping me from behaving according to my preference. I can, in theory, do anything a man can do.But that’s a long way from being accepted, understood, and actually valued as a real woman…even if I don’t look like what people think a real woman should look like.

      I also work with children, from pre-schoolers to teenagers, and the projects we do require them to work in a group. There isn’t a day when I don’t hear ‘ew, boys are icky’ or ‘girls have stupid ideas’. There isn’t a day when I don’t see a boy mocking another boy by suggesting he likes a ‘girly’ colour, or toy, or film. And of course, every day I also see the parents of those kids conforming so perfectly to gender roles that some people in this discussion thought were obsolete.

      I even find myself wanting to revert to harmful gender comparisons… telling boys they can’t possibly be scared of something, or praising girls for being so much tidier than boys.After all this learning and personal growth, I’m still conditioned, and PASSING IT ON. How fucked up is that?

      So that’s me, a conscious grown-up making mistakes…and then we have kids, helpless at the hands of advertisers. Most kids still aren’t being raised in an atmosphere of equality. How can they be? Even assuming their parents are conscious of the problem (most are not), once they leave the bubble of their houses, the world around them screams PINK IS FOR GIRLS AND BLUE IS FOR BOYS!!! I can very clearly remember the gut-wrenching confusion of wanting a boy’s toy, but worrying that people would think I’ve made a mistake. And then, at the same time, the ache at liking a pink toy, but worrying that if I chose it, people would think that I can only play with girl toys!

      I wouldn’t wish this kind of torment on any small child. So I am protesting the binary environment. Down with that crap.

      1.  No, I’m not mocking you. I think you’re speaking eloquently and thoughtfully regarding this simplistic gender identification/indoctrination that is being foisted on children and their parents by profit making entities that have no respect for real children and their freedom to choose what they want to explore.
        IMHO, this discussion was raised above the usual level by your input.

  39. The crayon-makers are missing the real opportunity here.  They need to sell crayons in pre-packaged spectrums to match the suggested color-sets of house-paint manufacturers.

    If I could find a set that complemented the Behr paints we bought before our daughter was born, I’d be much more happy to buy crayons.  As it is, since I know it’s going to end up all over a wall the second I look away, there are hardly any I purchase – neither trucks nor princesses.

Comments are closed.