A staple of Introduction to Sociology courses is the toy assignment, in which students are asked to visit a local store and take note of the gendered nature of the offerings. While boys and girls might not universally agree with the things that are supposed to be for them, the prevalence of these messages in stores, ads, and TV commercials makes them hard to avoid. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, one company in Sweden is challenging these norms in its most recent Christmas catalog.
A comparison of Top-Toy’s Swedish catalogs with their Danish counterparts shows girls have replaced boys in some photos featuring toy guns, and boys have swapped places with girls in photos featuring dolls and stuffed dogs. In one picture in the Swedish catalog, a boy is blow-drying a girl’s hair whereas in the Danish version, a somewhat older girl is blow-drying her own hair.
Top-Toy also is working on adjusting store displays and packaging to reflect the gender-neutral approach, said Jan Nyberg, Top-Toy’s sales director in Sweden. Boys and girls can now be seen playing together on boxes of “Happy House,” Top-Toy’s own kitchen set.
“We can’t decide what the big toy makers’ boxes should look like as their products are made for the global market, but we can make changes on our own boxes and in our stores,” Mr. Nyberg said.
A saleswoman said she hasn’t seen much difference in store displays but noted employees now are trained to avoid stereotypes when talking to customers. “If someone asks for a present for a 5-year-old girl, we don’t automatically take them to the dolls section,” she said. “Instead, we ask them what her interests are.”
Sweden appears to have gender norms that are very different than those in the US, so it seems that the store is reflecting society rather than attempting to change it, but it would be nice to live in a place where kids grow up receiving messages that they could be, and play with, anything that they want.
Via: The Society Pages