Swedish schoolchildren challenge Toys R Us gender stereotyping.

I’m sure we’ve discussed the horrible gender stereotyping in Toys R Us stores in the past on The F Word, and I was actually in there at the weekend, trying to contain my rage as I walked past pink ‘Girlz’ aisles full of baby dolls, princess toys and house keeping equipment and blue aisles full of action toys, dinosaurs, cars and the stuff I generally found fun as a child. So I was delighted to come across this article about a group of 13-year-old Swedish schoolchildren who lodged a complaint against Toys R Us based on the stereotyping in their 2008 Christmas catalogue:

According to the youngsters, the Toys”R”Us Christmas catalogue featured “outdated gender roles because boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive”.

The group’s teacher explained to the local Smålandsposten newspaper that filing the complaint was the culmination of more than two years of “long-term work” by the students on gender roles.

Thumbing through the catalogue, 13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys”R”Us publication.

“Small girls in princess stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It’s obvious that you get affected by this,” he told the newspaper.

“When I see that only girls play with certain things then, as a guy, I don’t want it.”

Classmate Moa Averin emphasized the importance of children being able to be who they want even if “guys want to be princesses sometimes”.

Can you imagine this coming from UK children? Given that the recent Women and Work Commission report highlighted continuing gender stereotyping in schools it’s highly unlikely. I think it’s fantastic that they are being urged to actively challenge gender stereotyping; it can only lead to a fairer society and better opportunities for all of them as they grow up.

Their complaint was upheld by the Reklamombudsmannen (Ro), ‘a self-regulatory agency which polices marketing and advertising communications in Sweden to ensure they are in line with guidelines set out by the International Chamber of Commerce’, and Toys R Us have been publically reprimanded, although the agency has no powers to formerly punish the company.

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