Harrods Gender-Neutral Toy Store Doesn’t Communicate Stereotypes

October 1st, 2012 | Categories: Gender

I’m sure it was headline news at the time, but somehow I missed it. This past August, Jessica Samakow of The Huffington Post wrote about Harrods gender-neutral toy store in her article, Harrods Unveils Gender-Neutral Toy Department, ‘Toy Kingdom’ Seeing how toys invade us through the media (e.g., television shows, movies, commercials, magazines), the article seems apropos for today’s Media Monday post!

London department store, Harrods, appears to have taken the musings of 4-year-old Riley Maida, who railed against toy marketers to stop forcing pink stuff and princesses on little girls, to heart. Last week, the store unveiled a 26,000 square foot gender-neutral toy department called “Toy Kingdom.” Instead of grouping products into boys and girls, it is organized by theme, DeZeen Magazine reports.

Interior architectural firm, Shed, was commissioned to create the “ultimate fantasy land,” according to Retail Week, complete with an enchanted forest, miniature toy world, reading room and candy shop (where kids can, naturally, create their own custom lollipops). Click over to DeZeen to see photos.

But beyond the breathtaking aesthetics, David Miller, director of Harrods Home, told The Telegraph that their overhaul was primarily about changing how toys are bought and sold. “We felt it was a bit of a risk, when that formula traditionally works, to turn around and break the mold,” he said. . . .

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  1. alexbon
    November 27th, 2012 at 15:09

    Media really does impact the way individuals view the world. It’s unfortunate that children are forced to fit stereotypes at such a young age. Little boys are automatically conditioned by the world around them that they are supposed to like the color blue, be tough and play with trucks or “action figures”. Little girls on the other hand are supposed to adore the color pink, be sweet little angels and play with their “baby dolls”. Notice that both boys and girls play with dolls, but that the names are very different to show masculinity and femininity. The problem with today’s media is that it is ubiquitous, meaning literally it is everywhere. TV is such an influence in the lives of people today that young children will never be able to escape this stereotypical existence. Every single advertisement on TV is aimed at one gender or the other. Even gender-neutral toys, such as pillow pets for example, come in colors and designs that become gendered. The boys end up with the lions and tigers because there are strong animals, and the girls get the cats and rabbits that are sweet and delicate. It is interesting and exciting to see that a children’s toy store is taking a risk and stepping outside the box by creating an entirely gender-neutral haven for children. I’d be interested to know whether the store has completely eliminated the stereotype or if it still subliminally exists within the confines of the gender-neutral walls.

  2. ricketr2
    November 29th, 2012 at 00:26

    Media has a strong impact on the way individuals view society and what is normal in society. Different stereotypes are created as a result of the strong influences media has on its viewers. The example used in the blog that girls have to be associated with pink and princesses is a great way to illustrate the stereotypes created from media. Before a child can talk she is automatically draped in all pink attire complete with the pretty pink room. The gender stereotype creates the false sense that every girl has to be extremely feminine and every man has to be extremely masculine; anything in between was not normal. This example is related to the cultivation analysis theory. This theory goes into the power of media and how media influences our view on things in the world. Also when a subject is repeated over different media outlets only reinforces the stereotypical view. What I found to be interesting was the theory really focused on extremes such as crime; however, the theory never really discussed how toys are depicted in media. It was also very interesting to find that a toy department eliminated the gender barrier between toys and separated the toys by theme. This idea floods over into a more accepting society where media does not have to control our view on society.

  3. hylenia
    November 29th, 2012 at 13:54

    I was very surprised to read that a four year old demanded for companies to stop pressing princesses and pink toys onto girls. I was then delighted to find out that there have been movements to create stores that focus on being gender neutral. Unfortunately at the Toy Kingdom, there are a few things that are under criticism, like the girl employees wearing pink and the males wearing blue, and the still identifiable “boy” and “girl” areas of the store. Toy Kingdom is making good strides, but they should certainly be more committed to neutrality. On the other hand, I mostly concerned about the products in the stores. While there may be a label to cover both genders, the products themselves may still hold the pink themes and stereotypically girly selling points, or vice versa. For example, in a neutral, mixed isle, the packaging on the toys can still be divided. On a box for dolls there may be a girl carrying it, combing its hair, accompanied by pink items. A box for a squirt gun may be colored in dark blues and display a boy with an intense look on its face, ready for action. In order for gender-neutral toy stores to exist, and execute their mission well, the toys they are selling should reflect neutrality as well. Sweden has the right idea.

  4. jennacastle
    November 29th, 2012 at 16:13

    I was very surprised that a four year old yelled at toy companies to stop forcing pink and girly toys towards girls. I think that the media does have a very strong effect on what children should and shouldn’t play with. It is a social norm for a girl to play with a doll and for a boy to play with a basketball. Every box that has a doll inside has a picture of a young girl playing with it. The boxes for girl toys are almost always pink or purple. Boy’s toys are dark blue or green, and they look tough and are completely advertised only to boys. I do not agree with this at all. There should not be such strong gender stereotypes on toys. Children should be allowed to be children and play with whatever makes them happy. A boy should be able to play with babies if that’s what he feels like doing for the day. We should let children let their imagination run wild and do what they want. I do like how more companies are making toys that are not toward specific genders.

  5. Anastacia Kurylo
    November 30th, 2012 at 22:06

    The problem is that usually children aren’t forced to play with one thing or another, they are socialized to do so. This is more subtle and harder to fix. At the school yard my son regularly hears “Why are you playing with a girl’s doll?” from kids who are just curious because they are so used to how “normal” it is that certain gendered kids play with certain toys. luckily I’ve learned to treat it as a serious question. Why is he playing with it? Well, I encourage him to say “Because I like it.” Surprisingly, that is enough. A sincere and innocent answer to a sincere and innocent question.

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