A Toys ‘R’ Us Christmas catalogue from Sweden has been making the rounds this season for “challenging gender stereotypes” by showing little boys and girls playing together at traditionally gender-disparate games—everything from fake ironing (fun!) to shooting nerf guns.
Created by TOP-TOY, which runs nearly 50 Toys ‘R’ Us retail stores in Northern Europe, the catalogue’s images depart drastically from the marketing they still use in the rest of the world. TOY-TOP explains in a statement the site:
Thomas Meng, Retail Marketing Director for BR Toys and TOYS”R”US in the Nordic countries says, “We want our catalogues to reflect the way boys and girls play in real life, and not present a stereotype image of them. If both girls and boys in Sweden like to play with a toy kitchen, then we want to mirror this pattern.”
Previously, customers have been criticising TOP-TOY for being too conservative in its marketing approach with regards to gender roles and have made complaints to the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman.
“We acknowledged that we could improve our catalogues in that respect which is what we are now doing, among other things, receiving training from the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman“, says Thomas Meng.
In other words, it wasn’t their idea: the Swedes asked for it. More specifically, Swedish kids. According to HuffPo:
In 2008, a class of Swedish sixth graders complained to the country’s advertising ombudsman, the Reklamombudsmannen, about “outdated gender roles” in a Toys ‘R’ Us Christmas catalog. The agency upheld the complaint, calling the catalog ‘narrow-minded’ and “degrading to both genders,” according to The Local.
So can the U.S. expect to see this reasonable approach to Toys ‘R’ Us marketing in the near future? We don’t know…maybe? Kids all over the U.S. are asking companies to ease up on the gender-specific toys. In November a six-year-old (and her mom) wrote to Hasbro, asking why the game Guess Who? features 19 boys, and just five girls; and just last week 13 year-old Mckenna Pope started a petition to ask the creators of Easy Bake Oven to put boys on their packaging so her little brother knows that boys can cook too. Here’s her video.