The past three days have seen many people applauding online retail giant Amazon dropping their gendered toy search function of “Girl” or “Boy”. The move reveals a growing trend in parenting, as well as basic common sense, that toys are for everyone and need not be gendered. So this is great news! If it were true.
Well, it is kind of true. The headlines all read “Amazon drops gendered toy categories!” Yesterday I received dozens of messages and tweets reading “Did you see? Amazon no longer gender toy categories!” But Amazon didn’t drop the gendered categories. It just moved them. To the top of the page and under the “Toys & Games” heading above the item images.
On the left side bar under “Age Ranges” we used to see “Gender” and the binary options of “Boys” or “Girls”. Now we see the left side bar offering search options of “Popular Features”, “Shop By Price”, “Age Ranges”, “Toys & Games”, “Featured Character & Brand”, and “Interest”.
This is truly great and reflects how merchants should offer toys to children and families: age and interest.
The problem is, I still see “Boy’s Toys” and “Girl’s Toys” pages, as well as this when I go in to shop “Toys & Games”:
Under “Toys & Games” the text reads, “Shop for dolls, action figures, games and gifts for boys and girls. Explore Editors’ Picks in our Best Toys Of the Month”. I noticed “boys” and “girls” were hyperlinked, so despite the all the celebration and hullabaloo that Amazon had dropped its gendered categories, I decided to click on each gender option and have a look……
Boys = robots, art supplies, vehicles, building blocks, firefighter dress up, games, more robots, a globe, football, and more vehicles.
Girls = art supplies, building toys (a house, of course), preschool toys (pink!), dolls & accessories, princess pretend play, electronics (pink!), kids furniture and storage, a piano for learning & exploration, puzzles (of pink flowers or fairies, I can’t tell), a baseball bat and lawn chair (pink AND purple!) for sports & outdoor play.
If there were a word for that deflated sound a party blower horn makes when it runs out of air, I’d insert it here. Because shoppers will still get the following message:
Boys go out into the world, build the world, explore the world, save the world, and play hard when they play outside. Girls, on the other hand, stick close to home, think of home, decorate the home, need things to be pink, play with dolls, and sit in pink folding chairs during “Sports and Outdoor Play”.
There are no robots, globes, vehicles, nor firefighters for girls. There is no pink, dolls, princess dresses, nor homey items for boys.
These things are still separate. They are still unequal.
Amazon is a massive influencer in the retail market and should something prove successful for them, others will follow suit. I commend Amazon for removing the most obvious of gendered search functions and making our shopping experience a bit more gender inclusive. My kids, a boy and girl, buy 90% of our toys and learning games on Amazon as big box toy stores drive us crazy and we have no independent toy stores within an hour’s drive to support.
Amazon took baby steps this week. Parents everywhere were making these baby steps into REALLY big news and giving resounding approval to this type of shopping experience. Amazon’s own “Best Sellers” page indicates their top 20 toys are not very gendered. Amazon and other retailers should pay attention to the amount of hype and excitement this move created, even if the headlines were misleading and the gendered toy pages and categories still exist. People thought they were gone, that made people excited, and that should matter to retailers and toy marketers.
Now I’d like to see Amazon really, truly drop their gendered toy categories/pages and offer kids toys the way kids approach their toys: by interest.
There are many ways to be a boy. There are many ways to be a girl. Amazon can make money off all of them.
Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.