Amazon Dropped Category Search Function But Not Their Stereotypes

amazon 6

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.

amazonOn 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”:

amazon 2

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……


amazon 3

Boys = robots, art supplies, vehicles, building blocks, firefighter dress up, games, more robots, a globe, football, and more vehicles.


amazon 4

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 headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa 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

Find her at You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (PP&BB). 




LEGO Gets It And Seems To Not Care: The Elves Spa Edition

When the new LEGO catalog arrived I tossed it at my kids and said I needed birthday present ideas. While I love that my kids create and build with LEGO, I have really come to despise LEGO as a company and hate giving them my money. I want to love them, so badly I do, but I just cannot. I dislike toy companies that attempt to instruct kids on how to be kids. The “build it this way” boxed sets and gendered marketing give me hives.

Once a favorite toy of my youth, I look at the pink and blue LEGO world of today and part of me wonders where they went so wrong. In the 1990’s they painted themselves into a corner by solely marketing to boys. It worked so well they lost the girl market and struggled to get it back until their recent run away hit with LEGO Friends + Disney Princess license. But to get the girl market back LEGO went with the lowest common denominators of femininity. The Friends line has improved since the initial sets of hair salons/beauty, cupcake bakeries, and shopping malls. Now we have jungle rescue, multiple sports, hot air balloons, sea planes, lighthouses… least girls are getting the message they can go out into the world and take up space (and by ‘world’ I mean Heartlake City, where Friends live separate from the rest of LEGO world). Separate but equal, right? Wrong.

The new LEGO Elves line seems promising, and much of it is. You’ll still find it in the pink “girl’s LEGO aisle” and you’ll still see the hot pink and purple LEGO coding “for girls” in the bricks, but you’ll also find sets called Creative Workshop, Crystal Hollow, Adventure Ship, Treetop Hideaway……and then you’ll fine the requisite beauty spa and magical bakery.

Lego Elves spread in new catalog.

Lego Elves spread in new catalog.

You know if I were creating a mystical, completely imaginary world for girls where I could think up absolutely ANYTHING, baking and beauty are two things I’d probably move right past on my way to Unicorn Training School and Lava Ball Factory.

The requisite beauty spa for LEGO.

The requisite beauty spa for LEGO.

But good ol’  predictable LEGO – what is a ‘girls LEGO set’ without a little spa magic and cupcake charm? It’s as if LEGO knows exactly what is hard wired into the DNA of our girls. In fact, the LEGO Elves set “Naida’s Spa Secret” comes with ‘beauty cream’  – a nod to all little girls knowing beauty comes from a jar you spend your paycheck on and their worth comes from that beauty. And the number of sparkles on their purple pet dolphin.

The set is marketed with the text “Pamper yourself at LEGO Elves Naida’s Spa Secret….”. I think if I were a kid today playing with LEGO I’d be less worried (and most likely completely unaware) that I need pampering and more concerned about getting more pegasuses (pegasi?) for my army so that I can defeat the invading trolls….or whatever it is that attacks elves.

(Related must read: “Beauty Tips for Girls, from LEGO” on Motherlode.)

Whenever I read posts like the one from Motherlode or lead discussions on Facebook about the gendered, sexist marketing by LEGO I see so many people ask “Doesn’t LEGO get it?!” And I think LEGO does get it. I think they do not care.

It is probably unprofessional for me to write “Bite me, LEGO” in this post, so I won’t do that. Instead, I would like to say that while I see some improvements from LEGO with the shift in focus of the Friends line to girls doing things and I like the Elves line including male and female characters ready for adventure, I’m just really finding it hard to understand the undying LEGO commitment to beauty spas and bakeries for girls.  Why does LEGO hold that stereotype when consumers have so clearly said that is not what our kids want nor what we want for our kids? If the wold’s largest toy maker were paying attention to the girls apparel and toy market in the past 36 months they would see run away hits and crowd funding darlings focused solely on building girls up to be smart, STEAM-focused diverse adventurers and parents can’t get enough of it. Let’s not forget the massive petitioning and then consumer demand for the LEGO Female Scientist set which LEGO will not keep stocked nor commit to expanding or keeping long term.

Ideas like Ruth Bader Ginsburg LEGO? Yes, that is a choir of angels you hear singing. LEGO rejected the concept for its IDEAS fan page, saying it will not accept “politics or political symbols”. Ironically, the Supreme Court along with the need for greater, more inspiring representation of females in LEGO isn’t about politics. It’s about equality and justice.

Legal Justice League, created by Maia Weinstock, Deputy Editor at MIT News.

      Legal Justice League, created by Maia Weinstock, Deputy Editor at MIT News.

supreme court lego

Legal Justice League, created by Maia Weinstock, Deputy Editor at MIT News. 



MAW Profile PicMelissa 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

Find her at You can read her blog at: or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).


Lego Female Scientists Infuriate Me

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.

Truth be told, I haven’t been able to give Amelia her Lego female scientist set yet. I’ve been hiding it for months. Ben wants one too, and I was only able to get one. So which kid should get it? The girl who needs to see continuous and encouraging reinforcement that women have a place in STEM fields? The set even includes a female paleontologist and T-Rex, like her beloved Sue skeleton from the Field Museum in Chicago. (The most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found and was discovered by a women, fyi.)

Or does my son get it, because he sees so few representations of smart, successful females in children’s media? They could share it, of course, but that only further reinforces how little there really is to go around. And THAT. That is what makes me angry. Like, Hulk angry.

There are eleventy boxes of Ariel’s Magical Kiss and Cinderella’s Castle on the shelf, but finding a box with three female scientists? Good luck with that. Could they make their own scientists and labs from the Legos they already have? Yes and they do, which is why they were so bonkers for this set. I think I’m having such a hard time giving this to my kids because after they go nuts over it and ask for more, I have to tell them, “That’s it. It is just this one. There is no more.”

What a crappy thing to have to tell my science-loving, Lego-obsessed kids that the female scientist thing was just a flash in the pan, not a lasting idea for the world’s largest toy company.

From a friend of a PPBB Community Member:
“My friend just found the Lego female-scientist set at the Mall of America and said she arrived at the Lego Store a few minutes before opening, thinking she’d just ask if they had any and they had ten. The guy in front of her tried to buy five sets, but it’s one per customer. They sold four the first three minutes the store was open.
No wonder people can’t find them, if the store is capable of selling all ten set within FIVE minutes of being open. And this was the **Lego Store**. How can you imagine it’s not a profitable product?”

If the company is only making limited edition sets to drive up value and consumer demand, especially before the holidays, what does that say about our general society? Parents will have to claw and scratch at each other to get their hands on a scarce $20 set of little bricks because their commitment to empowering their daughters and hunger for great STEM toys for girls is so great they’ll totally lose sight of the fact that girl scientists shouldn’t be the rare, toy equivalent of a unicorn.

Toy girl scientists should just be the norm.

The LEGO Research Institute continues to sell out within minutes of being available.

The LEGO Research Institute continues to sell out within minutes of being available.

Positive Picks for Gender Inclusive Toys This Holiday Season

presentsToy shopping season is well under way, in fact, we have two weeks until Christmas! Here’s the short and sweet of it: Big Box toy aisles are horribly gendered and full of stereotyped, sexualized, violent, mostly boring toys. I don’t mean to sound like a Scrooge, but what passes for “toys” these days is ridiculous. It is difficult to find items that are true toys, do not limit the child’s potential to interact with it, and are gender inclusive. So what is a family to do?

The long answer is that toy marketers long ago segmented the market in order to double their profits and too few parents question this. The lowest common denominators of gender are used to categorize our children and turn them into little consumers that leaves their gender their most salient quality and compresses adult concepts like war, sex, and beauty into very young imaginations while sucking up our hard earned cash as we buy the next hot item to placate our kids. This type of marketing and product is now so prevalent it is hard to see the forest through the trees. But really, all we have to do is look back to our own childhoods.

The short answer is that you are shopping for toys in the wrong places.

I talked about gender, toys, and how this hurts our kids today on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook. My friend and colleague Dr. Elizabeth Sweet joined us for a great discussion. You can listen here.

Here is what I recommend:

1. Shop at your local, independent toy store. They are more likely to carry items made by small businesses and most importantly they put a ton of research and care into toys that will stimulate and entertain the young child. There are never pink aisles or blue aisles. Toys are grouped by category or interest and many toys are award winners and eco-friendly. The staff is usually knowledgeable and friendly and knows what to do when  you say, “I’m looking for a gift for an eight year old who likes science and moths.” Everybody wins!

2. Hunt down specific toys on Craigslist or Ebay. If you are someone who plans ahead, rummage sales in the summer are great places to find toys at great prices. Your kids won’t notice it didn’t come in a box.

3. Shop at your nearest museum or children’s museum gift shop. These can be gendered, but for the most part are focused on learning.

4. Books. Done.

5. Scientific Explorer makes some cute science kits. You’ll see these in stores and some are gendered, but online there is a great selection.

6. What about an experience gift — like a membership to a museum or trip to the aquarium? We’re headed to the Shedd and the Field Museum after Christmas.

7. I like toys that get kids active, like bikes, stomp rockets, sports equipment, and seasonal toys like snow shoes, sleds, and igloo block makers.

8. I babysat for a family who once gave their kids a series of cardboard boxes nestled in each other like matryoshka dolls and in the smallest box was tape, box cutters, string, markers, and scraps from the crafting drawer.

9. Tool box, with real tools. Every kid needs one.

10. Here is a list of some of my favorite places to shop at:

Museum Tour Toys,

Fat Brain Toys,


Magic Cabin,

Go! Go! Sports Girls and Lottie Dolls — both companies offer age appropriate dolls that show girls being smart, daring, and adventurous

Here are a ton of dolls for boys, because they need to learn to be nurturing and capable for when they become dads/uncles

Roominate — the truly awesome girl engineering toy we should be talking about right now

Step 2 has nice gender inclusive play kitchens, for those boys who like to cook too!