Swedish Toys R Us Catalog Tries to Blur Gender Roles

Boys and girls finally share dolls, kitchens and Nerf guns

Roll your mind back to 2008, when we wrote about Sweden’s kerfluffle over allegedly sexist Lego advertising that showed a little girl in a pink room outfitted with ponies and a little boy in a blue room full of fire trucks. That same year, a complaint was lodged by a class of Swedish sixth graders about the Toys "R" Us Christmas catalog. Well, four years later, TOP-TOY, the company behind the catalog, has decided to update their Christmas publication by tossing in a few gender-neutral images. This year’s Christmas Toys "R" Us catalog shows a girl with a Nerf gun, a boy with a doll and children of both sexes playing with everything from a a kitchen playset and babydoll-changing table to a pink Barbie Dreamhouse. Not all of the images defy stereotypes; there are still plenty of girls with pink playthings while boys enjoy toys of every other color, but recognition of diversity doesn’t require a complete 180. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either pink or blue; there’s just something wrong with saying only one gender can play with a toy because of its color. The move has created a lot of publicity for TOP-TOY and some outcry from an irritable British man who writes for The Telegraph and worries that boys playing with baby dolls will grow up to be girls, as opposed to, say, fathers. Chances are good that this war over gender roles will have many more battlegrounds than just Sweden. In Ireland, for example, one woman noticed in an ad that girls' toy laptops were not only pink, but also half as powerful as the ones advertised for boys.