In November last year, the campaign group, Let Toys Be Toys, was formed with the aim of persuading shops in the UK and Ireland to stop using signage that divides along the gender divide. So far, it's succeeded in getting 13 retailers to agree, including big hitters such as Toys R Us, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Hamleys and Debenhams.Ah. And are you representative of the millions of parents out there searching Toys-R-Us for that special gift?
Tessa Trabue, one of 10 parents who make up active membership of the campaign, is particularly proud that Boots removed the "boys" signage from above the science toys as a result of their pressure.
The mechanisms of the campaign are simple but effective. "[It's] a mixture of us and our supporters taking images and tweeting pictures from shops," she explains. As soon as those images are out there, the group follows up with letters and phone calls.
"For the majority of stores this has worked," she says.
"Often when we point it out to them, there's a genuine look of realisation, and they say they haven't meant to alienate children from playing with certain toys."I guess not. You just have a loud voice.
Trabue appreciates that sometimes it's hard for shops to make a decision on how to organise toys, given that the packaging shouts one gender or the other. That's a subject the group is going to tackle in the new year.Whatever happened to the WI? Ladies, wouldn’t jam-making be a quieter, gentler, less aggravating pursuit?
Do you really have that much spare time on your hands?
But given that the group has nearly 5,500 followers on Twitter, the purchasing power they represent already seems to be an inspiration for shops to think more creatively about layout.5500 followers, eh? Amateurs...
But it’s all about finding that elusive little thing that makes you feel superior to everyone else, really:
Earlier this week, historian Dr Thomas Dixon, of Queen Mary, University of London, posted a picture of the latest toys from Lego on Twitter: "I love Lego, but not this. Violence for boys; pets and trees for girls…"
I got in touch with him about what he feels the ramifications are for children, and he emailed back, assuring that he is not an expert, just a parent and Lego-lover who is frustrated.
"For me," he writes, "the sadness is the limitation being placed on children's development and imaginations by this kind of thing. Many parents can see through it and try to ignore it. But each individual advert is part of an all-pervading fog of cliché and prejudice, which is very hard to escape."Yes, you're the special one. You can see this stuff, all the other, dimmer parents can't.
… we need to become cognisant of an insidious trend that is dictating what our children spend their time doing in their formative years. It doesn't make sense.Oh, blimey, another one!
Once you start to notice, it becomes very clear how prolific this pernicious practice is: I had a little gulp this week when I saw that even good old Kinder Egg has pink and blue versions.Oh, calamity! And look at the stick you get if you dare try to suggest 'Look, ladies, is this really so important?'...