Gender-free Toy Stores and Schools

Earlier this year when I read that London’s most popular toy store, Hamleys, was undergoing a complete overhaul. In a monumental move that was full of symbolic significant, the shop did away with separate girls and boys sections. From then on, there would be no such thing as separate categories for “girls toys” and “boys toys.” In a Breakpoint column from earlier this year, Chuck Colson had some insightful comments to make about the larger issue at stake:

the issue of “expunging gender from playthings” is part of a larger political project. This project sees the blurring, if not eradication, of gender differences as the key to female equality.

Earlier generations of feminists sought to eradicate formal, legal barriers to female equality. Their goal was a world where if a woman wanted to be, for example, a United States senator or a Fortune 500 CEO, she was free to pursue her dreams.

While some obstacles still remain, that world has largely come to pass. Yet, in some areas like politics and business, the feminists are still not happy.

Why? They believe that women aren’t pursuing these opportunities because they still buy into traditional ideas about gender differences.

The push to achieve gender neutrality is now so pervasive in Sweden that in the nation’s capital, Stockholm, there is actually a “gender neutral” school. The school exists on the philosophy that girls and boys need to be liberated from social norms. Teachers at the school are taught to carefully avoid masculine and feminine pronouns. When it is not possible to use the child’s name, teachers use the genderless pronoun “hen”, which they had to borrow from the Finnish language.

One teacher at Stockholm’s gender-neutral school, Emelie Andersson, was quoted in a BBC report as saying, “I want to change society. When we are born people have different expectations on us depending if we are a boy or a girl. It limits children. In my world there is no girl’s world and there is no boy’s world.”

The UK government has also given funding to equality activists who have been “demanding that schools have a strategy for challenging gender stereotypes among the under-14s, complete with monitoring and enforcement mechanisms”, according to a Telegraph report. According to reporter Jill Kirby, the proposals involve stamping out “the unfortunate tendency of little girls to play at being nurses when their male counterparts want to be Bob the Builder…”

3 thoughts on “Gender-free Toy Stores and Schools

  1. Pingback: Sasha of the Secret Gender » » Signs of the Times Sign of the Times | Salvo Magazine

  2. at US toy stores I’ve seen, the toys have been categorized by type of toys at least for the 20 some years I’ve had children.

    That alone doesn’t matter…what matters is…that kids will still play with the toys they WANT to play with…it will (roughly) be along the traditional gender lines.

    Our toy stores have…Trucks, cars, trains, rockets are in their own aisle…bikes, roller skates in their aisle…dolls and accessories in their aisle.

    However, much as I do see that there are clear differences between the genders, when I was a kid…I did cross the toy lines a little and neither parent worried about it.

    I remember making up stories using little cars…and enjoyed pushing driving the neighbor’s toy trucks through dirt paths we made in his yard.

    I also played with dolls, including mostly by spending hours sewing them clothes…also in “welding” plastic doll furniture using my woodburning pen…Here, I reflected both parents who grew up in the Depression/War era. They made/mended/came up with almost all the things we five kids needed…

    The toy oriented repression I suffered…was…when my mom took away the woodburning pencil.

    Good idea…as the fumes from the plastic silverware tray (which I was melting through to make into chairs, etc)…were probably sorta toxic.

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