Shops to face protests over ‘boy and girl’ toys

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A NEW campaign aimed at ending gender stereotyping of toys for young children is to target toy shops in Scotland.

Activists are planning to stage protests outside toy shops and re-arrange store 
displays that make distinctions between what toys are suitable for each sex.

The move comes after a survey by Zero Tolerance, a charity aiming to tackle violence against women in Scotland, identified gender-specific toys as a major concern for more than 80 per cent of organisations and individuals surveyed about gender inequality.

The protests will be backed by Zero Tolerance as part of the charity’s agreement with the Scottish Government 
that it will support activists who want to start up campaign activities.

Laura Tomson, senior development officer with Zero Tolerance, said: “We felt it was important to have something based in Scotland that addressed the concerns of parents here about shops in Scotland. We very much want this to be a national campaign working across the country.”

Marks & Spencer is one of the retailers identified by the campaign as having gender-
divided toys such as marble runs and walkie-talkies only available in “boy stuff” packaging, and microphones only in pink “Lil’ Miss Arty” boxes.

A recent UK-wide survey of major retailers discovered at least 50 per cent of stores divided toys into gender grouping using techniques such as signs to create boys and girls sections, single-sex imagery for certain toys, and grouping otherwise-unrelated toys together according to gender stereotypes.

Most of the 40 stores surveyed used colour schemes 
to distinguish between 
female and male toys, the study reported.

Campaigners have expressed dismay at how many mainstream retailers still divide toys into those suitable for girls and those suitable for boys.

A recent survey for Let Toys Be Toys found that the shops with the strongest boy/girl 
divide included Marks & 
Spencer, Tesco, Asda, Boots, Wilkinsons and TK Maxx.

In many shops, construction toys were only found in the “boys” sections, and arts and crafts toys only in “girls”.

The Let Toys Be Toys campaign was launched last year, following concerns by parents on the Mumsnet website that toy stores are encouraging their daughters to choose crafts over science or making boys who wish to choose a doll go to a shelf marked “girls’ toys” to do so.