Books and Toys – A post for International Women’s Day

Is it possible that those responsible for toy and book design and packaging have had some kind of collective break down in their professional competency? I’ve come to the conclusion that they actually have some kind of professional dysfunction because nothing else can explain the disrespectful way they have started to treat consumers and the sheer audacity in labelling everything from colouring pages, construction toys, electronic devices, monsters, cuddly families and airfix kits as ‘for girls’ of ‘for boys’. The last straw this week was seeing the number of books with the same subtitle brought to my attention by the brilliant ‘Let Toys Be Toys‘. Seriously, books, and fairy tales at that, labelled as for boys or for girls.

If you want to spew your own skewed ideas of gender and individual differences to anyone who will listen to you in your chic, bohemian, café that’s up to you, but take some responsibility for the way you are presenting your product and your employers expectations of children when you’re at work. Stop labelling things that my four year old daughter understands are not ‘girls’ or ‘boys’ toys. Or worse, just using it as some crass marketing device (you know what I mean with your pink and blue kits).

As if it wasn’t enough of a potential inhibition on children’s imagination describing toys in this way you have now turned your attention to books. It can only be viewed as an enormous insult to the creators of one of the world’s greatest inventions, the book press, to narrow our children’s opportunity to imagine and experience worlds beyond their immediate grasp by labelling a book ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’. I wept as my daughter began reading for herself, realising the incredible opportunities that opened up to her as she began to decipher words, stories and information. And now she has to learn that you’ve decided to put words all over books that tell her they’re not for her.

I can only imagine what some moronic arse with the power to market a product will do next – maybe they would like to have a public service announcement for parents on all videos and television programmes: ‘The following television programme has been classified by the board of idiots as – for girls’. Perhaps there could be a phone line set up, ‘If your sons have been found enjoying the issues and ideas presented in this programme then please call the 24 hour helpline’. Sounds stupid right? – Well that’s what you’re doing. Parents do not need the help of specious categories to identify which toys our children will enjoy playing with. Why not invest instead in helping parents to learn how to listen to their children and inspire them with ambition?

It’s fair to say that I was, before fatherhood, to the extent that a man can be described as such, a feminist. Having had two daughters I realise now how many times our children’s opportunities are shut down by what someone else thinks is right for them. And I am angry in ways I never imagined that some stranger sat in front of a computer in an office thinks it is acceptable to tell my daughter what is suitable for her to play with, to read, or to dream.

So here’s my request – every time your fingers hover over the letters on your keyboard ‘FOR GIRLS’ or ‘FOR BOYS’: stop. You don’t need any letters, you’re filling space on the packaging and book cover that makes you look like a schmuck of enormous proportions.

Here is my last post on this subject.

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