Sweden's Gender Neutral Toy Catalog
November 28, 2012
© Kids R Us
All Sweden wants for Christmas is a little gender neutrality.
Top Toy, Sweden's largest toy chain and the country's franchise holder for Toys R Us, released a Christmas catalog Friday that deliberately challenges traditional gender roles. In its pages you'll see a girl wielding a toy machine gun and a boy pushing a Spiderman pram.
What you won't see are any girls on the pages advertising dolls.
What's going on? "For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we ... have had to adjust," Jan Nyberg, director of sales at Top Toy, franchise-holder for US toy chain Toys R Us, told the TT news agency Friday.
In a statement on its website, TOP-TOY says: "This year’s Swedish Christmas catalogues are more gender neutral and reflect the values dominant at the Swedish market. Swedish customers appreciate this new approach."
Of course, the move wasn't made in a vaccum: In 2008, a class of Swedish sixth graders complained to the country's advertising ombudsman – the Reklamombudsmannen – about "outdated gender roles" in a Toys"R"Us Christmas catalog.
The agency agreed, calling the catalog "narrow-minded" and "degrading to both genders," according to The Local.
So adjustments have been made. One little girl was Photoshopped out of the "Hello Kitty" page, a girl holding a baby doll was swapped out for a boy, and at least one young girl's pink T-shirt was turned light blue.
Of course some concessions have been made to tradition. A page advertising costumes appears to show a boy in a Batman outfit and girls in dresses and princess costumes. A page with musical instrument toys shows a girl playing on a pink keyboard and a boy playing on a red and black one. (Check out the full catalog online here.)
But the fact remains: this is not your typical toy catalog. And the move seems to reflect Sweden's broader, more-progressive attitudes more so than it does Top Toy's evolution on the issue.
What do you make of the catalogue? Is it savvy business move? A lovely gesture? A silly over-reach? A cynical ploy? Let us know what you think.