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Toy Aisle Action Project: Let’s Make Shoppers Think!

By Eliana Buenrostro

As a feminist, I am constantly hearing about the ways companies continue to treat the differences between girls and boys as innate. But this past Christmas, it really hit home when I heard about the toys my cousins received. My 6-year-old cousin received a Nintendo 3DS – a game with infinite play possibilities – while his 11-year-old sister received an easy bake oven. Huge cost discrepancy aside; this is particularly infuriating because 11-year-olds are very intelligent, yet when it comes to toy play, girls are reduced to the same-old gender stereotypes.

The issue isn’t that girls shouldn’t cook and have fun with it. It’s that we’re being told by companies, toy stores, and their marketing teams that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Girls should cook and clean (essentially playing “mom”) while boys create, destroy, and learn to save the world. Toys like LEGO, light sabers, and toy cars are all primarily marketed towards boys and these toys have far more creative possibilities and give room for more brain development.

Toy stores play a large role in continuing to support the way children of different genders play and think. From an early age girls are given little options of what they can think and become. It is no coincidence that there is a serious lack of women working in the science and math fields.

That’s why SPARK is asking you to join us in our Toy Aisle Action Project to bring attention to the gender divide in stores! We are SPARKing this movement armed with Post-It notes and cameras in the blue and pink aisles. (Seriously, some stores have actually colored their toy aisles pink and blue! When will it end?) With your Post-Its, make a note using slogans like “Where My Girls At?” in the blue aisle, “Your Girl Needs Joe, too” on a GI Joe, “This Is An Option For Everybody” and “What About Dads?” on the baby dolls.

Use statistics, too. Here are some we found: women make up only 13% of architects (I wonder why LEGO?), 14% of active US military (Where is G.I. Jane?), and 4% of executive chefs — so, why are all the kitchen gadgets pink when so many chefs are men?

Be creative! Place Post-It notes with stats and slogans on the shelves and toys, snap a picture, and then email it to us and we’ll post it on our Facebook page! Please do not do any damage or toy rearranging and be sure to clean up after yourselves. Your pictures will be worth a thousand words. Perhaps these notes will also make parents, grandparents, shoppers and employees question why there are blue and pink aisles in the first place. Let’s make ourselves heard. We can’t wait to see your pictures!

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26 Responses to “Toy Aisle Action Project: Let’s Make Shoppers Think!”

  1. JP says:


    Just in case you might be interested in ‘Pink & Blue’ and haven’t heard about it yet – As a filmmaker, I’m taking a moment off from the regular grind to fight for ‘gender-equality-in-toyland’ – using weapons of mass attraction.

    The fundraising countdown clock is ticking on my lil’ PSA project. You can learn about it (and donate, or share, or whatever you might be inspired to do) here:

    It’s going to be an awesome PSA. I have a lovely crew forming, and Hollywood actors who have generously agreed to donate their voices. If you support the idea of ‘Playtime without limits’…feel free to check out what we’re up to – via the Kickstarter link…


    ~James Parris

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  4. anne alexander says:

    Do you know about the pinkstinks campaign? Very similar to yours. Run by abi Moore and her sister and inspired by a similar experience to yours. They have already helped influence at least one major retailer in the UK to scrap their boys and girls toys sections. look up their website.

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    • Haruka says:

      One of my kids never did play with toys, my dd however, loves toys that go along with moveis. If he likes the Disney Cars movie or Thomas the Tank etc., like my dd does, he will probably like a train table with Thomas Tank wooden train set on it. My dd also loves her Cars movie toys. Get him something that he has to build like blocks and sit down and show him different things he can build. I think some children just aren’t interested in toys. I also have a theory that the first born is less likely to like toys maybe because he doesn’t have anyone to constantly play them with him.

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  11. An Employee At The Store Pictured says:

    I have had a problem with this for my whole time of employment at one of these retailers. Don’t worry about trying to make me question it! I have already voiced how I feel about it. I would love to participate, but I need to keep my job. Perhaps I’ll venture out to other stores in the area. Keep up the good work folks!

    • Rahul says:

      his attention span has not grown yet. just give him time. and if he likes ceiartn cartoons buy things that have that character on it. when you buy a item you should also show him several times how it works and play with him or her. When my son was small his most favorite toy was a plastic car that he could take apart and put back together. the cheapest toy out of all i had bought. Cost me one dollar at walmart. I showed him how he could roll it into the wall and that was all it took. just take him to toy store also and see what catches his attention.

  12. Yalith says:

    A 6 year old got a 3ds and an 11 year old got an EasyBake? When my middle son was 6 he got an Easy Bake for Christmas and loved it. It used to be blue. Now it is pink!
    There are so many awesome games for everyone on the 3ds. I use my ds lite to learn new languages and solve puzzles. That is much more suited for an 11year old than a 6year old.
    I can’t imagine what that 11 year old little girl must have felt like that day. What a way to show what she is really worth. I don’t usually criticize parenting in others, but that borders on abusive. I hope this girl has some other female role models that are better for her than her mother.

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    • Anis says:

      My brother’s kids hated acutal kids toys. I think they were more interested in what *we* (the adults) were playing with. Kid loved cell phones and typing on keyboards lol. Remotes were a favorite too lol.Get the kid an old cell phone from a garage sale or take the batteries out of the remote and let him have a blast lol. That’s my suggestion -Who the hell gave me a thumb down? lol wth is there to disagree with ahaha

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  16. Mamá Leche says:

    Great idea. I was in a Target last year and mortified to see that aisles were marked as “Boy Activity Toys” and “Girl Activity Toys.” Of course the “boy” aisles had all the true action toys while the “girl” activities were crafty, pink and all the sort of thing that’s done while stationary.

    I couldn’t help myself… I slipped the aisle end-cap label off of each aisle, folded back the gender and slipped them back in their slots. That way there were two aisles simply labelled “Activity Toys.”

  17. Abe says:

    I am sorry but honestly, this article infuriated me. You are going to credit the low numbers of women working in the science and math fields BECAUSE OF TOYS?!? These are toys! I want to see research which shows that video games and easy bake ovens influence kids’ career decisions. Do I believe that girls should be afforded the opportunity to play with the same toys as boys? Of course! But not because they can be interested in math and science thanks to them. They should be given equal opportunity because they want to play with the toys and will enjoy them. I totally agree with the action which must take place but the reasoning is absolutely false.

  18. Abe says:

    Also, you proved my point that toys do not matter in kids’ career decisions with your own statistics. You said that there are few women in architecture and the military (by crediting toys which is absolutely beyond me); however, you said that there are few women chefs and yet, cooking toys are almost exclusively marketed to girls. Doesn’t that mean toys don’t matter toward kids’ developments???

  19. DarndestThings says:

    I will support this if your campaign works both ways. If it’s one sided I will not. We should do away with stereotypes altogether, and I feel we as a species should move on from this archaic tripe. I personally think that no matter what gender you are. You will have certain likes and dislikes which should be capitalized on, and these are never “one particular thing”. Society has no right to force it’s views on boys or girls.

    One more thing, just because you witnessed a boy get a DS and a girl get an easy bake oven. Did you stop and think that maybe that was what she wanted? Or are you just forcing YOUR beliefs on her. If you are, well, are you really any better than the toy stores that make these pink and blue aisles?

  20. BSM3 says:

    Seriously have trouble with this myself as well, what I’m expecting my parents to do this year like many years before; pretty stickers, maybe a doll, probably a purse from my grandma and more likely than not, a girly shirt.
    That’s all nice and I love my family, but I’m a budding FTM and sixteen to boot! I don’t want pretty things with loads of frills and bright pink love-love stuff. I know my family really tries and about half the time they’ve done pretty good, sketch books and loads of colourful pencils. But no Nerf guns, no computer games and for sure, no boy shirts. -_-

    I know I’m complaining for no good reason, but I’m just sayin’ that it can be a tiny bit painful to cheer when I unwrap yet another package containing a pretty coat that won’t fit right because I’m changing my body’s shape. -sigh- Good thing my friends are about my size. :)

  21. Gendered divisions in toys really shouldn’t be happening. I remember a time when boys and girls played with the same lego sets. Now you have a girls line and a boys line. Should be noted that the girls line is pretty bad.

  22. […] Gender normativity can be eliminated, and in all honestly, it starts with you. You can spark something. […]

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