French toymakers have formed an entente to rid toys and games of gender stereotypes, which the government condemns as an early stumbling block for girls on the path to careers in STEM industries.
A charter to promote a “balanced representation (of genders) in toys” was signed by the French government, the French Federation of Toy and Childcare Industries (FJP) and the association od toy manufacturers.
The Junior Economy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher condemned the pernicious and “insidious” message gendered toys can have on the future roles girls see themselves in.
She told French broadcaster RTL: “If you go to a shop to buy a toy for your young niece or nephew, the first question is: ‘Is it for a girl or a boy?’”
Outmoded ideas of which toys kids should play with based on gender is said to have affected the number of women in STEM careers such as engineering and coding, despite the fact girls tend to outperform boys in maths and physics exams.
Instead, Agnès asked, why not look at play patterns: “’Do they like to play outside? Do they like to play construction games? Do they like to play a taking care of a baby?’”
Earlier this week Mattel launched Creatable World
, a new range that removes the gendered boundaries, limits and labels in the doll category. The range, which offers an androgynous doll with extensive wardrobe options, wigs and accessories for kids to express and reflect their identity however they wish.
Kim Culmone, Mattel’s SVP of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, says: “We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play.”
The movement in France will aim to remove the gender-bias in toys in a similar way. It will also provide education and training for store staff to suggest playthings based on children’s individual interests, rather than generalised recommendations based on gender.
“A little girl may not wish to be a princess. She might want to be a knight … and go to combat rather than being confined to a castle hosting her friends for tea,” Agnès adds.
The charter will not level punitive measures at companies who do not comply with its rules, but signatories believe toymakers and toy shops who do their best to follow the guidelines will benefit from a reputational boost.
Pictured top: Smiffys, Girls Viking Costume