(Photos from Swedish Toys R Us catalog)
When I was about 9, my 7 year old brother got this crazy GI Joe helicopter toy you could send flying down the hallway hanging on a string you suctioned to the wall. GI Joe hung from the bottom and the propeller spun and made mad crazy sounds. My Barbie came with two pairs of shoes. Yeah, I was jealous. And yeah, Barbie took a few rides hanging from said helicopter, too. But, sadly, she was just too damn fat (Ok probably due to the fact that she had 6 inches on Joe, but that is not the point).
This year, Toys R Us released its Swedish kids catalogue with pictures of kids playing with reverse gender toys. Consider this the Swedish response to the Ikea catalog in the middle east controversy. Girls playing with guns, boys playing with dolls. Welcome to Sweden in 2012!
Except one thing. Little Swede and I have been thumbing through all of the catalogues that came in the mail this year. Looking at the toys. Talking about what we like. Little Swede is still 3 so doesn’t really ask for much and doesn’t get that side of things. Just enjoys looking at the toys. And what do you think our response was to this big change?
I didn’t notice.
Girl carrying a gun? Boy with a doll? Then I read about it in the paper 2 weeks later and went back to check. Yes. It was true.
See? I have been living in Sweden too long.
The American media has run with this a little bit and people are like ‘Whatevs, girls like girl toys and boys like boy toys.” Yeah. Sometimes. I really wanted Barbie dolls while at the same time coveting the GI Joe helicopter. But things aren’t so black and white. Especially not in the early years. And even in the later years for a lot of kids.
So, yes my Little Swede can wear a bright pink tutu while driving cars off of the table and laughing as they crash. And throw the baby out of the bright pink stroller and take off with it running around a friend’s apartment like it is F1 racing. Because things aren’t so black and white. And commercials don’t have to be either.
I truly believe in buying kids what they want. But do deny that they are often greatly influenced by advertisements and peer pressure and only pushed by gender drive is silly. Yes I am surprised that despite our attempts to buy mostly gender neutral toys in the beginning we definitely saw Little Swede’s preferences for certain toys that fit gender stereotypes. And so we bought what Little Swede wanted. But that doesn’t mean that just because you are born one sex, you have to prefer cars or dolls.
So good on you Toys R Us Sweden for trying something a little bit different. I don’t think it will change the world, but it certainly keeps things interesting.