Friday, February 1, 2013

Blue is for Boys

My daughter had bowling practice after school the other night, but we had time to kill so I popped in to my local Toys R Us, and started looking for any missing ladies for my collection. On this particular trip, I was able to pick up Barriss Offee and Tauriel.

I noted again, as I always do because it bugs the hell out of me, that the action figure aisles are marked in blue and labeled as Boys. Across the aisle are the pink signs labeled Girls, where one finds dolls.

The way the store is laid out, this side goes from Electronics - Action Figures - Cars & Trucks - Sports. Electronics and Sports are not marked in blue (sports is green), but the implication is pretty clear. The center of the store is Dolls - Learning - Arts & Crafts. Learning and Arts & Crafts are signed in orange, but again, the implication is clear, and the green/orange of those signs are analogous to the blue/pink, so it's even a VISUAL relationship that any child who isn't colorblind can recognize.

I went back today to get photos. [cue The Pink Panther theme] Retailers do not want people taking photos inside their stores. I don't know why, exactly, possibly because they fear pricing wars. (It was the same when I worked at the bookstore, company policy: No Photography.) However, neither this morning, nor last night, were any employees interested in my shenanigans. Near as I can tell, no one noticed what I was up to.

The boys toys aisles are marked with blue signs, and the shelves have blue headers (see below).

Obviously, only boys build stuff, right??
Even the football and the soccer ball are blue on the green sign, reinforcing the message of Blue = Boys
Not entirely certain why the doll on the girl's sign is blue. Perhaps it's a coincidence that
the sports balls are blue, since blue is the main color for TRU... call me skeptical.
It SAYS "kids' cooking" but the signage is pink as are most of the packages.
(None of the silver/black "unisex" Easy-Bakes yet.)
Even the website has a division:

The lists are identical except for (girls') Bath, Beauty & Accessories and Dolls, and (boys') Action Figures and Vehicles, Hobby & R/C. At least it's not pink and blue...

Upon checkout, I mentioned my gripes to the cashier (stressing that I was not upset with her, because she wasn't responsible), and she actually came back with "the manufacturers tell us where to stock things," the first time someone had ever responded intelligently to criticism instead of just saying "thank you, I'll let my manager know." To that, I replied that it's TRU deciding to make the signs pink and blue, marked with "Boy" and "Girl" -- not Mattel, Hasbro, et al. (Surely, the influence of gender-specificity doesn't extend that far... She didn't contradict me so, hopefully that's the case.)

I received a "how are we doing" survey with my receipt, and the potential to win $500. One of the last questions was an essay opportunity to tell them how they can improve, with 2000 characters to do so. And I did.

I told them that the pink/blue signs were unnecessary, that "boys/girls" was unnecessary, and that just Cars, Dolls, Sports, etc. was sufficient. Just because the manufacturers insist on using color to tell kids who should play with it (I'm looking at you, Hasbro, of the girly Easy Bake Oven -- by the way, McKenna Pope, you rock!), doesn't mean that the retailers must goose-step along with it. Yes, I know Barbie Pink won't be going away, and no, GI Joe won't be ditching the red, white and blue, but why does a retail store have to follow suit? I pointed out that, as a girl, I played with cars with my brothers, we built stuff with LEGOs, and I had dolls. I noted that stores abroad were opting for gender-neutrality, and there was no reason they couldn't do the same. In fact, a Swedish TRU ad showed boys and girls playing with toys on both sides of the aisle (the pages were still pink and blue, but at least they're making an effort). I said that, by not steering children to only half the store, they could make more money -- because let's face it, they're there to make money, not cater to my dreams of gender-neutral toys. I honestly expect nothing to come of it. If someone from TRU replies to my comments, I'll be astonished. But at least I had my say, even if it's going straight into the trash.

Interestingly, a different TRU had the same pink and blue signs, but they were not marked as Boys/Girls.

This is what you see walking in the door. The pink signs are first, then the blue, then sports in green,
and electronics is back in the corner. The (orange) learning toys, games, and arts & crafts are in the center.

Blue: remote control cars
Pink: beauty, baking and princess dress-up
I'm a little baffled at why one store has signs marked with gender and another does not. My husband suggested that the other store store was newer/recently renovated, but honestly, I don't know which one is the newer. He thinks it's the one without "Boys/Girls" but I'm unconvinced. The signage in our local store (with the genders on them) looks newer. When it's not so bloody cold outside, perhaps I'll widen my investigative circle, and see if I can figure out if the gender-specific signs are a new thing, or something they're phasing out.

What are you finding in your local toy stores?

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