'Gender neutral' toys: A poor economic decision
December 21, 2012, (Acton Institute)—Writing over at The Atlantic, American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers shares the unsettling story of what a growing number of Swedish activist groups and political factions are attempting to do to “traditional” gender roles.
Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys”R”Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its “outdated” advertisements and has pressured it to mend its “narrow-minded” ways. After receiving “training and guidance” from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, “For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust.”
Swedes can be remarkably thorough in their pursuit of gender parity. A few years ago, a feminist political party proposed a law requiring men to sit while urinating—less messy and more equal. In 2004, the leader of the Sweden’s Left Party Feminist Council, Gudrun Schyman, proposed a “man tax”—a special tariff to be levied on men to pay for all the violence and mayhem wrought by their sex. In April 2012, following the celebration of International Women’s Day, the Swedes formally introduced the genderless pronoun “hen” to be used in place of he and she (han and hon).
It’s easy to laugh off such seemingly ludicrous things as this, but we’re talking real indoctrination of precious and impressionable “hearts and minds” here. And the Swedish government is directly involved.
Egalia, a new state-sponsored pre-school in Stockholm, is dedicated to the total obliteration of the male and female distinction. There are no boys and girls at Egalia—just “friends” and “buddies.” Classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White have been replaced by tales of two male giraffes who parent abandoned crocodile eggs. The Swedish Green Party would like Egalia to be the norm: It has suggested placing gender watchdogs in all of the nation’s preschools. “Egalia gives [children] a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be,” says one excited teacher. (It is probably necessary to add that this is not an Orwellian satire or a right-wing fantasy: This school actually exists.)
Did you catch the “gender watchdogs” bit in there? Don’t see anything draconian about that!
The culture implications of such “progressive” measures are innumerable and deserve further discussion elsewhere, but I wanted to highlight this story today on the Power Blog because of an important economic lesson that also emerges from it.
Twenty years ago, Hasbro, a major American toy manufacturing company, tested a playhouse it hoped to market to both boys and girls. It soon emerged that girls and boys did not interact with the structure in the same way. The girls dressed the dolls, kissed them, and played house. The boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof. A Hasbro manager came up with a novel explanation: “Boys and girls are different.”
Sommers’ began her piece recounting the pressure that groups have put on toy-makers to change their advertising to include gender-neutral promotion of their products. Here she points out that, of their own volition, toy companies have explored similar territory in the recent past. What went wrong? No parent was willing to spend money on toys they knew their sons and daughters would not play with.
Hasbro, a large corporation, was not particularly concerned with the cultural implications of their product. They thought they might be able to make a buck by building playhouses for little boys. It was the open and (largely) free marketplace of goods, services and ideas that verified their playhouse to be a rubbish idea.
Perhaps a time is coming – and may already be here – when society has so watered-down the Creator-endowed uniqueness of the respective genders that a burgeoning market for neutered toys can thrive due to demand. But that isn’t good enough for many Western progressives. They seek to engineer not only their own home environment, but the environment that you and your children are forced to co-exist in. They don’t care if something is economically disastrous for an entire nation (see: Cap-and-Trade), let alone a single company (probably run by one of those nasty 1%-ers!).
It becomes their religion and economic realities stand little chance in the face of their zealous crusade to fundamentally transform society.
Reprinted with permission from the Acton Institute.