Judi Mesman in Dutch media on gender neutral toy stores
A manifest was signed in France this week on gender neutral displays in toy stores, in the hope of preventing stereotypes and gender based prejudices. Minister van Engelshoven was rather taken with this French idea and called on toy manufacturers to evaluate their current toy collections. Which evoked quite a few fierce responses.
Judi Mesman, Professor of the Interdisciplinary Study of Societal Challenges at Leiden University endorses the minister's action. 'The question whether stereotypes in toys are bad or not is ideological. The question is whether you believe that children should be guided in their preferences.' Stereotypical thoughts and behaviours have an effect on other socially relevant issues, says Mesman, such as for example the shortage of male teachers. According to the professor the cause for this can be found in the fact that working with children has traditionally been seen as 'something for girls'.
A stereotype can be transferred simply by giving specific toys to children. Toys are but one of many ways to do this, according to Mesman. 'Children are exposed to hundreds of stereotypical messages on a daily basis, so it is not something to get rid of easily.' Hema made headlines two years ago when it decided to label all their children's clothing in a gender neutral fashion. By doing so Hema is no longer taking part in gender confirmation, the same could be possible for children's toys.