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Lego decides to make gender-neutral toys for children

Lego decides to make gender-neutral toys for children

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  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Vulnerable Sections || Children & Child Labor

Introduction

  • Parents are typically a child’s first source of information about gender. Starting at birth, parents communicate different expectations to their children depending on their sex. For example, a son may engage in more roughhousing with his father, while a mother takes her daughter shopping. The child may learn from their parents that certain activities or toys correspond with a particular gender, for example a family that gives their son a truck and their daughter a doll. Even parents who emphasize gender equality may inadvertently reinforce some stereotypes due to their gender socialization.
  • Toys play an indispensable role in the growth and development of a child. For a child born in a nuclear family and residing in an urban landscape, toys play even a greater role. The kind of toy requirement will change every quarter of the year. It is wise to introduce them to a variety of playthings. To put it simply, it is perfectly normal to buy a bat and a ball, models of superheroes for your baby girl, and to buy a teddy or a doll for your baby boy.

Why in the news?

  • Lego recently announced that it would work to remove gender stereotypes from its brand, including no longer marketing toys distinctly to boys or girls and ensuring products are gender-neutral. This move by one of the world’s most powerful brands comes in response to research the Danish toy manufacturer commissioned to understand how parents and children think about creativity.

More in news

  • A recent Kantar Media report says 40-45% of toy shoppers in the US prefer gender-neutral toys. This has made brands reverse age-old rules. Lego, Mattel, and Hasbro recently said they would not do a gender-wise breakup of revenues. Lego and Mattel have also introduced male dolls and female action figures.

What is Gender parenting?

  • Gender-neutral parenting is when parents raise their children without imposing any preconceived gender norms on them, instead of allowing them to choose which one they want to adopt for the rest of their lives. This prevents the child from being placed in a box and growing up according to traditional gender rules.
    • For example, parents would address the child as ‘Baby’ rather than ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’ in their conversations, allow them to dress however they want, whether that means boys wearing pink or girls wearing blue, keep neutral room decor and toys, and avoid any kind of gender stereotyping in general.
  • Some parents may even choose to keep their child’s gender a secret from everyone except their closest family members. Gender-neutral parenting is fundamentally about encouraging traits that make a good human, not a good man or woman.

How can Gender Neutral Parenting be pursued?

  • Reduction of Gender Importance: Using gender-neutral terms and removing gender labels from language. Replace ‘What a smart girl you are!’ with ‘What a smart kid you are!’ for example.
  • Getting Boys and Girls to Play Together: It is critical for children to feel at ease playing with children of the opposite gender, as this will prepare them for future relationships at work, at home, and in school. Your child can participate in mixed-gender activities, sports, and playgroups.
  • Avoiding Pink and Blue Themes, as well as Stereotyping in Toys: Keep an eye out for gender stereotypes and any emphasis on the differences between boys and girls. Pink is not associated with a girl, while blue is associated with a boy. This can cause them to change their thinking and behavior to adapt to norms early on. You can buy gender-neutral clothing for them and encourage them to wear neutral colors.
  • Considering the Child as an Independent Individual: Studies show that there is no difference between a male and female brain. Although both genders have biological differences, they share several traits that are shared by both sexes. As a result, you must focus on your child as a single human being rather than a gender-related boy or girl.
  • Teaching About Sexism: Assisting children in recognizing stereotypes and biases, as well as how gender divisions exist in society and the world we live in. This will better prepare them for the future and help them realize that gender division is not due to differences in ability, but rather to a stereotypical culture.
  • Not Completely Eliminating Gender: The goal should not be to eliminate gender but to encourage children to look beyond gender norms and pursue all interests, careers, and hobbies. You can emphasize how irrelevant gender is in society by ensuring that their opportunities and choices are not limited by gender.
  • Introducing Role Models to Them: Children should be exposed to role models such as male nurses, female engineers and mechanics, and so on. If a child learns about people who challenge gender stereotypes and express themselves in a gender-fluid way, they will be encouraged.

The situation in India and across the globe 

  • In India, the concept is nascent but is catching on. About 90% of customers of toymaker BrainsmithIndia don’t demand pink for girls or blue for boys anymore. Brainsmith, besides selling toys online, also supplies to retailers like Hamley’s. They  have a cleaning set in baby blue and pink. A few years ago, it would be considered a girly toy and therefore the pink one would sell more pieces. But the pink one just doesn’t sell anymore. Even Hamley’s takes only the baby blue ones because it looks better,
  • Gender-neutral parenting, a prominent trend in the West, has gained traction in urban India in the last two years, with parents teaching gender equality to their children who have either grown up in a gender-discriminatory environment but want to change that or who have had a liberal upbringing and want to pass it on to future generations.
  • Parents are now dividing household chores evenly among themselves so that their children can learn. They are telling stories about inspiring women and nonviolent heroic men to teach children that there is no such thing as the weaker sex.
  • The preference goes beyond toys. These urban millennial parents want to break the norm that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Gender-neutral upbringing empowers kids to be confident in their choices and expression. It makes them open-minded individuals who can have stronger conversations to fight gender stereotypes and biases as they grow up.
  • US and the UK-In the US and the UK, several millennial parents have stopped referring to the gender of their children. The children are now referred to as “the bias”. Sweden has seen several gender-neutral preschools come up over the last decade.
    • According to Google’s worldwide trends, regions like the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada have seen interest in topics like gender-neutral toys and clothes peak over the past 12 months.

Conclusion

  • To return to the adage, “every drop makes an ocean.” We must create an environment in which a child is free of any preconceived notions. It is past time for us to abandon our preconceived notions of having our sons be the breadwinners of the family while women efficiently turn to be homemakers as they stretch to take on additional roles. It is critical to have a co-parenting mechanism that fuels a future generation of responsible human beings who can cherish their own identity.

Mains model Question

  • Feminism is said to be a powerful tool that allows children to shed stereotypes they may have and question those of others. Do you concur? Discuss how the introduction of feminism in schools will assist children in shedding gender stereotypes.

References