‘science for boys’ (according to Boots)

oh dear. another day, another fail from Boots. The Guardian is reporting that Boots has been selling toys classified into categories of “for boys” and “for girls” but that after vociferous customer feedback they have posted the following:

Thank you to all our customers who have taken the time to share their thoughts with us on the signs we use in the toys and games area of our stores. We’ve always been proud of supporting women in science and in particular in their careers in pharmacy, and we were dismayed that our attempts to help customers shop our store hasn’t worked in the way we wanted it to. It was never our intention to stereotype certain toys. It’s clear we have got this signage wrong, and we’re taking immediate steps to remove it from store. Customer feedback is really important to us so thanks once again for your ongoing passion and support.

obviously the fact that they have reconsidered the issue is a plus point but how did this ever become a problem in the first place? I cannot believe that a shop such as Boots could have sanctioned such a classification process in the first place.

I’ve yet to address the issues of gender and feminism and raising a daughter here. I’ve started a fair few posts but never got so far as hitting publish. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you thought that I hugely object to the so called ‘pinkification’ and gender classification of toys and books, particularly the idea that sex or gender should play any part in what interests my child.

I find myself constantly disappointed by retailers and the staff that they employ. It’s not just Boots (although I note that they continue to classify their website by boy/girl and sadly all of the toys on the front page of the ‘girls’ page are pink or purple). I am told that it’s due to a mixture of customer feedback/market research and a (misguided?) attempt to help customers better navigate their site or shop. that’s not how I shop (and I don’t plan to buy books from Usborne as I particularly object to the idea that “Indicating which books appeal to boys and which appeal to girls works as a marketing technique because gender is one of the first criteria that is considered by those who are buying a book as a gift“). I’ve lost track of the number of times that Pip has been assumed to be a boy simply because of my purchase choices, or when I have been asked “is it for a boy or girl” when I have asked whether a shop stocks balls, or pyjamas or other similar products. (my response of “does it matter” has been generally met with confusion). Heck, even the so called ‘unisex’ shoes that we plan to purchase for Pip at the weekend are listed on their website under ‘boys’ (although the same shoe in pink, red, brown and white also appear under ‘girl’, with the red and brown options also appearing under ‘boy’ along with our preferred navy choice – which makes me wonder why they need the boy/girl distinction at all).

how I shop for Pip is largely derived from my taste, with the added input of her interests, which are appearing almost daily since she turned about 11 months. when I buy her a book, I don’t start by thinking what should a girl like. I like to shop at independent book shops where the books are simply sorted by type or age. I then pick on basis of subject and illustrations and whether I think the book can stand repeat reading out loud. likewise, with clothes shopping, I don’t start off thinking ‘I have a girl to clothe’; I think what does she need. and then filter by taste. or, more usually, I browse independent shops and websites and Gap (ha) and pick things I like, mostly when they are on sale. toys wise it is more difficult. we try and introduce to her a broad range of toys, mostly practical such as bricks, lego, shape sorters and so on although she does have a doll, a tea set and a pram to push the doll in. she also has a ride on truck/car. I want to encourage all aspects of personality and nurturing the nurturing and caring aspect of a child’s personality is important. she also herself expressed an interest in a doll. her birthday present from us however, was a homemade tipi and a Puffin treasury of Children’s Classics.

anyway, that is all digression. posts for another time, with more thought. I remain saddened by Boots. Again. (both my post yesterday and their refusal to provide me with a loan pram whilst ours goes off to be mended, although in comparison, this is worse. far worse). I already refuse to shop at places which obviously segregate toys in an arbitrary fashion, but I thought Boots were better than that. Sadly, perhaps, another shop to add to my ‘thanks but no thanks’ list.




  1. Han May 2, 2013 / 1:53 pm

    Thank you for writing this smart and honest piece on a topic which I know all mums have to deal with. Yesterday I trawled south london to find my 11 week old son some comfortable trousers which were not blue ‘little man’ tight jeans or the such like. I eventually managed to find him some baggy, non-restrictive harems in the girls section of H&M. They are red and green. I have no idea why they were in the girls section only but I am glad I checked and the more I learn about motherhood, the more I think I will be having to challenge the gender perceptions you so eloquently speak of here; especially if it is going to effect the relationship he has with toys and learning.

    • thelittlepip
      May 2, 2013 / 2:05 pm

      Thank you Hanna. I’ve so much more to say on the subject but no time to sit and write something which needs to be more like an essay. 🙂

      Have you tried Tootsa McGinty for your little one? Web based. Clothes for all children. Good sales. Or, we have a local shop called O Baby here in muswell hill where they sell a lot of Scandinavian brands which don’t scream sex/gender distinctions.

      • Hanna May 2, 2013 / 7:17 pm

        Thanks for the tip! I’ll defiantly check those out- 11 weeks in and I am already frustrated by pale blue and stuff with robots, dinosaurs and diggers!

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