‘science is for boys’ (says Tesco, this time)

it’s not just Boots (although to be fair to Boots, they have changed their minds now). when it was pointed out to Tesco that they actively market and label toys by gender and that this is damaging to our children, where imagination should be limited by, well, imagination and interest, not restricted by pre-conceived ideas of marketing, they immediately defended their decisions. their response was that “Toy signage is currently based on research and how our customers tell us they like to shop in our stores” adding that “further research” would be commissioned later in the year to ensure “an up-to-date reflection of customers’ thinking” {edited – apparently Tesco now have admitted that a specific chemistry set is inaccurately labeled. rather avoiding the main point}


I’m told that Tesco aren’t interested in anything besides profit. if they think that it will help them sell toys faster, or more easily, they’ll label them whatever they damn well please (statute law permitting). the suggestion was that the ‘how customers tell us they like to shop’ is based more on analysis of shop users, layout and ease of searching than it was based on customers being provided with the chance to feed back to Tesco their moral preferences. if Tesco would like to provide their research that proves me wrong though, I’ll happily correct this. (whilst shaking my head sadly at the thought that there may be people who actually support a limitation of toys by gender).

i’d posit that only labeling by type would be a lot easier and quicker for everyone concerned. ‘dolls’; ‘weapons’; ‘science’; ‘domestic appliances’ would be a lot more helpful rather than trying to guess whether someone has arbitrarily decided that a volcano factory should fall under ‘boy’ but a bug finder should be ‘unisex’. we don’t need Tesco to tell us what toys they deem ‘unisex’. so far as I’m concerned, they all are. perhaps more worryingly, if you filter ‘science and education’ by ‘girl’ you are faced with 49 products, almost all of them pink, mostly unrelated to science. the ‘boy’ filter on the other hand, may only have 38 options but includes chemistry sets, various experiments and items more traditionally associated with science.

I’m not going to rehash why this makes me so angry (you can see my previous post on the subject here). BBC radio presenters who invite listeners to ring in with their comments “is it ok for children to play with toys designed for the opposite sex” make me even more cross. it’s not just missing the point, it totally encapsulates why there is such a problem in the first place.

all children need to learn about the wider world, science, arts, politics, culture, music, languages and also about caring and nurturing for themselves and their chosen family, be that in due course a partner and/or children or simply the people they choose to surround themselves with. if my daughter chooses to be a cook or chef (and given her love of food, I wouldn’t find that surprising) I’d argue that maths and science would be extremely useful. if I have a son (or when I think about my nephew) I wish for him to learn about looking after others as just an important an education as earning money.

I’ve signed a petition calling for toys to be categorised by theme or function. you can follow Let Toys Be Toys on twitter and facebook.

sadly, this isn’t the last I’m going to be posting about this, I’m sure.

ps. it’s not just Tesco. Here’s a photo of a product by Next, suggesting that rockets are only for boys too. It’s not just their labeling either, that’s packaging too.



1 Comment

  1. krystal/village May 10, 2013 / 11:58 am

    that is really frustrating…but you were very well said. its great to see you doing something about it and calling attention to it!

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