Take a stroll through a local Toys “R” Us and you’ll see aisles clearly drawn with pink and blue. The boys’ toys drill and jab, girls' toys primp and clean. It feels familiar now, but in a decade, that division may have gone the way of the restaurant smoking section.
In a recent announcement that has rippled across the Atlantic, Toys "R" Us in the United Kingdom pledged to stop organizing their merchandise by gender and to designate new standards for in-store signage. That means dramatically more images of boys and girls enjoying the same toy. Activists here are now pressuring the retail giant for a similar remodel.
From where I stand, the activists look to have all the long-term trends on their side. First, there’s the obvious trend for girls: Parents who want their daughter to be the next Marisa Mayer are demanding products that reinforce girls’ brains and ambition.
But boys would arguably be even bigger beneficiaries. These are tough times for men in traditionally masculine jobs, and in a decade things may be worse. Forbes writer Alice G. Walton writes about the "feminisation of employment" and the heavy toll it can take on men: Blue-collar jobs traditionally classified as "male" — like construction — are steadily dwindling, while service-oriented (and female-dominated) jobs are on the rise. Increasingly, many working class men will have to choose between being jobless or working in conventionally feminine fields like nursing.
Breaking down old conventions—namely that Bob the Builder and Handy Manny are for boys, and Doc McStuffin’s is for girls—can only smooth the road for tomorrow's working men.
That’s my take, but I know we can all get passionate about toys. (I won’t let my daughters within 100 yards of a Bratz doll.) Tell me what you think in the comments or on a blog post.