Toys in Spain go on ‘strike’ on December 12: what is behind this government campaign?

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This Thursday the Ministry of Consumer Affairs of Spain, led by Minister Alberto Garzón, has called a symbolic toy strike. It is a government campaign that aims to raise awareness against sexism and gender roles in childhood.

On the eve of a few days in which consumption soars and the purchase of toys reaches its annual maximum, Garzón has launched this campaign with a video in which two dolls give a rally and call for a one-hour strike for next Sunday 12 December, from 11 to 12: “Because a toy that can only play with 50% is not a happy toy”.

In this way, educators, mothers, fathers and boys and girls are invited to reflect on how toys help perpetuate gender roles that minors will later apply in their adulthood.

The bell ‘Playing has no gender’ has launched the hashtag in turn #StrikeToys on social networks and invites all those who want to participate to upload a photo with their toys next Sunday to participate in this awareness day.

Pink for boys and blue for girls

Sexism in toys has been denounced for years, leading to those that are supposed to be intended for boys occupying a different place in catalogs and stores than those that claim to be for girls.

The differences are not only found in the colors, the classic blue for boy and pink for girl, but also in the contents. Those intended for boys usually have to do with courage, strength, adventure, science and discovery, while those offered for girls are mostly related to care, whether of babies or housework, as well as with beauty.

Experts have long warned that this classification of the so-called “sexist toys” it gives rise to the reproduction and perpetuation of gender stereotypes. Some of the consequences of this type of education in early childhood are:

  • Promotes the discrimination: links the feminine with the fragile, the irrelevant, the weak.
  • Point to the boy or girl that goes outside the established pattern. Creatures that play with toys that are not supposed to be for their sex may be singled out by other children or adults.
  • They generate pressure on children and sanction free play.

One study on stereotypes and gender roles in toy advertising published by the Women’s Institute in 2020 found that gender roles are still fully in force, highlighting the use of the color code, the masculinized and feminized representation of professional roles, as well as other archetypes related to sex, and even sexualization in the case of girls.

What is a gender-free toy?

A gender-free toy is one that is classified by its theme or by the skills it develops, without specifying who it is intended for.

Thus, campaigns like the British Let’s Toys Be Toys [Deja a los juguetes ser juguetes] urges manufacturers and stores to be neutral in the arrangement of toys and their presentation and packaging.

“What are we? Toys! And what do we want? Equality!“This is how the harangue of the two toys that have announced this innovative action to promote gender equality of the little ones ends.

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