Interesting Toy Shopping — Should I be offended?

My daughter was at her grandpa’s house tonight so my husband and I took advantage of our child-free time to do some holiday shopping. We went to Target and went straight to the toys. Look what we found in the doll aisle:

That’s a Dyson toy vacuum cleaner and a toy shopping cart. My husband and I were a little taken aback.

Should I be offended? Are you offended?


  1. says

    I’m not offended by the toys. I would also expect to find toy ovens, toy workbenches, toy hair dryers and toy wood-working tools to any big toy shop.
    I do think that the partitioning of such toys into girls’ toys and boys’ toys a bit old fashioned.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    Both my sons loved their Dyson and their shopping trolley – the latter quite often had to come to the park with us (less often the actual shops).
    The fact you’re having to ask suggests that, while you’re aware of the existence of the kind of perma-offended person who caused the rise of the word “snowflake”, you are not one yourself. Good for you.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    It’s highly offensive that the only toys you find in the “girl” aisle are pink and [the rest]

    It really would be highly offensive… if it were true. Which, it hardly needs saying, it’s not. At least, not in the toy shops I go in.

    It’s offensive that there is a “girl” aisle, as if no girl should ever be interested in Legos or jigsaw puzzles or action figures.

    You seem either to have (a) not been in a toy shop since the 1950s or (b) not had any contact with anyone born since then – possibly both?

    Meanwhile, in 2023, there’s a security gate and a bouncer on the Lego aisle stopping girls from going up there. I’m kidding, of course there isn’t, but you knew that perfectly well. Good luck working out the gender balance of jigsaws, but if you think they’re “not for girls” again I can only assume you’ve not been near a toy shop this millennium.

    Action figures – yes. There IS a gender imbalance there. A particularly egregious example was a SHIELD quinjet toy from which you could deploy Captain America on a motorbike. This was head-asplodingly annoying because anyone who’d seen the movie (Age of Ultron) would know that that thing did happen, but that it was Black Widow on the bike. That was from before I had kids, though.

    I go in toy shops a lot – boys 3 & 5 years old at home. I can tell you for nothing that EVERY kid goes up EVERY aisle in EVERY toy shop – good luck stopping them. And good luck telling them what they “should” be looking at/interested in, regardless of their gender. My older one was a bit gutted when he grew out of his (handed-down-from-cousin) Snow White frock, but the younger one IS a pirate skeleton and will not entertain anything else. We’re doing our level best not to pander to gender stereotypes (obviously, see previous point re: frock) but it’s not some imagined “rash of angry and insecure men who lash out” and present them with stereotypes – it’s their very real and overwhelmingly female primary school teachers and the other kids in their class at school who are responsible for the images they’re exposed to and the sorts of things they presumably feel peer pressure to have interest in.

    I would say bear this in mind: toy companies are capitalist entities. They’re not in business, generally*, to push an agenda (not like 2020s Disney….). They don’t generally turn down an opportunity to take your money. What you see in a toy store is what works. Don’t blame them for that.

    *There are exceptions. I was in the one large toy store in my home town last year, and couldn’t find the Pokemon stuff. I asked an assistant, who informed me they didn’t sell Pokemon stuff. I did a baffled face and said I was sure I’d seen some in there before. I was told they’d stopped selling it – and Harry Potter stuff. I pointed out they sold Lego, and Lego Harry Potter is a thing. “Not in this shop”, was the response. The obvious next question was why, which was when she got a slightly scared look on her face and checked for hidden cameras or something, before saying “I’m not allowed to say. Maybe Google it?”. Turns out the international toy store chain is a family business and the owner has an imaginary friend, and per someone or other Harry Potter and and Pokemon are Satanic cults… so they don’t sell them. On one level I admire his commitment to his delusion, turning down actual money because of a bronze age Middle Eastern death cult, but on the other hand it was annoying having to drive to the next town to get a Gyarados.

  4. SailorStar says

    It’s highly offensive that the only toys you find in the “girl” aisle are pink and devoted to kinder, kuche (children and kitchen)–all they left out was kirche (church), which was a German idea of a woman’s role in society. It’s offensive that there is a “girl” aisle, as if no girl should ever be interested in Legos or jigsaw puzzles or action figures.

    We’re caught up in another wave of backlash against women that seemed to hit right around the time the movie Hidden Figures was a smash hit (the movie was about the role of women as computers and engineers who helped NASA’s spaceflight program and send people to the moon). It seems any time women make progress in society, there’s a rash of angry and insecure men who lash out.

    • brightmoon says

      @ Sailor Star , I’ve been noticing this long before that movie came out . It started for me around the late 90s and especially after the Dover trial in 2005. Remember the Wedge Document? The whole backlash against women’s autonomy, education , science literacy, and the government takeover by fundie conservatives has been planned for a while


    Reminds me of one of my innocent childhood failures, in the eyes of the attending adult. I was a US military dependent in Germany going to first grade in the airbase housing area. Teacher had us sweeping with a broom. I swung the broom around wildly with one hand, teacher asked if that was how my mom taught me to use a broom, and I replied, “the maid does the sweeping.” Teacher deflated, sighed like I was beyond hope. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on this stuff.

  6. brucej says

    Honestly it’s hard to come to any conclusion here since this is pretty obviously a highly biased sample: one narrow vertical slice of a much larger toy section.

    Its almost(gasp) as if the proffered data has been selected to support a particular outrage trigger…

    You could make a similar slice in, say, the liquor aisle “I find it disturbing that they ONLY offer tequila!”, or the snack food aisle “They only offer horribly unhealthy salty fried snacks!” or the pet food aisle “Clearly this store hates cats; nothing but dog food!”

    An excellent example of how outrage can be generated by a careful presentation of even factual data to trigger people’s confirmation biases. Bravo!

  7. Ridana says

    I’m more concerned at the segregation displayed. The Black dolls are teen/adult figures (and pretty cool looking, actually!) while all the baby dolls are white. One box even shows a Black child playing with the white baby doll, which by itself is not a problem, but the display suggests she doesn’t really have a choice, and there are no boxes showing a white child playing with a brown baby. Maybe they’re there and out of frame…

  8. Katydid says

    I had to stop by Target on the way home from work yesterday, and out of curiosity, I went through the toy aisles. Yes, there absolutely is a gender divide, and if my kids were little, I would probably do most of my toy shopping in the “boy” aisle (camo, burnt orange, blue, and black are the colors there) because my girl played with stuffed animals, Legos, Bionicles, lightsabers (so many lightsabers…), dinosaurs, and Barbie. Barbie at least is a grown woman who has careers, friends, and hobbies. To refer back to your newest post, Barbie is not a dependent, unlike the baby dolls. Barbie doesn’t assume every girl must be taught to be a Happy Homemaker with her vacuum and other housekeeping/cooking toys.

  9. StevoR says

    Question for me is more is this sexist and continuing to stereotype women and thus a form of reinforcing social gender roles and prejudices which, yeah, it kinda is.
    Should we be aware of the social conditioning here and oppose it and the patriarchal assumptions and indications being pushed? Kinda yeah?
    Is this doen becuase it is traditional or becuase it is useful and what girls actually want? What alternatiev arrangemenst could be amd e and how well might they work in practice? Eg. mixing toys without gender segregation? Dunno there myself.

  10. brightmoon says

    I remember getting my maternal grandmother to buy a child’s tea set for me and buying toy soldiers for my little sister. I’m surprised that she actually did that as this was the late 50s and oppressive sex segregation was the rule. We played more with those toy soldiers than we ever did with the tea set! At about the same time my older cousin wanted to sell his model train and I wanted one very badly. My misogynistic father told me that “girls can’t do that!” Which upset me so much that I became a feminist at age 5 .

    My son liked vacuuming so he had a toy vacuum cleaner. He also wanted to paint his room pink and he got a pink room. I obviously have thought sex roles were stupid since I was 5 . Which was reinforced by my father sitting in the house waiting for either teenage me or my sister to come home to fix him something to eat. We were both hanging out that day , so he stayed hungry for hours because of his ridiculous stance on doing “women’s work”.

    • SailorStar says

      @5, @13, Brightmoon: yes, to the fundie “traditional roles”. I had a boy and a girl in elementary school in 2005 and I remember the fundie attempts to take over the public school system and try to impose stupid rules (for example, girls couldn’t take after-school tae kwon do–that was for boys). That was also around the time a female coworker’s father died and she was away for the final arrangements and funeral. She came back saying her 19-year-old son “lost 10 pounds!” in a week. Was there no food in the house? Yes, there was, but *there was nobody to make him a sandwich, so he just didn’t eat*. That’s an exact quote.

      We saw this sexism play out just this spring: in a world with 53 versions of Batman, 20 versions of Superman, and 600 versions of Spiderman (cartoon and live action) plus a new MCU movie what seems like every week…the incel crowd lost what was left of their minds because Disney made a live-action Little Mermaid 35 years after the cartoon was made. Instead of just–you know, not going–they had to parade up and down the internet whining about how their fee-fees were being injured and they were SO OFFENDED that there was a movie made that didn’t cater 100% to their interests.

  11. Ysanne says

    This is the baby doll and more generally the parenting and domestic chores pretend play aisle. Nothing wrong with it as long as you don’t equate that with “girls aisle”.
    For a sample size of one, my son was fully obsessed with his toy Dyson vacuum at age 3, and loved to play with the toy iron making hissing steam noises. (I dont know how he even became aware of this concept, I usually go years between occasions of ironing anything…)

  12. Katydid says

    I was a child in the 1960s and remember that at least 70% of the kids were named Sammy or Jody–girl or boy. In the early 1972 was the Free to Be You and Me album and movie demonstrating that boys and girls could be what they wanted to be and one of the songs was about a boy who wanted a doll so he could learn to be a good father. The conservatives lost their minds over it, but the larger society embraced it. Boys and girls dressed similarly and in the same types of colors, played the same games, read the same books. Then came the backlash as the late 1970s flashed back to the 1950s and girls were expected to be extra-femme and boys were supposed to be extra-macho.

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