Dear Melissa and Doug,

I love your toys. I love that my toddler can serve sashimi with a side of bok choy from her inherited (and carefully anonymized) drive-thru play set. McSushi, anyone?

But one of your recent offerings has me a little perplexed.

A toy just for boys? That surprised me. There’s lots out there that’s clearly being marketed to boys (or to girls). According to the Age of Persausion, gender marketing began in the ’60s, and it certainly still goes on now. And perhaps, without a TV in the house, I’m missing out on the latest in advertising.

Or perhaps I just hold the brands I admire to a higher standard.

I’m afraid that the ensuing discussion didn’t bring much in the way of resolution:

Granted, 140 characters is not a lot to work with. But the message still seems pretty clear: this is a toy for boys. Because boys play with boy dolls, and girls play with girl dolls. And while a boy doll can be a police officer, construction worker, or fireman; the only career option for a girl doll is ballerina.

(I omit “princess” here, as the position has recently been filled).

This begs a larger question, which I put to anyone reading this: who is responsible for promoting gender equality? If there’s a market, is it ok to just cater to it? And don’t get me wrong, the fact that there are “twenty-first century paper dolls” that cater to boys represents huge progress – I just think we can move a little further. And without much effort, either.

I also have a smaller question: what do I do now? I already agonize over striking the right balance. I bought a toy kitchen because I was afraid I was over-compensating by getting the tool bench. I would like my daughters to be able to dress boys and girls as firemen (or ballet dancers, for that matter).

So do I buy two sets? Or withold my patronage from a company that doesn’t appear to share my values?

Am I over-thinking this? What would YOU do?


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