Friday, 9 April 2010

Argos sucks: sexism in everyday life

Argos has annoyed me. I know, there are probably more important things to get annoyed at, but there you go. Anyway, I recently picked up a copy of their Spring/Summer catalogue, and in glancing through it I noticed the headings for the "Toys and Gaming" section:
  • Infant and preschool toys
  • Girls' toys
  • Boys' toys
  • Outdoor toys
  • Gaming
Oh dear. Look, I'm not naive enough to think that we're not going to get girls' and boys' sections, with dolls and cars respectively, although it would be nice if that weren't the case. But here, all toys appear to be either for boys, or for girls, and only outdoor toys can be for both. This is not a good start.

So, let's have a look at what's actually in those sections. Well, for a start, when you actually get to the pages, they don't appear to be labelled as "Girls' toys" or "Boys' toys" anymore. Instead we get more precise labels, such as "Dress up" or "construction". They are, however, still fairly obviously divided, especially in the middle of the sections.

In the girls' pages, we have dressing up (boys' dressing up, with superheroes and the like, is on the last page of preschool; girls get to be fairies and nurses and princesses), toy food and cookers (and, unusually, a workbench, probably because the toys are also divided by maker, and Chad valley don't seem to do much aimed at school-aged boys), lots of dolls, cute animals, Sylvanian families and a few music items. There are quite a few craft sets; either art supplies, or sets to make jewellery, sweets, or shampoos and perfumes. The colour pink features prominently.

The boys' section starts with Playmobil and lego. This is really not good; these are some of the most unisex toys possible, both with a huge variety of sets and scope for imagination. Even when I was a kid, these wouldn't have counted as boys only, and I'd hoped things had improved since then. Oh, and the playmobil page, featuring police, ambulance and fire engine, is labeled as "boys' adventure". We then have lots of toy cars and other vehicles, various TV figurines, and toy weapons. Then, oh joys, we have the science toys. Yes, apparently microscopes and telescopes and crystal growing kits are for boys only.

Finally, we have a couple of pages that probably worry me the most. So far we've had some fairly standard stereotypes, but the last couple of pages of what the index calls "Boys' toys" we have... board games! Yes, apparently Connect-4 and Monopoly are for boys. This may not be what was intended, but it's certainly pretty easy to make that interpretation from the way things are laid out.

So basically, boys get all the stuff that's imaginative or educational, while girls get to eat sweets, look pretty, and practice being a mother. But of course there's no sexism anymore, the feminists are just making that up. Sure.

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