Empowering Girls to Fly High

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Part 2: Want to kill your daughters' self worth? stop by at the nearest toy store

An update on this story: The impact of “Want to kill your daughters' self worth” aka @hamleystoys campaign

In many developing Countries little boys are turned into war machines as soon as they can carry a gun, not much different from the Middle Ages where tribes needed protection from foreigners and beasts. But why do we still emulate this behavior with our children in own backyards?

Recently I visited Hamleys, London's famous toy store. I entered the store happy and full of positive expectation, what I discovered made me sick to my stomach and really quite upset.
Part one of this post focused on the girls floor, please read that first. Today I am going to give you a detailed account of the boys floor.

I left the girls floor already feeling very angry and upset, 90% of the girls floor was focused on external beauty, they might as well have a big flashing neon sign saying:
“Hey little girl, your worth is 100% defined by how you look, you are no more than an object to be looked at and consumed, you have no other value. Never mind learning critical thinking and problem solving leave that to the boys”.

You can imagine my reaction when the first toys I see to my right in the boys floor are the building blocks, the puzzles, the alphabet, the shapes cube and the clever cogs. Apparently these are boys toys…argh…
It is not that a girl cant go pick up these toys from the boys floor, of course they can, but what message is this giving to girls? Building things, critical thinking and problem solving are boys activities?!!!

How can anyone be surprised that the only professions where there has been zero progress in the participation of women is in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math)? Why do we see so many studies showing that girls with the same exact aptitude for STEM than boys struggle with confidence which in turn affects the way they perform and lead them to leave the field?

Why would they choose to engage in a profession when they are told from birth that these are boys activities and capabilities?

Before I could turn away from this section, I saw the bike that was clearly missing from the girls floor. Right... cycling, outdoors and physical activity is not for you little girl...

Anyone that knows me personally will be surprised with the tone of these two posts. I know...I know but not even the most positive, glass half full person on the planet can endure this expedition without turning into a bitter raging fuming lunatic. 

As per my previous post, I decided to give you a full account of the two floors, no editing has been done, I just went around the floor and took pictures of pretty much everything I saw.

Next I saw some little cars and trucks...
brmm brmm :)

 some walkie talkies...

but 60% of the store was covered with WAR toys. 

the tanks...
the guns...

the soldiers..

The photos above are not an accurate representation of the tons and tons of toys depicting war and violence. I decided not to post all of the photos as they all looked  pretty much the same and I am trying to avoid using all of your internet bandwith. You will have to trust me on this...60% of the boys floor was focused on WAR!

"Dear little boy, welcome to the world! Your role on this planet is to be the champion of violence and war. You will be strong, unemotional and ruthless in your pursuit of power. Nothing around you will teach you to nurture and care for other creatures. We will forget to tell you that it is ok to have empathy and emotion. We will take full advantage of the healthy testosterone that roams your body, that makes you so full of vitality and energy, that drives you to jump around and to want to play ruff"n"tumble with other boys and redirect all that amazing power to the destruction of other human beings...because  really...we don't have enough of that going on in the world."

What are we doing to our boys? please teach them to explore, to build, to be curious, to be active, to be adventurous...lets keep violence away from all children.

Before we leave the violence section... lets not forget the wrestling toys...

 Harry Potter was only present in the boys floor...

Toy Story was only present in the boys floor...
and "obviously" only boys can be super heroes...sigh...
As a proud and very cool geek girl ;) that really really loves scifi, I was not happy at all to see that some of my favorite characters  were only available in the boys floor. Apparently the jedi force only runs with the boys...

 next was Tron...

and the Transformers...

When I started this tribe, I decided to focus 90% of my time on inspiration, education and guidance. I fully intend to keep following that path. As I write this post I am collaborating with several amazing people around the world on more products and services to fulfill our wonderful mission. 

But as I dwell  deeper into the world of girl empowerment and gender stereotypes, I can not help  but to be horrified with what I see happening not only on our backyards but in third world countries. 

I have to ask you for your patience as I will sometimes need to vent my anger and frustration. I do hope that it will also help raise awareness to these issues and get your support to fight this madness.

A toy store is a place full of wonder, the ultimate paradise for a little human being closely followed by a candy store ;o) I still remember the excitement and magic of such childhood moments, exploring a world of fantasy, color  and creativity. Getting lost in my own imagination triggered by the characters and stories developing in front of me. It should be a place where everything is possible, where the future is only limited by our own imagination.

So why are these places limiting our kids' choices at most most crucial time in the development of their own identity, when they are so hungry to define who they are and who they are not? This is not subliminal advertising, this is very explicit and damaging gender apartheid.

With luck these children have wonderful switched-on parents and educators, like the members of this tribe. Adults that will guide them to a more empowered identity where they can grow to their full potential. But why should we allow  the commercial interests of big corporations to limit our kids' choices and to promote gender apartheid?

It takes a village to raise a child!

Ps. I had to write this post twice because blogger managed to delete it, so apologies if you received two similar but yet different versions of the same post :)

Be sure to join us in our Raising Confident Girls online forum to connect with other parents and experts. 7Wonderlicious - Empowering girls all over the world! 

Happy parenting!


  1. It was easier to find nonsexist toys when the oldest of my 4 daughters, now 37, was a preschooler. I am a pacifist, but I have to fight the impulse to torch toys stores. Companies that sell to day care centers and nursery schools are a better bet. Twitter redstockinggran

  2. As the owner of a toy store, I am totally in agreement with you. There are so many wonderful toys in the world that are not the purview of any one gender. And I do my best to source them and provide them for my customers. I am as horrified as you at the direction the toy industry has been going.

    But ultimately, what drives the choice of products on the shelf in any business, is pleasing the consumers who make the purchases. I would not be in business today if I only sold toys that I would have wanted my own kids to play with. And if I had a dollar for every parent who rejected our suggestions of fun, gender neutral toys in favour of a princess themed ‘whatever’ ...... you get the point.

    But people like you are making a difference. Change is complicated and slow moving. Once the tide starts to turn it can go quickly.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Thats really great. Seems this to be a gift center. I love gifts and also love to give gifts to others thats the reason Christmas is my favorite.

  4. This is an amazing post, so graphic and on point. I hope Hamleys gets word of this.


  5. I wish more people were raising awareness to the damage caused by gender stereotyping. I find your blog and posts you share on twitter really informative. I don't always agree with them all in particular with your push back on princesses but still think you are amazing.


  6. Are you kidding me?

    Boys Generally like trucks e.t.c.
    Girls Generally don't.
    A girl can just as easily buy a "boy's" toy, just as easily a boy can buy a "girl's" toy.
    I had both action men and barbies growing up,
    If a kid were refused at the counter from buying a toy that was "created with boys/girls in mind" THAT would be sexist. this is not.

    let me put it this way, are there bra's in the men section of the clothes store? NO... That must be really sexist huh?.. not.

    there would be nothing stopping a man buying a bra from the woman's section either, so find a real sexist issue and stop making something from nothing.

  7. further on my previous comment..
    Also, the stuff about war, boys like violence and army stuff, nothing about "war machines" It's the way boys are wired, I will maybe give you the SciFi stuff and the bikes/Harry Potter stuff should be in the non-gender section, but by no means is this sexism.

  8. So You Complain about violence in the boys section, but then say that you want these violent darth vader and superhero toys etc in the girls section??

  9. I really think you are trying to make something out of nothing, I have a 7 year old sister, and the girls floor is her idea of heaven! Nothing anyone says would ever make her want to stop playing with barbies or dolls or make-up or hair accessories and you can say that's because of society telling her that's her role but I think you're wrong, that is just what she likes,you or anyone else thinking that it is wrong that this is what she wants to play with is a joke because it has almost no imprint on her future life, it's just stuff that kids PLAY with it isn't shaping their entire lives. When I was a child I was a complete tom-boy, I loved all the toys like action man and fire fighters and super heroes, planes, trucks, trains etc. I just didn't like all the barbies and stuff and if I'd been taken to this store as a kid I'd have probably rushed straight to the boys bit!But now... I'm like the girliest girl around, it has hardly any effect on anything, it doesn't send subliminal messages about self worth, kids are smarter than you think. It's not sexist, it's just what kids want to play with.

  10. There are girl Jedis in the Star Wars movies. I wonder if Star Wars toys have been marketed to girls and succeeded or failed. I do know that girls like Star Wars. I was at Target recently and as I was walking in and walking past the row of checkout lines I saw a mom pushing her little daughter around in a shopping cart. I don't know the kid's age except that she easily fit in the cart and as they strolled past one checkout line the girl saw some Star Wars DVDs on the end cap and exclaimed, "Look, Mom! Star Wars!"

  11. I'm relieved to see this article as I have fond memories of Hamleys and my most recent visit left me appalled.

    But I think you missed the worst of it. It's all very well to say there's nothing stopping boys and girls from visiting the other floors, but the store is actually arranged to prevent this. They are not even next to each other; no, the boys floor is two whole storeys above the girls. From the overload of pink, the emphasis on beauty - two things society associates most strongly with femininity - boys get the immediate impression that the girl's floor is not somewhere they can to remain without undermining their 'masculinity', whereas the girls don't even get that walking tour of the boys floor - after all, it is right at the top of the building and completely out of the way.

    It makes me sick and it makes me sad to see children stereotyped in this way, to see expectations of gendered behaviour forced upon them in an environment that should be safe and encouraging. There is no such thing as 'just play' at that age, play is how they learn about the world.

  12. Well this is like paradise for one of the dudes of the big bang theory don't you think? Keep up the good work and also keep posting.