Designing a toy catalog — or most any mass-market consumer catalog for that matter — is usually an exercise deeply rooted in the status quo. Top-Toy, the largest toy retailer in Northern European and licensee of the Toys “R” US chain in that region, is gently disrupting some of society’s norms with their new gender-neutral toy catalog for the Swedish market.
Featuring girls aiming their toys guns and boys walking tiny, synthetic dogs past a picket fence, some of the catalog imagery is certainly unlike what one is used to seeing from major toy retailers.
The reason Top-Toy has done this in Sweden and not, say, across the water in Denmark, is apparently because such a move is unlikely to upset many Swedes, who are typically considered to be progressive-minded on gender issues. Top-Toy isn’t hiding this rationale, even providing links in their media release to showcase the difference between their Swedish toy catalog and the gender-stereotypes-intact Danish version.
“We want our catalogues to reflect the way boys and girls play in real life, and not present a stereotype image of them, said Top-Toys representative Thomas Meng. “If both girls and boys in Sweden like to play with a toy kitchen, then we want to mirror this pattern.”
Of course, boys in other parts of the world also play with toy kitchens. I did as a child, and I’ve been whacked with a plastic frying pan enough times by a friend’s son to be reminded that make-believe cooking isn’t just for girls.
Whether depictions of boys with blow dryers is truly intended to be a first step in a larger catalog overhaul or is simply a successful ploy to attract media attention during the holiday shopping season remains to be seen.