Toyworld’s telling girls what to play with again: update it was all a mistake

by Morgan Davie

Last year something very cool happened, at least partly inspired by a Ruminator post. But this year, it appears to have… unhappened. I’m not impressed.


So, excerpt from my big long post “Pink/Blue“, relating the marvellous Let Toys Be Toys (UK) campaign to the NZ context:

And popular retail chain Toyworld ships out a new catalogue nationwide every month or so, and it happily marks pages as “boys world” (blue background) and “girls world” (pink background)… If anyone’s looking for something to do in the next few months, getting on Toyworld’s case about this could be a good project, right?

That was June last year. Marvellously, the good people of Auckland Feminist Action wrote a letter to Toyworld about it. And Toyworld responded:

Just over two years ago we reinvigorated the Toyworld brand and re-launched new brand standards… This eliminated the reference to specific genders and to your point focused on the function of the products and categories… The brand standards have also been applied to our marketing media but unfortunately in error gender “worlds” have crept back in and will be removed from future publications as they are not adhering to our brand standards.

Anda few months later, the catalogues did change. No more “Girls World” and “Boys World”! Great, that goes in the win column and no-one will ever have to fight that battle again!

*sad trombone*

We got another toy catalogue in the post a couple days ago. And, yes indeedy, Girls World makes an unwelcome return:


Shame on you, Toyworld. Please kick “Girls World” back to Nowhere World and leave it there.

Now, I encourage you to turn your best glare-face towards Toyworld’s national office about this. But also, this is a reminder that backsliding in this fight is not unusual. Many of these battles have been fought before, and seemingly won at the time. But over the years, things seem to revert slowly back to the same unpleasant status quo. Changing a toy retailer’s catalogue is not exactly easy, but it also has no staying power by itself. What you really need to do is change the whole damn culture, so the graphic designer and the comms manager and whoever just assume that gendered labelling is a dumb idea. Big surprise, everyone – we’re not there yet.

Let’s keep trying, though. Here’s some info on where you might like to glare: Toyworld is on Facebook, if anyone wants to comment there. They have a contact box on their website too. Or you can go right to the head of Associated Retailers NZ – that’s what Auckland Feminist Action did – that’s Franco Godinich, P O Box 8898, Symonds Street, Auckland 1150. And if you do reach out, don’t be dumb about it. This is surely just a screwup, although it’s a pretty shameful one.

And finally, big kudos to Auckland Feminist Action for making change happen in the real world, even if it hasn’t quite stuck so far!

Toyworld on Facebook has said it was a mistake: “I am really sorry. This was my mistake and this shouldn’t have been printed in our catalogue. We absolutely stick by our decision to move away from gender signage. I should have picked this up before the catalogue went to print. We will ensure this won’t happen again.”

Thanks to those people who’ve raised this with Toyworld. Sending the message that people are watching will help this change stick. And good on Toyworld, and this specific staffer, for putting their hand up instantly and saying it was a bad mistake. That’s great.


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Maire Smith April 17, 2014 - 9:27 am

Thanks for the heads’-up, Morgue. I’ve commented on their Facebook page. Ick.

Maire Smith April 17, 2014 - 10:11 am

Good response, even if they can’t spell my name. “Hi Marie – really sorry this was a mistake and shouldn’t have been printed in this catalogue. We have made a decision to move away from gender signage and this should have been picked up before going to print. We will ensure this won’t happen again.”

Magenta April 17, 2014 - 10:57 am

I am the Buyers Assistant for Toyworld and this was my mistake. This shouldn’t have been printed in our catalogue. Toyworld absolutely stick by the decision to move away from gendered signage. I should have picked this up before the catalogue went to print. I am so sorry, and I will ensure this won’t happen again.


Morgan Davie
Morgan Davie April 17, 2014 - 11:28 am

Thanks Magenta, big respect for fronting up like this. As you can see a lot of people care about getting this right!


Marie Greaney April 17, 2014 - 2:54 pm

Thanks Magenta, this is a battle I thought we won in the 1970s!!, but it’s only by having people such as yourself who understand the issues in control of the publications that we can finally lay this one to rest.

Tracey Trooper April 17, 2014 - 2:23 pm

Hi I think there’s probably more important things in this country to worry about than a harmless banner in a catalogue. I am a mother with children and think Toyworld do a fantastic job of communicating to parents and children . Honestly get a life everyone makes mistakes… Tracey

Archy April 18, 2014 - 10:50 pm

Um, Tracey. Settle yourself down and read Morgan’s excellent original post
This stuff is truly insidious and moves toward more gender-equal opportunities for our kids should have our full support.
Getting this stuff right does not mean we can’t also concentrate on the “more important things”.


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