Globally beloved children’s toy manufacturer Lego has recently announced it will no longer divide its brick sets by gender with a new range of gender neutral toys.
An international study conducted by the Geena Davis Institute has found that children’s attitudes towards play shape their futures, and so gendered toys can lead to harmful stereotypes. Gender neutral toys have the benefit of removing these stereotypes In a press release for the UN Day of the Girl, Lego said that current attitudes surrounding both work and play promote inequality. Girls are more likely to be open to a diverse range of activities when they are young, but as they grow up they are held back by gender norms.
Over 80% of parents encouraged boys towards the following activities:
- STEM-like and coding toys
- team sports
While girls were encouraged towards more feminine activities:
- creative art
- cooking and home play
These assumptions are projected onto their children, with boys being especially likely to inherit the gender norms of their parents.
The study also showed other typical gender roles emerging from play, with girls being encouraged away from programming and coding toys, while boys are pushed towards physical or STEM-like activities rather than performance, dress-up, or home play like cooking. we have the opportunity to move away from this with gender neutral toys.
For transgender and non-binary children, these stereotypes are even more harmful. Keeping ‘boys’ from traditionally feminine activities and ‘girls’ from traditionally masculine activities limits opportunities for trans children to express their identity and constrains their development. If these gender roles are shared by their parents, they could be encouraged – even unconsciously – to suppress their true identity. They may face social exclusion, bullying, and a lack of access to hobbies and play activities, all of which can have a developmental impact with lifelong consequences.
Benefits of Gender-Neutral Toys
We welcome the new gender neutral lego collections. Lego’s gender-neutral toys offer a range of new benefits to transgender and cisgender children alike, including:
- They introduce kids to careers without gender stereotypes.
- They don’t reinforce gender stereotypes.
- They empower children and society at large.
Gender Neutral Toys Remove Harmful Stereotypes
Binary gender categories for toys leave non-binary children with no model to follow and risk pressuring them into a gender role that isn’t representative of how they see themselves. With mental health outcomes substantially worse for gender-variant children across the board, it is high time that changes were made to accommodate them. Besides the Lego report, similar initiatives are gradually gaining momentum around the world. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has introduced a law mandating that all stores in the state have a gender neutral children’s section. Dr Jack Turban, an expert in child development and psychology, has spoken about how this change not only supports gender-variant children, but actually boosts child development in all genders. In fact, proper support in their true identity is the strongest predictor of positive outcomes for gender-variant youth.
We welcome this move from Lego, and look forward to the development of more spaces for children beyond the binary. If you’re a parent or young person and you want to share your thoughts and experiences, please leave a comment below or get in touch via our website. You can also always find us @GenderGP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.