Carly Gloge on Stopping the Toy Shaming

by Carly Gloge

Carly Gloge is the founder of Ubooly, a company which makes interactive toys designed to inspire children's imaginations.  The company was acquired by Cartwheel Kids in 2014, and now operates as a subsidiary. She is currently working alongside toy industry veterans to launch the new "Smart Toy" product line in 2015. Carly was honored as a Forbes  "30 under 30" entrepreneur in 2012, and "10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2014" by Inc Magazine. 

Today she shares her voice on an important topic: dividing toys into gender categories. 


Dropping the “boys” and “girls” categories in toys

When Amazon recently announced that they were removing “boys” and “girls” categories in toys, I had a moment of celebration, but could sense the eye roll from many toy professionals.

Industry veterans have explained to me on several occasions that as much as the press and I like the idea of gender neutral toys and female action figures (check out #wheresnatasha), they simply don’t sell.

Instead of embracing those concepts, I’ve seen the toy aisle polarize more towards gender.  When I jokingly mentioned to a co-worker that I won’t know what I’d do if I have a daughter someday who is a princess, he said “Oh. You won’t have a choice.  There isn’t a single little girl who doesn’t want to wear pink and be a princess at some point.”  Did he not realize that I used to be a little girl?  Apparently, I’m still awaiting my pink / princess puberty.

Psychologists like Melissa Hines have put forth compelling evidence that many girls learn to prefer pink rather than being naturally drawn to it.  They come to realize that color is associated with being a girl, so it becomes a form of self-identification; and that is the problem.

When we label toys as for “girls” or “boys” we’re putting up an unnatural barrier.  I for one, remember feeling a degree of shame for liking my brother’s toys more than the “girls” toys I received during birthdays and holidays. I remember asking myself “is there something wrong with me?”

I believed I was an outlier until recently discovering several articles that found that half of girls don’t identify themselves as “traditional girls”. That is a massive group of kids being alienated!

Some kids have the added pressure from family members.  I recently hosted a play session to evaluate our new toy line.  A few minutes into the session, the 4-year old boy I was playing with asked if we could “play kitchen” with the Hello Kitty Cafe play set in the corner.  After a couple minutes his mom informed him that this toy was for girls. She even challenged him by asking “Do you really like that toy?”.  I smiled inside when he brightly answered “Yes!”. However, his mom’s embarrassment was apparent.

Where does this come from?  Maybe as adults, we want children’s toys to remind us a little of our childhoods – dated gender roles and all.

All I can say is that parents would go nuts if a school suggested Boys Activities: sports, shop, and engineering, and Girls Activities: sewing, cooking, and dance.

As a toymaker, I want the days of pitching to the “boys” and “girls” retail buyers to be over. I want to make toys that make kids better people, not conform to what’s expected of their gender.  My hope is that other retailers will follow suit and forgo gender apartheid.    Thank you Amazon for leading the charge!

This essay originally appeared on Carlygloge.com