Following a surge of complaints on Facebook and Twitter, high-street pharmacy Boots has said it was wrong to separate its toys for ‘boys’ and ‘girls. Should other brands follow suit?
Previously in Boots stores, anyone shopping for a toy would find themselves faced with two options – to shop in the ‘girls’ section or the ‘boys’ section. And what is the difference, you might ask?
In this case, the most telling difference was that Boots put its Science Museum-branded range of toys in the ‘boys’ section. This was a particularly disappointing from a company that regularly hires female scientists. After all, what better way to suggest to young girls that only boys can be scientists?
Sexism and shopping
When a discerning shopper noticed this troublesome segregation, they quickly took to Twitter and Facebook. A string of disappointed people followed suit and contacted Boots to complain.
Initially, Boots defended itself by saying it was simply responding to customer feedback and was trying to make its stores more navigable. But later, Boots admitted it was the wrong thing to do and actively made a change by removing the signs.
I for one am pleased that Boots made this decision, although I’m sad to see this kind of sign-posting occurring so often. And despite this positive action, it won’t do anything to prevent the way the toys themselves are marketed towards boys and girls. I’m also disappointed that Boots hasn’t extended these changes to its website, where toys are still grouped by gender ‘to make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they are looking for’.
Still, the big question is – do morals come above marketing?
Let’s stamp out stereotyping
I’m willing to believe that the gender-focused marketing of toys for boys and girls works very well. I also believe that many people still find the segregation of toys into ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ helpful when shopping for children. So I can see that some people might not like Boots’ latest decision, and Boots itself may even see a fall in revenue. So, should we expect businesses to do the right thing?
In my opinion, I think it’s vital that retailers take these important steps towards gender-neutral marketing. And in my ideal word, I think it should be their obligation – not just a voluntary show of corporate responsibility.
Despite societal advancements, today’s children are still bombarded relentlessly with images and ideas of what men and women should be. Although it’s just one small step, this change from Boots puts out a strong message that this type of gender stereotyping isn’t OK anymore.