Girls’ guns and boys’ Barbies?

Parents and Santa alike rethink gender roles

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The toy’s main character is Goldie, a female engineer, and it is scheduled to be on store shelves in April. In a concession to commercial realities, the toy’s color scheme includes a liberal dose of pink.

“There’s a lot of parents out there; they’re conditioned by this. They won’t even pick up something if it doesn’t cue that it’s a girl,” Ms. Sterling said. “I don’t want girls to miss out on GoldieBlox because it wasn’t overtly messaged for them, at least in the early stages.”

Some things are changing in the industry. This year, the London department store Harrods redesigned its toy department to organize it by theme rather than by gender. Swedish toy firm Top-Toy published a gender-neutral catalog in which boys were shown playing with a kitchen set and hair dryer and a girl was shown shooting a toy gun.

Hasbro this week announced it has spent the past 18 months developing an Easy-Bake Oven in the gender-neutral colors of black and silver. It made the announcement after meeting with McKenna Pope, the Garfield, N.J., 13-year-old whose online petition asking the company to make one attractive to all children gathered tens of thousands of signatures. Hasbro says it knows both boys and girls have fun playing with the Easy-Bake.

Even parents who are sensitive to gender issues say they sometimes have to challenge their own notions. Ms. Brett said her elder son was interested in toys aimed at both genders as a little boy. But when son No. 2 came along five years later, she was surprised to see he had a stronger preference to play with guns and Army men.

“I really needed to let go of controlling what I thought he should play with as an enlightened boy,” she said. “They may choose to do what is stereotypical, and they should have the right to choose that as well.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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