It’s 2016, Time to Stop Awarding Gender Stereotypes in Toys

TOTY Awards Gone Wrong
(Illustration by Chris Murphy)

UPATE 8/9/16: The Toy Industry Association just announced an end to gender based toy awards.  Read more here.  Can finally say, all the info below is just for historical reference!

The Situation…

Movies have the Oscars.  Music has the Grammys.  Toys have the TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards.

Each year the Toy Industry Association, Inc (TIA) crowns the best toys of the year, in an awards ceremony in NYC that is considered the Oscars of the toy industry.

On February 12, 2016, a total of 14 TOTY Awards will be given out, in 14 different categories.

The Problem…

Here are the 14 Categories that the Toy Industry Association has created for the Awards..

  • Toy of The Year
  • People’s Choice Award
  • Activity Toy of The Year
  • E-Connected Toy Of The Year
  • Educational Toy Of The Year
  • Game of The Year
  • Infant/Toddler Toy of The Year
  • Innovative Toy Of The Year
  • Outdoor Toy of The Year
  • Preschool Toy of The Year
  • Property of The Year
  • Speciality Toy of The Year

Yep, it is those last 2 that we have an issue with it.  Here are the finalists for Boy and Girl Toy Of The Year –

Boy Toy Of The Year: 

  • Air Hogs Millennium Falcon Quad by Spin Master Corp.
  • Hot Wheels® Ultimate Garage by Mattel
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Millennium Falcon by The LEGO Group
  • Nerf N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster by Hasbro, Inc.
  • Sky Viper Video Streaming Drone V950STR by Skyrocket Toys
  • STAR WARS® Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber by Hasbro, Inc.
  • XPV HULK SMASH™ RC by JAKKS Pacific, Inc.


Girl Toy of The Year:

  • Disney’s Frozen Sing-A-Long Elsa by JAKKS Pacific, Inc.
  • Girl Scouts Cookie Oven by Wicked Cool Toys
  • Nancy B’s Science Club Black Light Illuminator & Nature’s Mysteries Journal by Educational Insights
  • Nerf Rebelle Arrow Revolution Bow by Hasbro, Inc.
  • Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck by Moose Toys Pty Ltd
  • Zoomer Kitty by Spin Master Corp.

Why in the world do we need to specify what toys are for boys vs girls?  Shouldn’t the awards be based on the merit of the toys, not who the TIA thinks should play with them?
Get Gender Stereotypes out of Toys

Zoomer Kitty is a robotic cat.  What, boys don’t like robotic cats?

No, in fact it turns out boys like robotic dinosaurs…according to the TIA.  Guess what won Boy Toy of The Year last year?  Zoomer Dino.

Girls don’t like Star Wars?  Or Drones?  Or Lego?

Girls should bake cookies for their Zoomer Kitty and when they need more supplies, ride their magical unicorn to do some shopping at the Shopkins truck?  At least if they run into any bandits along the way they can scare them off with their pink Rebelle bow…and document their day in their journal.

Here is a quick video for the visual learners in the group…

The Solution…

Toy Industry Association (TIA) we are not asking for anything complicated, simply change the categories for each Toy Of The Year Award to describe the type of toy, instead of the gender you think will enjoy the toys the most.

Target has done away with separate boy and girl toys and President Obama used a Toys for Tots event to make it very clear we don’t need gender stereotypes in toys.

Want to celebrate Arts and Crafts – great, make an Arts and Crafts Toy of The Year Award.

Love Drones, Cars and Planes – perfect, make a Remote Control Toy of The Year Award

I’m a Dad and I love Girl Scout Cookies – how about Maker and Baker Toy of The Year Award

A very simple solution, just make categories that describe the toys, not the gender of the kids who you think will play with the toys.

What You Can Do Right Now…

Spoiler alert – I read the rest of this post and it is mediocre at best.  So, let me save you some time and cut to the chase –

Click Here to Sign The Petition – Remove Boy and Girl Toy of Year Awards

It will just take you a few seconds and I promise we are not asking for money, your first born or who your favorite muppet is.  We just want your virtual signature so we can go to the Toy Industry Association and show them the people have spoken and it is time to do away with Boy and Girl Toy of the Year Awards.

Want to do even more?  Awesome!  Use the Hashtag #AwardFunNotStereotypes and share via your social channels.  Let’s show The Toy Industry Association (@ToyIndustryAssn) that kids don’t see gender.

Yes, This Issue Actually Does Matter…

We know, it seems everyday someone has a new petition for you to sign.  We get it, things have gone overboard.  The thing is, this really does matter, especially if you are a parent.

Some will say, these are just toys – and some silly awards, who cares what they call them?  Does this really make any difference when they grow up? I mean being told to play with magical unicorns is not going to stop a girl from growing up to be a computer scientist – right?  Actually, that is exactly what these gender based toy awards may do.

Did you know the vast majority of the original computer programmers were women?  So how is it the field is dominated by men now?  The most likely reason… video games, toys and gender based marketing.  You need to listen to this fascinating piece from NPR.  Here is a quote…

“A lot of computing pioneers — the people who programmed the first digital computers — were women. And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising.

What happened?

We spent the past few weeks trying to answer this question, and there’s no clear, single answer.

But here’s a good starting place: The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers.

These early personal computers weren’t much more than toys. You could play pong or simple shooting games, maybe do some word processing. And these toys were marketed almost entirely to men and boys.

When Women Stopped Coding, NPR Planet Money, 10/21/14

Look I am not a PhD in anything.  I have not studied gender issues in children for 20 years.  In fact, I may be the only blogger left who has not written a book or is at least on the verge of a breakthrough book.

The thing is, you don’t need to be very smart to see there is a huge problem here…and an easy solution.

Do we have awards for Best Car for Women and Best Car for Men?

How about Best Smartphone for Women and Best Smartphone for Men?

This is a no-brainer (and therefore easy for someone like me to see) – it is 2016 and we do not need to award and celebrate gender stereotypes in our children.

What Does The TIA Have To Say…

Unfortunately, nothing at this point.  On 1/4/16 I emailed the TIA to ask why they have a Boy and Girl Toy of The Year Award.  As of this writing (1/12/16) I have not received any response.  If anyone from the TIA is reading, please contact us or leave a comment below.  We would all like to know the benefits of having gender specific toy awards.

UPDATE (8/9/16): GENDER BASED TOTY AWARDS ARE DEAD!  Yippie!!!  Read more here.


UPDATE (2/25/16): We published an update here – Gender Stereotypes and Toys, The Glass is Half Full…Or Half Empty.

UPDATE (2/24/16): Many people have asked to see the emails we have sent the TIA and their response.  That can all be found here.  Also includes an update from the CEO of TIA stating in a Toy News interview that he is now in favor of doing away with gender based awards.

UPDATE (2/12/16): I finally received a response from Ken Seiter,  VP, Marketing Communications of the TIA – here it is -

Ken Seiter – “Needless to say we don’t touch this. Obviously this guy needs a job”

Read the full story in this Washington Post article.

In the Meantime…

Sign the petition and let’s get the TIA to remove gender stereotyping from their toy awards.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bake myself some girl scout cookies to calm myself down.

More Great Resources:

Plenty of other folks (much smarter and more eloquent) than myself have been fighting this fight for years:

In the UK you have Let Toys Be Toys

Even though December makes up just 8.3% of the year, No Gender December is awesome 100% of the time.

Play Unlimited – the only thing possibly better than that would be Sleep Unlimited.  Play Unlimited is Australian based, an awesome resource and from what I can tell, and is not written by wallabies.

Fascinating article by Elizabeth Sweet in The Atlantic.   Did you know toys are more divided by gender today then they were 50 years ago?  That’s not a good thing.

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