Normally when I go to Toy Fair, I just try to stay in my lane. Shoot some videos, learn about new toys and share with our readers.
This year was a little different. In January I launched a petition calling on the Toy Industry Association (TIA) to do away with their Boy and Girl Toy of The Year (TOTY) Awards, because they reinforce gender stereotypes and have no meaning or value. You can read all about it here.
Of course the TIA puts on Toy Fair, so I ended up bumping into the guy who told me “to get a job” for caring about this issue. I also found myself trying to determine, was the toy industry changing with the times and making great strides to reduce gender stereotypes…or was just the opposite the case.
As with all things in life, you have some facts, you have some words and then you have action. As I examine all of these elements, you can take the optimistic or pessimistic view of things…
The Glass Is Half Full
On January 13, 2016, we launched the petition calling for an end to Boy and Girl TOTY Awards. Just 6 weeks later, on February 12th, at the TOTY Award Ceremony we had the CEO of the TIA saying on stage it was time to reconsider gender based toy awards. Five days later, the CEO gives an interview to Toy News titled – “TIA Open to Dropping Gender Based Toy Of The Year Awards Categories“.
On the show floor we see companies like GoldieBlox and others who are fully embracing that girls like STEM. We see educational robot kits from WowWee – teaching advanced coding and robotics and not being marketed as a “boy toy”.
Victory is ours! Gender stereotypes are going away in toys. Time to celebrate…or….
The Glass Is Half Empty
After launching our petition we spent 6 weeks trying to get any response from the TIA.
The only response we ever got, was a mistaken Reply to All from Ken Seiter, VP of Marketing Communications on February 4th –
“Needless to say we don’t touch this. Obviously this guy needs a job”
Then the Washington Post article comes out on February 12th and just hours later you have the CEO of the TIA saying they are looking at doing away with gender based Toy Awards.
In the Toy News article, Steve Pasierb, CEO of TIA talks about how changing the TOTY Awards has been on ongoing as part of their strategic plan for up to 2020.
Which Begs The Question, Why No Response For 6 Weeks
Given these facts, we are left with this obvious question –
If The TIA Has Been Discussing and Planning For An End to Gender Based TOTY Awards As Part of Their Ongoing Strategic Plan, Why Not Respond To Our Petition?
Check our correspondence with the TIA. This does not include the endless mentions we made to the TIA on social media as well. So, if the plan all along was to possibly do away with these gender based awards, why not respond with a “We are looking at it, Thanks for your concern.”
Also seems odd that on February 4th you have the VP of Marketing Communications saying “Needless to say we don’t touch this. Obviously this guy needs a job” and then a week later the CEO talks about doing away with gender based awards. I thought they don’t touch this issue?
When Will The Gender Based TOTY Awards Be Eliminated?
Steve Pasierb is saying all the right things, but his comments are also open ended. If they are planning out until 2020, will they not discuss removing the gender based awards until 2020?
Some will argue, it has been less than 2 months since we started the petition, we really need to give the TIA more time to act. That would be a valid argument if we were the first people to call for an end to gender based Toy Awards, but of course we were not…
How about Liz Gumbinner of Mom 101 bringing this up in February 2014 – Toy companies: Please please please stop ignoring what girls really want. (Hint: it’s not always pink.)
Here is Jamie Greene of GeekDad writing about this issue in Februart 2015 – ‘Toy of the Year’ Awards Suggest Boys Like Dinosaurs, Girls Like Shopping (#FAIL)” Mr Greene did a follow-up post just this week.
Here is Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy News in November of 2015 – “The TOTY Awards; Is it Time to End Boy and Girl Toy Categories?” Mr. Gottlieb wrote again about this issue just this week.
The point is, this is not a new issue which we just raised 6 weeks ago. The TIA has been well aware for years that consumers do not appreciate toy awards the celebrate gender stereotypes.
We Need to See Action To See The Glass As Half Full
Excuse our pessimism, but given all the conflicting messages from the TIA, the only way we can see the glass half full is for the TIA to take action. Not in 2020 or 2019. They need to take action in 2016.
This is the really positive aspect of this story – it CAN have a happy ending. The glass can not just be half full, it can be flowing over!
As we state in the petition, the time is NOW for the TIA to announce the end of the Boy and Girl TOTY Awards. The CEO is saying the right things, for the sake of our children, it’s now time to do the right thing.