Toy Fair Awards Highlight Gender Divide

The American Toy Fair is the largest toy trade show in the Western hemisphere. The annual event is held in New York City by the Toy Industry Association, whose more than 900 members account for approximately 90-percent of the annual U.S. domestic toy market of $22 billion.

So it’s kind of a big deal.

One of the highlights of the show are the awards. They give out awards for best educational toy, most innovative toy, and best toy for infants  and toddlers.

The Best Toy for Boys is defined as “The best toy developed specifically for boys of any age.” So what toy is it that was “developed specifically for boys?”

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Millenium Falcon
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Millenium Falcon

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Millenium Falcon by The LEGO Group

That’s right girls, forget that the main character of the film is a woman. Forget that she spends more time piloting it than Han Solo or that she actually inherits the Falcon at the end of the movie. Forget that she comes with the set and is shown on the box piloting the spaceship.

Star Wars is for boys.

Other nominated toys “made specifically for boys” included the Air Hogs Millennium Falcon and Star Wars Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber — got the message yet, girls?

Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck
Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck

On the other hand, the Best Toy for Girls winner was the consumer-culture driven Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck followed by an assortment of other pink, purple and pastel items. (Notable exceptions included the “Girl Scouts Cookie Oven” and “Zoomer Kitty.”)

To what purpose do we divide toys by gender? What good does it do to tell girls they are only allowed to play with something if it is pink, purple and covered in flowers? Why do we tell a boy interested in nurturing pets or in role-playing owning an ice-cream shop that his interests are wrong? Where are the toys for those children?

It just goes to show you that despite what I believe are truly good intentions and lots of ink and timid steps towards progress, the industry is hopelessly mired in incredibly rigid and antiquated gender norms that should have died generations ago.

Before next year’s Toy Fair, I’d like to give the industry an opportunity to re-examine this flow chart, which I hope will make it easier for them to determine if a toy is “specifically made” for a girl or a boy.


Any questions?

Off Hollywood: Christie Marx (Creator of Jem and the Holograms)

Jem and the  Holograms was one of the first science fiction and action cartoons ever created for girls. The cartoon was a joint production between Hasbro, Marvel and Sunbow Productions — the same team that had created the popular G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons. The show was created by Christy Marx, a writer who had worked on both G.I. Joe and Transformers, based on a new doll line that Hasbro had developed.

Jem was the no. 1 Nielsen rated syndicated cartoon series in November 1986. It was the third most watched children’s program in syndication with 2.5 million viewers weekly in 1987. The cartooon was syndicated in multiple countries including Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, United States, Italy and France.

Hasbro got into a nasty sales war with Mattel, who had introduced a similar doll like “Barbie and the Rockers.” Sales for both lines suffered badly as a result, leading Hasbro to discontinue the toy line. The cartoon lasted an additional season before Hasbro pulled the plug in it as well.

Jem became a cult classic for women that grew up in the 1980s, leading Hasbro to develop a live-action movie without Marx’s input. Underfunded, the film was forced to jettison all of the science fiction and action elements that made the cartoon popular and the movie was a financial and critical flop — reviled by both fans and the general public.

Webzine The Front recently interviewed Marx about creating the creation of the show.

The Front presents Off Hollywood.

In the premiere episode of Off Hollywood, we meet Christy Marx, writer and co-creator of Jem and The Holograms, a new-wave cartoon featuring an iconic head of pink hair and a braininess that transcends glamour ‘n’ glitter, fashion ‘n’ fame.

Hasbro Forgot Rey (Again) In Star Wars Monopoly Set #WheresRey

Hasbro launched a new version of Star Wars Monopoly, and in doing so they have created a great disturbance in the force. Once again, they have left out Rey, the main character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and included no other women in the set.

Star Wars Monoopoly
Star Wars Monopoly

The game description on the Hasbro web site says:

Includes Episode VII and Legacy tokens

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker represent the “Legacy” tokens — fair enough, I guess. But the Episode VII tokens are villain Kylo Ren and … second lead Finn. The choice to exclude the main character of Rey yet again is not only puzzling for logistical reasons, it deprives gamers of the opportunity to play as a woman. (Adding more tokens so we could include Han and Leia would have been a great choice.)

Many retailers are marketing this as Star Wars: The Force Awakens Monopoly. How will parents explain to their daughters that the main character from the movie is not an option for them when they play the game?

Reaction has been swift and brutal on social media, but perhaps no one put it as eloquently as this little girl.

We’re not sure if Hasbro thinks that girls don’t play Monopoly or that they don’t like Star Wars. Both assumptions are incorrect. It’s 2016, Hasbro. Time to get with the program.


h/t Legion of Leia