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?