Pink Tinkertoys! For Girls! And Harrods' Gender Neutral Toy Department

My vagina is confused. Thank God for pink toys!
Publish date:
August 8, 2012
kids, toys, gender issues, gender neutrality, Harrods, miniature food

You. Guys. FINALLY Tinkertoy has made an all-pink set “designed especially for girls.” Gawd, when I was five I had to use the stupid primary color Tinkertoys? Which you can most definitely NOT use to make butterflies? Or fairy princess castles?

I mean, what girl could possibly use the “boy” Tinkertoys? I just don’t “understand” the blue and red pieces. And anyway, all you can make with those is stinky stupid boy things like bulldozers and skyscrapers, you know? My vagina is confused. So like, thank God, finally.


I saw this “designed especially for girls!” Tinkertoy set several years ago at Toys R’ Us and snapped that picture above, because I was just so, I don’t know -- offended? Incredulous? Conflicted? At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old broad: What in the world was wrong with the regular Tinkertoys that girls couldn’t play with them?

On the one hand, I have no quarrel with pink. It’s a perfectly lovely color. Give me a fuchsia, a salmon, a Pantone 18-2140 any day. In fact, my son said his favorite color was pink, until he was about four years old, when someone (not me) informed him that pink is only for girls.

I was born in the 70s, a time when everything, including household appliances, was mustard yellow or avocado green or “russet.” I think probably all my toys were these colors, too, or maybe my memories were merely tinted by the light reflecting off our avocado green oven and that macrame owl in the corner of my grandma’s living room.

What I’m saying is I don’t remember toys being “for girls” or “for boys.” Sure, there was an inherent sexism to all toys, but at least there was no label, that I know of, slapped on the outside of a set of pink building blocks that screamed “This is for girls!” I understood that girls played with dolls and boys did not. I understood that every time I played "Star Wars" with the neighbor boys, I had to be Princess Leia because I was the only girl, even though really I just wanted to be Chewbacca so I could wear the toy bandolier. But certain toys, like Legos and Lincoln Logs, and yes, Tinkertoys, were sort of gender-neutral. Everyone at preschool played with them.

I don’t remember what I built with the Tinkertoys (knowing me, probably some abstract shape that I built up and up until it toppled under its own weight), but I’m pretty sure I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to build a goddamn butterfly with them. Nothing against butterflies, you understand. Lovely creatures.

And nothing against girls who want to build butterflies with their Tinkertoys; that’s OK by me, too. What I am not OK with is making a pink version of a toy that should be for both boys and girls anyway, and slapping a label on it that it is “designed for girls.” As if to imply, “Finally! girls are allowed to build things, too!” while simultaneously saying “This toy is NOT for boys” and by the way, "The classic version of the toy is no longer for girls." Maybe I’m reading too much into it?

These creepy Victorian flowergirls aren't smiling because they didn't even HAVE Tinkertoys.

So when I heard about the gender-neutral toy department inside Harrods, my heart did a little flip-flop of happiness. I have to admit, my knowledge of Harrods is limited -- I really only know it as the place from which one Ms. Edina Monsoon gets her milk delivered. But it sounds like pretty much the best place on earth with its new toy set-up.

Instead of separating the “girl” toys and the “boy” toys, Harrods’ Toy Kingdom is divided into different sections, like an enchanted forest and a special area for miniature things. Special bulletin: I love tiny things and it would kill me dead to be in this magical land, especially if they carry miniature food.)

While it certainly doesn’t solve the bigger problem, which is that toys are so specifically gendered that manufacturers are now printing “for girls!” on the front of their packaging, I think Harrod’s is taking a step in the right direction.

Tweet pictures of miniature food and butterflies to Somer @somersherwood.