She’s precocious and cute, the 3-year-old girl in a video gone viral around the web, ranting in a toy store aisle about gender-specific toy marketing. In the video, little Riley Maida of upstate New York, prodded by her father filming her, becomes passionately emphatic that superhero and princess toys should be marketed to both boys and girls.
Pounding her little hand on a box for emphasis, Riley – who loves superhero toys – brings attention to issues prime for debate during the gift-giving holiday season. “The companies, making them, try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff boys want to buy, right?” she asks her dad. Later, she declares, “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses. Some boys want superheroes, some boys want princesses. Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff, and all the boys have to buy different colored stuff?” A “Saturday Night Live” commercial parody from 1997 called “Chess for Girls,” featuring chess pieces with blonde hair and frilly dresses, also plays on stereotyped toys for girls.
Why do toy manufacturers continue to steer girls and boys to separate realms of toys? Do you agree or disagree with their gender-centric marketing campaigns? What kinds of toys have you bought for boys and girls during the holidays?
Sasha Strauss, founder of Innovation Protocol, a management consulting firm focused on brand marketing; he also teaches brand strategy at USC