December 15th, 2011
06:12 AM GMT
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London (CNN) – Does toy marketing ingrain gender stereotypes?

Hamleys, the famous London toy store, has taken down gender signs for its toys in the wake of a campaign by a feminist blogger that the store’s blue-and-pink marked floors were sexist.

Previously, the fifth floor of the Regent Street flagship store – where action figure and war-themed toys were sold – was marked with a blue “Boys” sign. Gone, too, is the third floor “Girls” sign which sells dolls and craft toys.

Blogger Laura Nelson started the campaign with an October post that accused the store of promoting “gender apartheid.”

“We have a severe lack of women in senior positions in our society and a severe problem of inequality,” she wrote in her blog, Delilah. “Only 22 percent of UK parliamentarians are female. A survey of Britain’s top 100 companies find that, of 329 executive directors, only 20 are women.”

“There were very different toys on the girls' floor as opposed to the boys' floor,” Nelson told CNN’s Richard Quest. Nelson, who has a degree in neuroscience, believes that gender roles reinforced by toy selection hurt the numbers of women taking leadership roles in science and business.

Asked if this is political correctness “gone mad,” she said: “I’m absolutely delighted that people are having a debate and talking about it now because it’s getting the issue out into the open.”

Her campaign began just days after a brief online and Twitter campaign against UK retailer Marks & Spencer noted that an astronomy set was only listed in the store’s boys toy section online, not the girls. The company responded the same day, changing its online catalogue.

Hamleys, for its part, has told the press that the change was coincidental to Nelson’s campaign.

“While we welcome comments from all customers and interested parties on improving Hamleys, in this case we regret that the changes to our signage were not due to any campaign,” the store said in a statement.

“We are in the process of detailed planning for a complete refit of our store on Regent Street. As part of this planning, it was made clear to us from consultants’ and customer surveys that our store directional signage was confusing. As a result we commenced changing all our signage in October of this year in order to improve customer flow.”

Filed under: BusinessQuest Means Business

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. clay


    December 15, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  2. John

    Not a big deal but makes sense. Most US toy stores have a gender neutral layout and organize by category (except clothes which I think is more gender biased in the US than Europe). Then within a layoutindividual toys may be very gender specific such as dolls or soldier toys but most toys are really neutral.

    My younger son like cars and but also kitchen cooking stuff and my daughter loves her dolls but also the Thomas trains sets and dinosaurs. I've never been to Hamley's but I would imagine if I was my son and daughter might ask me why we are in the wrong "boys" or "girls" sections – unless they stock duplicate sets of toys on both floors. Even worse they might think its wrong to have the toys they like.

    December 15, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  3. me


    December 15, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  4. mike

    Its high time they starting selling bras and stockings in the men's section!!!!!!!!!!

    December 15, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  5. Angela

    What a cow. I love these people who need to destroy other peoples' happiness to try to get some publicity. Now that Hamley's doesn't label the floors "boys" and "girls" I guess all the gender inequalities will sort themselves out. I guess her girlfriend likes her the way she is though.

    December 15, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  6. Meg

    Just because girls are generally more interested in dolls and crafts and boys in action heroes and cars, does not mean that a girl will not enter into the sciences or business world. I am a strong female who happened to love Barbie dolls as a kid. I hated my brothers action heroes. I am now working in both the business world and the sciences; as a consultant in the medical device industry. There really is no correlation between what toys a kid plays with and what they will do in their adult life.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  7. alex

    "Here! I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies." – Monty Python's Life of Brian

    December 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  8. Hannah

    what is the big deal? i think everyone needs to stop being so uptight about everything! its like treading on eggshells with everything nowadays. everyone should just take a chill pill....there are more important things in life to worry about then blue and pink signs.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  9. Slackie

    Closet lesbian !?

    December 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  10. Mellyg

    @Angela: So changing the color of floors and taking down signs that say "boy" or "girl" is destroying the happiness of others? You must never leave the home if such small things destroy your happiness! I think you must have bipolar disorder and need a therapist.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  11. Eeshaan

    This is pathetic. I don't know who is more stupid. That fool of a feminazi, or the store managers who actually cared for the message posted on her blogs.

    Society nowadays is dimply too soft & sensitive.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  12. Mellyg

    @John: I think you get the idea. My parents thought that legos were "boy" toys and wouldn't buy me any. Same for train sets. They finally let me have toy cars because I wouldn't stop taking my older brother's. This doesn't make me a lesbian, but it does make anyone who would make this assumption a moron. And maybe that is why this person wanted the signs taken down. Too many ignorant people out there making their ignorant assumptions off of this stuff.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  13. Other Dave

    What percentage of pointless bloggers are women?

    December 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  14. VB70B

    Women cant be trusted to make sound business decisions for on reason alone. PMS !!!!!

    December 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  15. Alia

    Good. I always liked action figures and superheroes growing up, as well as dinosaurs and legos. I occasionally played with allegedly "girl" things, like stuffed animals, but it's stupid to segregate toys between boys and girls. The truth is, both genders can enjoy the same toys. It takes literally no effort to put all the toys together, and makes it easier on the kids who are told they're only supposed to play with the toys from one section. Seriously, it's not the 1950s anymore.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  16. John

    The time has come to end gender sterotyping and let children be themselves.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  17. pathetic

    This is idiotic. I've been to Hamleys a lot. There are six floors – most with ‘gender-neutral’ toys like Thomas, science sets, kids computers, etc. The ‘girls’ floor has all of the pink toys (Barbie, princess costumes) and the ‘boys’ floor has the transformers and GI Joe. Does this idiot want all of the toys mixed up? Does she think then that boys will start playing with Barbie and girls will start playing with toy guns? The kids don’t know what floor they’re on, they could care less. The store is organised by theme and the layout makes perfect sense. Take the signs down and most girls are still going straight to the pink floor.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. khanikun

    I hate feminists. Here's something. Why don't you do a study on how many women actually try to get these high executive jobs or parliament jobs. How about how many women to try for these jobs actually qualify for them.

    They just claim there's discrimination without actually doing any kind of actual research. Let's say there's 10 women compared to 100 men who are in high exec jobs. What does that tell me? Not a whole lot. What if there was only 12 women who applied for these jobs and 3000 men? Based on those numbers, I'd say there's more discrimination against men. Now if it was like 3000 women who applied and 100 men, then I'd say there's more female discrimination. Even then, that's just speculation, as I'd also have to look through their resumes and see who was actually qualified for such positions.

    This is why I hate these stupid activist bloggers.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  19. feministsuck

    i guess next to go is the pink and blue newborn colors

    December 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  20. Kevin H

    I've had some disturbing discussions with managers over the years – many of whom who have been women. When asked why one didn't set her sights on a "C" level position she laughed and said, "be REALISTIC". That's what she thought of me from then on. I "think differently" she said. But most felt that they should behave as men do – or that they should use whatever "God" gave them to get what they wanted – in other words be as bad if not worse than their male counterparts. What feminists sometimes (not always) miss is that male gender stereotyped behavior comes not from the labels but from the behaviors themselves. Wars, aggression, physical violence, verbal abuse and so on come from successive washes of hormones in our bodies over our brains that reinforce these constructs. So "boy" versus "girl" isn't the greater issue here – the greater issue is encouraging thousands of years of male gender stereotypes that pervade society. Repainting walls and re-branding store floors not only won't go a long way to solving the problem it actually causes snickers and reinforces gender roles. What the blogger should have screamed loudest about were toys that reinforced inequality, inequity, war, violence against humans and animals and the abuse of our planet. Those are the lessons we're continuing to reinforce in our children. Whether it's Wallace or Kunigunde at the head of the invading army really doesn't matter – it's the invading army – its raping, pillaging, robbing and plundering that are the real issues.

    December 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  21. Marite

    This is what I really call making a change in society! Let's use instead yellow and green

    December 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  22. Grant

    As an educated male who loves women, I find it ludicrous that someone finds it necessary to emasculate children to make them feel more feminine.

    December 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  23. Grant

    Having now read your blogs, I am more offended.
    As a child having had the pleasure of Hamleys,i cannot beleive that you would deny other children the same pleasure.
    What ither than gender did they do to offend you??

    December 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  24. Dylan

    Stick up her ass.

    December 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  25. Lilly

    Only a woman would care about junk like this. They see everything as a threat. Personally I don't care if they take the signs down or not but women will not be happy until they completely dominate everything. Boys are already fallling behind in school since so much has been changed to favour women. But of course you don't see women blogging about that sort of inequality because they feel it's okay to discriminate against men since they were discriminated against for so long – also known as revenge. I look forward to the day when we can finally axe 'women's studies' in universities and 'women's affairs' in government. They don't need special treatment any more.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  26. Roger

    Laura Nelson, the moron lesbian blogger of the year. Congratulations to you and the store manager that agreed to this.
    You can now consider yourself an accomplished and annoying twit.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  27. Matt

    "Does toy marketing ingrain gender stereotypes?" No, it doesn't. Because girls have legs and they could walk through the boys isle if they wanted to. And many boys have sisters. Etc. The cause is not in the marketing, but in the genetic drives.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  28. john

    She should change her name because Laura is too feminine and we should all have gender-neutral names like Sam or Alex

    December 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  29. GG

    she wanted her minute of fame and got it – go back to your girlfriend. Idiot

    December 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  30. Stranded Northerner


    Yours are droopy, too? That's nothing that some time in the gym won't fix... assuming you're not in the process of transitioning your gender, that is. In which case, I'd like to welcome my future sister and would be happy to help you figure out your bra-size!

    December 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  31. hello


    December 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  32. Beefburger

    Next little boys will be trying to join the Girl Scouts and crossdressing men will want to use the women's restroom..wait..WHAT?!

    December 16, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  33. Beefburger

    Chuck Norris is just a man who is an actor. If he WERE a god then he would come in this room and slam my head into this keyboar]. KOP}tuif76d9p ui8p^R&GTAS hy88888888888-p0

    December 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  34. Beefburger

    Why does anybody give any serious attention to bloggers. They should be appropriately renamed blah-blah-blahgers.

    December 16, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  35. cyberbeing

    You have to study these 'gender studies' feminists' vomit as a doctor would to understand just how sick they are.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  36. storm

    providence made man and woman in different light for seperate purposes.let ti remain so.dont mix them up,the result would be an enuch.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  37. Anonymous

    Reminder to pubescent David Cameron:

    How soon you in UK forgot the Black Wednesday of Sept. 16, 1992 scenario...During good times, you want to preserve your "sovereignty"...who is to say in the future as a stand-alone "sovereign" there will NOT be another Soros or another similar catastrophe? Who will the pound sterling look to for help and for stabilization? How much gold does the BOE have in their coffers, huh???

    December 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  38. Comment

    First World problem

    December 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  39. godofredo29

    And, what's this about male menopause. Is it just too hard to remember the word andropause? And, if I were a woman, I would resent after while the fact that the Lifetime Channel feels compelled to repeat over and over again: "Lifetime. Television for women." You'd think women were stupid or something.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  40. godofredo29

    And, when is that book coming out: Women Who Hate Men And The Men Who Love Them. Is it just that it would be too obvious a subject for a book? Because if one thing is certain, it is the women hate men. And, men are born damned anyway.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:15 am |
  41. telka

    I'm surprised no one has considered the commercial reasons Hamley's have done this. You're pretty naive if you think it's ONLY a reaction to the opinion of one blogger and being PC. Let's see what impact this change will have on sales – my bet is on a positive one.

    December 17, 2011 at 5:27 am |
  42. Rachel

    Really? -_-

    December 17, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  43. Mr Steve Diacono

    In a time such as this... are we seriously going to pay more focus on the positioning of children's toys at supermarkets over the millions of people dying from lack of basic needs and rights... I am sorry, but this disgusts me

    December 17, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  44. DillyRat

    Get back in the kitchen...

    December 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  45. B Murray

    quote“We have a severe lack of women in senior positions in our society and a severe problem of inequality,” – I beg to differ – I was just watching five minutes ago a women elected leader of the Scottish Labour party! – I may be the case in the USA but that sort of statement wares thin in the UK these days!

    December 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  46. Lucy

    This is a reasonable issue. It separates the boys and girls ever since they're little, giving them messages that they should be treated differently, which would eventually lead to the believe that they have different roles in the society. Those kind of thoughts steers away many options for their careers.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  47. RGeneration

    No more men's restroom or women's restroom.....that's gender apartheid.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  48. Nelco

    What a bore!! Get a life woman!!! and leave the kids alone.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  49. rh

    Where would they put stuff like animal and city themed lego? Is all lego for boys, including Dora lego? How about SpongeBob lego?

    Pokemon is another one, mostly boys like it, but there are definitely a lot of froo froo Pokemon. Maybe they have to pick and choose "Pikachu, boys section, Togepi, girls section".

    December 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  50. Compton

    When I was very young (about 6) I remember pestering my parents to buy me a barbie doll.

    I didn't really want a barbie though, I just wanted someone to play with, and my older sisters wouldn't let me play with them because I didn't have a barbie of my own.

    It wasn't really because I didn't have my own barbie though, as I found out when my grandma got me one. The real reason was because whenever I was playing, their pleasant little dolls world of tea parties and home maintenance would always be disturbed by car crashes, unexpected missile attacks and other much more exciting things.

    December 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  51. Eric

    Seriously, who cares!?

    December 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  52. victorwins

    It looks like a huge store, wouldn't it be easier to keep the different signs and make it simple for people to go directly to where they need to find something. I think this woman is bored and looking for ways to stay entertained. I think I'll blog about gender-separate fitting rooms or something, maybe I'll make it on CNN

    December 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  53. Portland tony

    I would think if the little ones were with their parents shopping for a toy or two, the signs would be irrelevant. They would pick what they wanted. The adults shopping on their own for say a niece, nephew or grandkids would appreciate the gender signage along with perhaps a suitable for age guide.

    December 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  54. Anonymous

    So, the vets are finally headed home for the holidays after invading Iraq for no REAL THREAT...
    Where's the next invasion, Uncle Tom? Iran? North Korea? Syria??? Take your pick since you will have to justify the % allotted for the almighty defense spending of this GREAT nation...

    December 18, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  55. Rick

    Now you know why men can't cook, and women can't change their oil. Because corporations are deciding for us what's a male and what's a female role in life.

    December 18, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    Most of the Planet is stavring to death or dying from pointless wars.....this gender issue is stupid and a waste of time because all it points to is a self-centered perception of one own inflated importance,whther male or female! What an utter waste of time and resources!

    December 18, 2011 at 6:29 am |
  57. karbvi

    This women need a good f–ck

    December 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  58. Peter Bond

    Last time I checked, boys and girls are different. It is a fact of nature. Anyone who tries to muddle that fact is an idiot because no matter how much gender assimilation they try to enforce, boys will be boys and girls will be girls. If, by chance, a boy wants to be a girl, or a girl wants to be a boy, they will follow their instincts no matter what some twit suffering from sanctimonious imbecility thinks is correct.

    December 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  59. Oodoodanoo

    This does not go far enough. She is as guilty as age-ism as her opponents. Mix all the toys in with health care and the hardware section.

    The current layout of most stores precludes the chance that a boy may come out with an orthopedic walker, a grandmother with a skateboard, or a little girl with a circular saw.

    December 19, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  60. Csmallfield

    Many of you seem to be so upset over such a small and logical thing. If a toy is meant for a boy or a girl, then I think that toy will still be interesting regardless of signa in the store. This isn't going to make kids questiion their gender or their orientation, they are just going to have one less barrier to choosing something that interests them. It's not so revolutionary, so please calm down.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  61. Anonymous

    To: "Blitz"

    So you visited North Korea for a week and you've become an anthropological specialist and diagnosed the people as "paranoid"... so don't understand something so you fear it and then mock it....IDIOT!
    As for US role, they better not get SUCKED into this drama in the peninsula region b/c I bet right now Samsung, Hyundai, LG, etc. etc. are all chompin' at the bits to invade and destroy so they can reap the rewards...
    NOT UNDER MY WATCH bunch of rats!!!

    December 19, 2011 at 4:15 am |
  62. John

    Blogger Laura Nelson,part of the hairy armpit brigade no doubt.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  63. Paul Pan

    I anticipate that both my son and daughter will be very annoyed by this.

    December 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  64. rollingeyes


    December 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  65. Tuxman

    Good job...i like to see single TOILET in restaurants, parks and airports as its gender biased....this stupid girl is a good example of how stupid girls are.

    December 20, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  66. greenteagod

    This lady is why modern society is utterly lacking in morals. This isn't about feminism, it's about hate for publicity sake.

    December 20, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  67. Grown baby

    Toy and chlidren outfit ok...anything for adults it will just be too impractical.

    December 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  68. A Person This Effects

    When I was younger, I liked to play with trains, cars, pokemon, and legos with my brother. I despised Barbie and Bratz. In turn, my brother played with Littlest Pet Shop animals with me, and adored kittens. He hated action figures. I think that it is a good idea to take down those signs. The woman who wrote that blog article was not stupid, and some people should refrain from foul language, because kids are reading this. I understand where people are coming from when they say this issue is unimportant, but isn't a little kid who is hurt by his parents when he wants to play with dolls just as important as a little kid in Iraq, hurt by her parents because she disobeyed? What makes one kid less important than others? I am willing to see your opinions, and I think you should be willing to see mine.
    -An Actual Kid (really!)

    December 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
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    April 5, 2012 at 4:55 am |
  70. Tracy

    Even if Hamleys did not make a renovation because of Laura's opinion, they could at least acknowledge that they've taken into consideration her point of view.

    April 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
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