Sacré cerise

I’ve always thought of Jojo Maman Bébé as being quite classy (by which I mean “beyond my means”), so it’s depressing to see that their Christmas toy collection retreads the same old tired gender stereotypes. First, let’s have a look through the blue window:

First page of Jojo Maman Bebe's online 'toys for boys' listings: mostly toy cars, trains, tools etc.

Metro Boulot Jojo

Boys:

  • Natural Train Table
  • Caterpillar Peg Puzzle
  • Caterpillar Wooden Dominos
  • Gruffalo Dominos
  • Paddington Dominos
  • Peppa Pig Dominos
  • E-Racer Le Mans Car Toy
  • E-Truck Yellow Toy
  • E-Off Roader Toy Car
  • London Classic Toy Car Set
  • Monte Carlo Classic Toy Car Set
  • Retro Wooden Toy Car Garage
  • Ever Earth Ramp Racer Toy
  • DIY Trolley
  • Ever Earth Work Bench with Tools
  • Kidcraft Waterfall Mountain Train Set and Table

So the boys get 7 car toys, 2 train toys, 2 DIY toys, and — slightly bafflingly — 5 games/puzzles. Surely dominos are about as gender-neutral as it’s possible for a toy to be? And The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, Peppa Pig, and Paddington — when did these become “boys'” characters?

And looking through the pink window:

First page of Jojo Maman Bebe's online 'toys for girls' listings: mostly toy cookery, food, and dolls etc.

Jojo Maman Manger

Girls:

  • Retro Toy Kitchen
  • Maxi Toy Cooker
  • Honey Bake Cooker
  • Petite Cuisine
  • Tasty Treats Pretend Food
  • Felt Food Sandwich Set
  • Olivia Rag Doll
  • Ben and Holly Mini Sketchy Fun
  • Ben and Holly Stick on Felts
  • Limited Edition Large Rag Doll Ivy
  • Harriet Rag Doll
  • Magic Mirror Wand
  • Fairy Skipping Rope
  • Red Toy Pram
  • Doll’s Highchair
  • Teatime Cakes Chocolate Gateau

The girls get 7 cooking/food toys, 5 doll/baby toys, a couple of crafty things, a “magic mirror wand” (file under ‘miscellaneous princess nonsense’), and a skipping rope. A Fairy Skipping Rope.

I wondered what “Mini Sketchy Fun” might entail (actually, I thought “sketchy fun” summed up the available options pretty well) so I went to have a look at the Ben and Holly thing, to find that despite being listed under “Girls” it’s actually available in pink and blue (and the blue option seems to be the default even if you click through from ‘Girls’). Does this mean a girl could actually legitimately be bought a blue toy? They’ll be wanting jobs next!

I also wondered whether actually lots of the toys were available in both categories, but as far as I can tell Mini Sketchy Fun is only in the Girls section, and the dominos do really seem to be boys-only (except the Peppa Pig ones — I suppose Peppa is pink, though, because she’s a girl a cartoon pig).

On the whole, though, it seems that girls get to pretend to cook and look after babies; boys get to pretend to drive cars and do DIY. What is this, the 1950s? I guess they do describe a couple of the toys as “Retro” (come to think of it, I had a toy garage like that as a kid), but this is getting silly. I find I’m starting to clutch at straws: the toy pram is red, not pink! One of the dolls is wearing a blue dress! The description of the staggeringly expensive train set does actually say “Great for boys and girls to play together with”!

The really aggravating thing is that on the web (unlike in a physical shop) it would be really easy for all these toys to appear in both the “Boys Toys” and “Girls Toys” [sic] sections; the lazy or unimaginative shoppers could click on the ‘right’ colour and be sure that they were getting the ‘right’ toys, but they’d be choosing from the same range either way. Sadly, though, the laziness and unimaginativeness seem to be on the other side of the counter as well.

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2 thoughts on “Sacré cerise

  1. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the unpronouncable Polarn O Pyret, which is a Scandinavian kids’ clothes shop. I walked past their branch in Westfield a few months ago, and across their window they had plastered a slogan along the lines of “we don’t make clothes for boys or girls, we make clothes for kids”.

    Their website does have links for boys/girls, but it seems to take you to largely the same stuff. And their overall philosophy does stick firmly to the idea that kids is kids.

    Sadly, I suspect them of being rather, er, classy.

  2. I was a bit depressed in said shop recently whist trying to buy my daughter a dressing gown. There were two choices: pastel pink and white stripes or pastel blue and white stripes. It was my first visit to one of their stores as I’ve always got the impression they were a bit pricey but for some reason I had it in my head that “bit pricey” might have equated to “can be a bit more imaginative in colour schemes”, how wrong I was!

    I actually mentioned it to the women working in the shop but didn’t get much of a reply…

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