Have you looked? Good. Let’s discuss.
The designer had some inevitable challenges. How does one approach the basic design of a gender neutral toy store? Where colors like pink and purple are unambiguously coded feminine, colors like blue and green are considered neutral, regardless of the fact that masculine-coded toys are often in these colors. While blue and green often show up in girls’ toys and fashion (in stark contrast to the conspicuous lack of pink/purple in boys’ clothes), a bluegreen store would be noticeably absent any sort of feminine influence. It would represent the forced eviction of all things feminine. A toy store designer would be hard pressed to design a store that was not coded feminine and also not coded feminine-exclusionary. We’re left with red, orange, yellow, black, and brown. Red, orange, and yellow are hard on the eyes and would make the place look like a McDonald’s. Black and brown don’t present a lot of possibilities. However, if you’ve seen the pictures, you already know where this went. The geniuses at Harrod’s have done wonders, wonders I say, with brown. And it was amazingly ineffective. Apparently nobody informed the toy manufacturers.
But forget about colors. How would a gender neutral toy store affect the parents and children within? Wonderfully, I would hope. It would provide an ethical place to shop for forward-thinking parents who want their daughters to grow up into a world where she can expect equal wages for equal work, where her potential rapists were persecuted when they committed their crimes without anyone asking her what she did to cause it, and maybe even where the small things in life, like chores and career were divided equally between her and her likely male potential partners. It would be a haven for socially aware parents who desire to put their money behind bringing up sons who will grow not to see women as sexual objects and domestic servants, but equal people, for parents who don’t believe it’s necessary to raise boys to be antisocial to survive. It’s too much to ask of a toy store, to be sure, but childhood is arguably where these messages begin. A gender neutral toy store would be a great place to find toys like tea sets and doll houses that weren’t so heavily coded feminine as to dash any possibility of boys wanting to play with them. It would be a wonderful place to find race cars and erector sets and building blocks that weren’t so heavily coded masculine as to leave the girls wondering what the other girls and boys might think if she were seen with them. That would be a wonderful store. This Harrod’s isn’t it. The tea sets and dress-up garb are frilly and pink. The hot wheels and legos are blue. Apparently nobody informed the toy manufacturers.
Harrod’s toy store is not gender neutral. Sorry, folks. It tried. It put the pink things next to the blue things and in some cases it mixed them all up. Hopefully this will allow brave little girls the opportunity at least to browse toys she never would have had the chance to browse at her leisure and fondle. Perhaps she’ll pick a few up. It might encourage some fresh-faced boys to try out this thing called playing house. It might. But most kids go to toy stores following the television shows and commercials that advertised the products. And nobody informed the toy manufacturers.