Equalities minister hits out at toy ‘gender stereotypes’ again

Equalities minister Jo Swinson has used a Parliamentary debate on the future of the care sector to suggest that boys should be encouraged to play with dolls.

Swinson, the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, said before Christmas that retailers should not limit children’s choices in toys by labelling certain products ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’.

But a publisher who faced pressure last year to axe individual books for boys and girls said the sexes are “definitely different”.

‘Play with dolls’

Speaking on Tuesday, Swinson discussed the number of women in engineering and the number of men in the care sector.

She commented, “stereotyping is important, as are the messages we send children about the roles of men and women, and whether boys can be nurturing and caring and—yes, dare I say it?—play with dolls.

“We should see habits of care and nurture as being just as appropriate for boys and men as for girls and women. It is important, and it will help us plug the skills gap.”


Last month Swinson wrote to toy manufacturers and retailers to encourage them to avoid ‘stereotyping’ in their products.

She said: “Parents know that boys and girls love all kinds of toys. With children developing very clear ideas at a young age about what jobs boys and girls can do, we can all help to send a clear signal that nothing is off limits.”

She is also a supporter of the campaign Let Toys Be Toys which calls for shops to stop “limiting our children’s imagination by telling them what they ought to play with”.

Definitely different

In March last year children’s book publisher Buster Books resisted pressure to get rid of its individual books for boys and girls.

The company’s owner commented: “All boys don’t like one thing and all girls the other, but the fact is lots of boys like the same things and lots of girls like the same things.

“We can’t ignore the fact that they are definitely different.”

Buster Books has sold half a million copies of The Beautiful Girls’ Colouring Book, as well as publishing The Brilliant Boys’ Colouring Book and sticker books for boys and girls.

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