Last week, on the eve of the 112th annual North American International Toy Fair, billed as the largest toy and youth product marketplace in the western hemisphere, the Toy Industry Association handed out awards for "Toy of the Year."
The awards – voted on by a special panel of "experts" as well as journalists, consumers, bloggers, retailers and members of the Toy Industry Association – boast multiple categories, including "Boy Toy of the Year" and "Girl Toy of the Year."
What was named the best toy for boys? A frankly pretty rad looking dinosaur. Spin Master's Zoomer Dino is "a way cool remote-control toy that balances on two wheels, roams freely, and responds to your voice and hand motions," explains blogger Jamie Greene. (In addition to taking best boy toy, Zoomer Dino also won for "Toy of the Year.")
And the girl toy of the year? A plastic shopping play set.
Is this a cool toy? Is it a fun toy?
Greene raised a much more important question on his blog: "In 2015, why do these categories even exist?"
Toy Fair is very big and very old, but it obviously isn't big enough or mature enough to move beyond the old and tired practice of putting gendered labels on toys.
What exactly makes the Shopkins Small Mark Playset a "girl" toy, anyway? That its colour scheme is mostly pink? Because girls like to shop and boys don't? And what, girls don't like to play with dinosaurs?
As Greene points out, even McDonalds has stopped classifying its Happy Meal toys as "boys" or "girls" toys. And the toy awards handed out by an industry association in the U.K. similarly avoid gendered designations.
In 2013, Toys 'R' Us stores in the U.K. announced they would no longer put gender labels on toys following a campaign from an advocacy group called Let Toys Be Toys.
I doubt that kids in the U.K. are now wandering around those stores unsure of where they're supposed to go. They probably just run to the toys that look fun to them.