Boys will be boys (as far as Playmobil is concerned)

As I was clearing up the last remains of the holiday season, I came across the Playmobil brochure. In case you’re not familiar with the concept – its a bit like Lego, but for younger children. My kids (aged 2 and 4 now) love it, and we have quite a collection by now. I browsed through the brochure, and noticed something weird. It seemed as if there were no women in the Playmobil universe. Not only the figures were all male,  the children depicted playing with them were also exclusively boys. A while ago I came across a pack of dinosaurs stickers labelled “For boys aged 7 to 14″ and got pretty crossed about it. As if girls don’t like dinosaurs (my daughter loves them). So I decided to look into the Playmobil gender issue a bit closer.

I took a couple of post-its and a pen, and started checking the pages. I noted the Playmobil men doing “typical men stuff” like being a pilot and the Playmobil women (there were some after all) doing “typical women stuff” like being a stewardess, and vice-versa. After about 10 pages (the brochure has 60) I got fed up and quit counting. Counting on seemed a bit useless, as the results were rather clear.

  Men stuff Neutral stuff Women stuff
Men 110 5 0
Women 19 10 15
Playmobil: Man = pilot Woman = stewardess

Playmobil: Man = pilot, woman = stewardess

On the face of it, it wouldn’t have been so bad. After all, the women that did get to exists in the Playmobil universe got their share of opportunities in life. Sadly, that was not exactly the case. Going through the rest of the brochure, I did find plenty of Playmobil women. The second half of the brochure was full of them. And you’ll never guess what they were doing… OK, I’m joking – you can probably  fill it in yourself. Here it comes – as far as Playmobil is concerned, women exist to be pretty and shut up (the princesses), take care of the children (the moms and care-takers) and to spend money on shopping, beauty spa’s and vacations (the rest of them). What makes it even worse is that the Playmobil guy who does not want to be the macho man is pretty screwed. I found just one guy in the whole Playmobil shopping centre  who looked pretty gay , and the only dude in the daycare centre is the math teacher – how sad is that?

Spot the math teacher

Spot the math teacher

I am a proud father of a girl and a boy. And I encourage them the best I can to dare and become whatever they want. My daughter now wants to be a pilot. And a doctor. And maybe a policewoman. My son is only two, but he really enjoys dancing ans singing, and if he’ll want to make a career out of it, who am I to say no? I say to both – go for it. But its really tough to encourage your children to follow their own path in life, when the advertisements, the toys companies, the movies and about every other industry imaginable are all not really cooperating on this gender equality thing.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Boys will be boys (as far as Playmobil is concerned)

  1. Thanks Michael for your inciteful observations regarding the Playmobil preschool toys. I’m appalled that not much progress has been made in defining gender roles at such an early age. Who designs these things? Or who decides what is to be designed? My kids are adults now and I naively assumed that much progress had been made in teaching young children that all opportunities are equally available to everyone. Apparently not with most toys which is surprising. It’s uplifting to see parents like you noticing this and encouraging your kids to be whatever they please.

    • I dont know who designs these things. But next time someone is surprised about the stubborness about gender stereotypes in a supposedly progressive small European country, I know exactly why they shouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Yes, complaining about it here, where the impact will be minimal is a reasonable option, but you also have other choices available. You can write a (hopefully polite) note to the company, explaining what they may be doing wrong (they may not be aware), or you can stop buying products from this company. (And, there are many anti-social options.)
    Here in the US, I’ve had to put up with much indoctrination of my kids – in school, on TV, and in the media, for example. I’ve chosen to teach my kids what I think is important, not that I’ve taught them everything. Both have their own businesses, both are well educated (and bright), and both are good people.
    Do what you can do for your kids, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

    • Dear Bob, thank you for your unsolicited advice. I’m sure your children appreciate it as well when you tell them how to live their lives.

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