The big news this week is that Harrods, the famed London department store, opened its first gender-neutral toy store, designed by Shed Design. “The London department store commissioned the multi-million pound Toy Kingdom to be grouped by theme rather than gender, with new zones including an enchanted forest, a miniature toy world, a circus big top and a sweet shop.” (The sweet shop, by the way, is like a grocery store of sugar – somewhat insane.)
I don’t like the term “gender-neutral,” personally, because it sounds as though it would be preferable not to have a gender. But it’s a fact that we struggle to find the vocabulary we need to describe the real gender landscape. What it seems to mean in this case is that Hello Kitty gets to rub shoulders with giant dinosaurs, which I think it pretty nice. Also that the color scheme is much more focused on being fun and bright than on being pink and blue. (I have to wonder, though, what do they do with ALL the pink toys usually hurled at girls? Not carry them? Mix them in?
The Huffington Post says the store may not quite be there yet – for one thing, the male toy store employees wear blue shirts and the female employees wear pink (what?). Also, if you go to Harrods’ web site, you have to select “boys” or “girls” before you can get to a toy selection. But hey, it’s nice just to see signs that say “Legos” and “dolls” instead of “boys” and “girls.”
I’ve said for years that I wish clothes retailers would make a basics section of the kids’ department that just said “jeans,” “shorts,” or “t-shirts.” My daughter doesn’t really like low-rise jeans cut so tight her “tummy hurts,” and my son would rather not have to poach the girls’ department to find a pink t-shirt or a butterfly. Maybe the time’s coming . . . and thanks to Harrods, maybe we’ll be seeing more Halloween costumes like this one (which once again, both my son and daughter would love):