Target: CEO of Boots UK Limited, Alex Gourlay
Goal: Commend Boots pharmacy stores for removing signs differentiating girls’ and boys’ toys
The United Kingdom pharmacy chain Boots recently faced criticism from shoppers who spoke out against the store’s use of gendered toy labels. Initially, the company defended the signs, stating that they were simply intended to make their stores “easier to navigate.” However, many Boots customers protested, expressing particular disappointment that scientific toys produced by a popular brand, Science Museum, were marketed only to boys. Toys labeled for girls consisted mainly of flowery tea sets, princess gear and dolls, all with bright pink packaging.
Boots customer Megan Peel, an author and mother of a ten-month-old daughter,was frustrated by the “‘pinkification’ of products marketed to girls,” and stated that, “Boots is not the only retailer to stereotype children’s interests in this way, but I find it particularly disappointing that as a science-based company, who employ many female scientists, they chose to label Science Museum toys as ‘for boys.’” Peel sent an email to the director of the Science Museum, Ian Blatchford, to inform him of the company’s over-gendered marketing. Blatchford responded almost immediately, promising to investigate the gender labeling of the toys.
Facing such criticism from customers, Boots promptly stated that it has “always been proud of supporting women in science,” and that the company was “dismayed” at customers’ reactions to the gendered signage in their stores. The company then took action, removing the “boys” and “girls” signs from their stores and asserting that “it was never [Boots’s] intention to stereotype certain toys.”
While gender stereotypes continue to permeate toy stores and department stores around the globe, Boots’s quick reaction to customer complaints signals important progress in the attempt to suppress such social conventions. Toys that are marketed as “for boys” are often science or outdoors-based, whereas toys designed for girls commonly involve caregiving or beauty themes. The reinforcement of such gender stereotypes can easily cause children to see a definitive line between what girls should be interested as opposed to what boys should be interested in. However, in reality these things are not so separate. By removing gender signs from its stores, Boots has helped to remove this polarizing differentiation between so-called boys’ activities and girls’ activities.
Commend Boots for promptly removal gender signs in company stores, and thank the chain for choosing to help eliminate gender stereotypes by no longer differentiating between “girls” toys and “boys” toys.
Dear CEO Alex Gourlay,
Recent criticisms by Boots customers have brought up the issue of gender stereotyping of children’s toys. These sorts of stereotypes are far too common in toy marketing, and lead to a stark polarization between what is considered suitable for boys as opposed to girls. This can be incredibly influential on young children, as well as damaging, as they are taught from an early age to only like certain things.
By responding to customer feedback, especially a marked disappointment at the labeling of science-based Science Museum toys as being “for boys,” Boots has revealed itself to be not only a responsive company, but also a progressive one. By removing the gender signs differentiating “boys” and “girls” toys, Boots has joined other major retailers such as Hamleys and Harrods in taking a step forward toward eliminating gender stereotypes in toy marketing.
Thank you for your quick response to customer concerns, and for taking action to rid stores of gender signs. By doing so, you have helped to ease the social constraints of what young girls and boys are expected to find interesting, and have instead helped to encourage gender equality.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Nigel Chadwick via Geograph