Episode 9

Published on:

20th Dec 2021

Olivia Dickinson - Let Toys Be Toys: Gender Stereotypes and Boys

At Christmas time, many of us are buying toys for the children in our lives. But do toys, and the way they are promoted, play a significant role in reinforcing gender stereotypes from a young age? What impact does it have on boys that they are frequently encouraged to play with vehicles, construction toys, weapons – but rarely dolls, domestic toys, fashion or crafts? In this Christmas Special episode of Now and Men, we explore these issues with Olivia Dickinson from the UK campaign Let Toys Be Toys. 

We discuss new research Let Toys Be Toys have just published, showing that whilst progress is being made, gender stereotypes remain widespread in TV toy advertising, with adverts featuring girls often focusing on themes of fashion, beauty, ‘be nice’ and consumerism, and adverts featuring boys often focusing on action and conflict. Read more about the research here: https://lettoysbetoys.org.uk/tvads2021/. Let Toys Be Toys have 'Just 4 Asks' for manufacturers, retailers and now advertisers: https://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/just4asks/. They have also created some videos for advertisers: https://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/toyads-just4asks/

Olivia has 20 years’ experiences of working in children’s media across Amazon, the BBC, Nickelodeon and Sky Kids. She provides training for school staff and trainee teachers, as well as consulting for children's TV and digital companies on equality issues, and is a member of the executive group responsible for diversity and inclusion at The Children’s Media Foundation. 

You can find out more and get involved in Let Toys Be Toys at https://lettoysbetoys.org.uk. Follow Olivia on Twitter at https://twitter.com/OlivaceousD, and on LinkedIn at https://linkedin.com/in/oliviadickinson/. She has also been involved in the charity Lifting Limits, who you can find out more about at: https://liftinglimits.org.uk. Read their pilot evaluation here: https://liftinglimits.org.uk/pilot-evaluation/

In the episode we cover the following topics:

  • How gender stereotypes are reinforced through toys and other parts of children’s lives (e.g. media, advertising, publishing, clothes) and why this is harmful
  • What impact this has on boys and on constructions of masculinity
  • Ways in which children resist these influences
  • How gender stereotypes in childhood have changed (and in some cases become more significant) over time
  • Achievements of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign
  • The role that toy companies are playing and how they could do better
  • How gendered marketing contributes to more consumption and more environmental damage
  • The work of Lifting Limits and how schools and educators can help challenge gender stereotypes
  • How Olivia got involved in campaigning on these issues and how she keeps motivated
  • Advice she would give to parents and other adults about how to help children not be held back by gender stereotypes

The following resources were also discussed during the episode…

Have a lovely festive season everyone!

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About the Podcast

Now and Men
Current conversations about men's lives
What's it like to be a man in the 21st century? How are feminist issues relevant to men and boys? These questions are being discussed more than ever.

Our monthly podcast delves into these issues with experts such as practitioners, activists and academics. In each episode, you’ll hear in-depth conversations about masculinity, gender equality, and the lives of men and boys, with topics ranging from preventing violence against women, to promoting active fatherhood, to supporting men's health.

The podcast is created and hosted by Dr Stephen Burrell, Sandy Ruxton and Professor Nicole Westmarland, who are researchers from the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), in the Department of Sociology at Durham University in the UK. If you would like to give us your feedback, suggest a guest, or have a question you'd like us to discuss, get in touch with us at nowandmen@gmail.com.

About your hosts

Stephen Burrell

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I am a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Durham University in the UK, and a Deputy Director of the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA). My research is about men and masculinities - especially preventing men's violence against women, and currently, engaging men and boys in caring for the planet. I'm also a trustee for White Ribbon UK and on the steering group for Changing Relations CIC. In my spare time I'm a big fan of drinking tea and being in nature.

Sandy Ruxton

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Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Durham University (UK). Independent researcher, expert on men and masculinities. Previous policy work on human rights, children and families, poverty and social exclusion, and asylum and migration. Programme experience with boys and young men in schools, community, and prisons. Steering Committee member, MenEngage Europe. Volunteer for OX4 Food Crew. Chess-player, bike-rider, tree-hugger. Great grandfather edited Boy's Own Paper, but was sacked.