Why does Tesco have a separate ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys section?

This is a question that has been frustrating me for many years. Iit was several years ago that I first noticed that Tescos had separate aisles for girls toys and boys toys. It annoyed me so much that I actually bothered to find a member of staff to complain (much to the embarrassment of a friend I was shopping with at the time). Needless to say that the member of staff just looked at me with a baffled bemusement.

Several years later Tescos still displays the archaic belief that toys can be separated according to gender. Even now, every time I walk into the store and notice the differently labelled aisles my blood rises and I force myself to resist the temptation to question the store manager. (I resist because I am sure they won’t be able to provide a good answer)

I can think of no good reason whatsoever why a distinction between toys needs to be made. If a boy is attracted to a hair design set, or if a girl wants to play with some action figures, then on what grounds ought they be told that this preference isn’t appropriate for their sex? Preferences are exactly that: personal, subjective and axiomatic. I prefer cheese to chocolate, swede to sprouts, rugby to rounders, and skateboarding to sewing. If someone was to tell me that only boys eat cheese then I’d think they were a lunatic.

But there is also a serious side to this point. Undoubtedly it will affect the self-esteem and identity of those children (and perhaps their parents also) who are told that they are wrong in choosing particular types of toys. I was fortunate in having parents that were liberal minded enough to allow me to dress up in a cowboy’s uniform and run around with a cap gun, whilst my best friend, Ben, was quite happy pushing his pram full of soft toys. Ben, at least, is now a fully rounded and self-secured person. If Ben’s and my parents were liberal minded enough to avoid sex stereotypes over thirty years ago, surely it’s a tragedy that it hasn’t been fully embedded into ‘mainstream’ society today.

If anyone can think of a good reason why Tescos does this, then would they please leave a comment on this blog. Even better, if the directors or store designers of Tescos know why they do this, then please let me know. And if they can’t supply a good reason then please change your stores accordingly.

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