Girl Toys Have Gotten A Whole Lot Girlier Since Your 1980s Or 1990s Childhood

We all know that kid's toys are intensely gender-segregated. And it's not just "trucks are for boys, dolls are for girls," either. From toy marketing to color choices, gender neutrality doesn't play so well among those catering to the playroom set. But Toys 'R' Us has started selling construction sets for little girls. And there's an all-around push for less gender segregation in toy stores. Perhaps we're at least making some progress?

Not really. HuffPost Women recently shared a Lego ad from 1981 that's leaps and bounds less gendered than Lego ads today. And a collection of vintage toy ads rounded up by Sociological Images shows this Lego ad isn't an isolated incident. Both the children featured in 1980s toy ads and the toys themselves were less feminized, less sexualized, and more emphasizing of overlap between young girls and young boys at play. Click through to see how this has played out for everything from Troll dolls to Lisa Frank gear to Candyland.

LEGO

Via HuffPost Women, here’s an ad for LEGO from 1981. Note that while it features a female child, there’s nary a pink, lavender, or fuchsia hue to be seen. And the text talks about how “children” — not boys or girls specifically — build pride from building with LEGO, without differentiating between the kinds of things little girls and little boys will or should want to build. It’s a truly gender-neutral toy ad, in a way that doesn’t feel forced or fanatically “politically correct” but simply natural. “In an age when little girls and boys are treated as though they are two entirely different species by toy marketers, this 1981 ad for LEGO … issues an important reminder,” HuffPost’s Jessica Samakow writes.

LEGO

Here’s another gender-neutral LEGO ad from the 1980s. Look, boys and girls plaing together! And they both like building planes, trains and automobiles! Now compare that to …

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LEGO

… this modern LEGO line aimed at little girls (called LEGO Friends). Instead of standard, squat LEGO people, female citizens of LEGO-land have gotten taller, thinner, and more feminized overall. What’s more, the Friends line encourages young girls to play in a people-oriented way (visit the LEGO girls cafe! Cook in the LEGO girls kitchen! Go to the LEGO girls salon!) rather than doing things like building skyscrapers and airplanes.

“The true beauty of Lego is its ability to inspire creativity, not enable conformity,” writes Lisa Wade at the Sociological Images blog. LEGO knew that in 1981. What happened?

Image: Amazon

Troll Dolls

Trolls also used to be pretty gender-neutral, featuring the same pudgy tummy, dumb smile and big feet no matter what gender they were assumed to be. I remember some Trolls wearing dresses, and that was the only hint that they were specifically lady trolls.

Now, however, female Trolls are more or less Bratz Dolls with bigger hair. Check out the cast of TV’s Trollz series (which ran from 2004 to 2006), complete with short skirts, midriff-baring tops, eyes that take up more than half their faces; and ample makeup.

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Candyland

Here’s beloved children’s board game Candyland in 1949 …

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Candyland

.. and here’s the Candyland box in 2014.

Image: hasbro.com

Barbie

Old-school Barbies may not have had the most realistic proportions, but at least 90s Barbie appears to have a rib-cage. Modern Barbie, meanwhile, is all arched-back and tiny torso, skinnier and more sexualized.

Image: feministphilosophers.wordpress.com

Care Bears

Care Bears used to be pretty androgynous looking, as bears are wont to be.

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Care Bears

But today’s Care Bears are thinner (more people-shaped than bear-shaped, really), more coy looking and less androgynous (complete with little bow-adorned tufts of hair for all the girls).

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Lisa Frank

Lisa Frank is sort of sacrosanct among a certain set of 80s and 90s youth. But, alas, Lisa Frank as we knew her is no more. Sure, our Lisa Frank trapper keepers, pencil holders, and erasers were heavy on the pink and purple, but the images were more psychedelic than girly (Andy Wright at SF Weekly described them as looking “like they were designed by a six-year-old girl on acid). And they mostly featured puppies, turtles, unicorns, and other critters and creatures.

Image: Amazon

Lisa Frank

Today’s Lisa Frank, by contrast, features girl-women complete with breasts, high-heeled shoes and the standard Disney Princess saucer eyes. As SF Weekly’s Andy Wright wondered: Are little girls actually more interested “in bizarrely proportioned nymphets dressed like sexy hippies than a righteous day-glo tiger cub?”

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