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As toys become the new battleground for social engineers, why can’t trans activists just let kids be kids?

Frank Furedi
Frank Furedi

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

As toys become the new battleground for social engineers, why can’t trans activists just let kids be kids?
California has ruled that toys must be displayed in gender-neutral sections in department stores – but whose interests is this decision serving? It’s not children, but militants who want to end boyhood and girlhood forever.

An unholy alliance of big business and activists, inspired by trangender dogma, is busy promoting the project of turning children’s toys into an instrument of gender-neutral propaganda.

And they have scored a major victory in California, where a law has been enacted that requires department stores to display children’s products in a gender-neutral section. The point of this intrusive form of officially sanctioned social engineering is to “avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”

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From the standpoint of the advocates of toy-vetting, the making of a distinction between toys marketed for boys and girls is itself a source of harm, since it violates what they perceive as a sacred principle: that of gender neutrality.

Evan Low, a Democrat from San Jose, who authored this illiberal bill, justified its necessity on the grounds that “we need to stop stigmatising what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids.” In reality, the desire to allow kids to be kids is the very opposite of the impulse that motivates the zealous advocacy of gender neutrality.

In all but name, advocates of a gender-neutral childhood are committed to eroding the cultural support for the distinction between boys and girls. According to their playbook, this distinction is a mere stereotype and since a stereotype is a form of prejudice, it is a source of harm to children. This grotesquely illogical representation of the marketing of different toys to boys and girls has been embraced by the political and cultural elites of California.

And the transgender movement has been remarkably successful in getting the toy industry on board its crusade to eliminate the distinction between boys and girls. Recently, Lego, the Danish toy manufacturer, has declared that it will work towards ending gender stereotypes in its products.

The American toy maker Mattel has been at the forefront of supporting the culture war directed at nurseries. Along with numerous other toy manufacturers it has pledged to re-educate children to adopt the dogma of gender neutrality. Mattel was not entirely honest when, upon releasing its new range of gender-neutral Barbie dolls in 2019, it declared that “kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms.”

It is far more likely that Mattel’s decision to embrace gender-neutrality was a response to grown-up pressure to fall in line with woke ideology, rather than a response to the demand by hordes of children to de-feminize or de-masculate their toys.

Similarly, when the American multinational giant Hasbro Inc. decided to rebrand Mr Potato Head as gender neutral, it is unlikely that it was responding to pressure from millions of toddlers chanting “we don’t want toys dictated by gender stereotypes.”

Hasbro’s justification for its rebranding exercise sounded as though it came straight out of a woke training manual. The company stated it is “making sure all feel welcome in the Potato Head world by officially dropping the Mr from the Mr Potato Head brand name and logo to promote gender equality and inclusion.”

The company’s head of global brands, Kimberly Boyd, noted that the Mr and Mrs titles are “limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”

But how many children actually felt uncomfortable by the designation of Mr and Mrs? The absurdity of posing this question indicates that the rebranding of Potato Head was a project motivated by grown-up concerns and the ideological objective of rendering childhood gender neutral.

The project of imposing a gender-neutral culture on childhood is an insidious form of social engineering. The targeting of children and toddlers even extends to the policing of youngster’s language. Sweden has led the way in imposing a gender-neutral language on nurseries.

In 2012, the gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ was introduced. This word and others have been widely adopted throughout Swedish society. Children are explicitly indoctrinated into a worldview in which girls and boys, and men and women, are seen as the same thing. The aim of this pedagogy of gender-neutrality is to challenge “traditional gender roles and gender patterns.” In their place, they aim to introduce a new outlook – one in which all boys and girls, and men and women, think of themselves as ‘hen’.

Transgender activists aim to capture the minds of children before they are old enough to think for themselves. Far from allowing children to be children and far from allowing youngsters to make up their own minds about how they want to play, these activists wish to impose their ideology on childhood.

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They are not simply interested in challenging silly gender stereotypes, but in eliminating the very distinction between boys and girls and men and women. That is why they are not happy with the idea of boys playing with dolls and girls having fun with replica swords and guns. What they really want to see is a world of hens, where boyhood and girlhood becomes invisible.

Frank Furedi’s 100 Years of Identity Crisis: The Culture War Over Socialisation is published by De Gruyter.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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