“Why Does all the Girls have to Buy Pink Stuff?” The Ethics and Science of the Gendered Toy Marketing Debate

Abstract

The gendered marketing of children’s toys is under considerable scrutiny, as reflected by numerous consumer-led campaigns and vigorous media debates. This article seeks to assist stakeholders to better understand the ethical and scientific assumptions that underlie the two opposing positions in this debate, and assess their relative strength. There is apparent consensus in the underlying ethical foundations of the debate, with all commentators seeming to endorse the values of corporate social responsibility and gender equality. However, the debate splits over three critical points of empirical disagreement: whether gendered toy marketing influences children’s toy preferences or simply reflects boys’ and girls’ fundamentally different interests; whether the effects of gendered toy marketing are negative, neutral or beneficial; and whether a shift to gender-neutral marketing would be economically viable. We assess the three points of disagreement against the available evidence and shared ethical principles underlying the debate, and conclude that current defences of gendered toy marketing fail.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk/.

  2. 2.

    http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/.

  3. 3.

    http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/letbooksbebooks/.

  4. 4.

    http://www.playunlimited.org.au/.

  5. 5.

    http://www.amightygirl.com/.

  6. 6.

    United Nations. 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ (accessed 9 April, 2014).

  7. 7.

    http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/1959-Declaration-of-the-Rights-of-the-Child.pdf. Accessed on 8 September 2014.

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Acknowledgments

Cordelia Fine was supported by Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT110100658 during the preparation of this work. The authors thank Emma Rush's colleagues at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics and at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Cordelia Fine's colleagues at the Melbourne Business School, for their feedback on earlier drafts of this work. The authors additionally thank Rebecca Bigler and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Fine, C., Rush, E. “Why Does all the Girls have to Buy Pink Stuff?” The Ethics and Science of the Gendered Toy Marketing Debate. J Bus Ethics 149, 769–784 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3080-3

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Keywords

  • Essentialism
  • Ethics
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Marketing
  • Toys
  • Corporate social responsibility