Global toy chain in 'gender neutral' Swedish Christmas

Sweden's largest toy chain said Friday that its toys are "gender neutral" after picturing boys holding baby dolls and banishing girls from the dolls pages of its Christmas catalogue.

"For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we ... have had to adjust," Jan Nyberg, director of sales at Top Toy, franchise-holder for US toy chain Toys R Us, told the TT news agency Friday.

The country's advertising watchdog reprimanded the company for gender discrimination three years ago following complaints over outdated gender roles in the 2008 Christmas catalogue, which featured boys dressed as superheroes and girls playing princess.

A comparison between this year's Toys R Us catalogues in Sweden and Denmark, where Top Toy is also the franchisee, showed that a boy wielding a toy machine gun in the Danish edition had been replaced by a girl in Sweden.

Elsewhere, a girl was Photoshopped out of the "Hello Kitty" page, a girl holding a baby doll was replaced by a boy, and, in sister chain BR's catalogue, a young girl's pink T-shirt was turned light blue.

Top Toy, Sweden's largest toy retailer by number of stores, said it had received "training and guidance" from the Swedish advertising watchdog, which is a self-regulatory agency.

"We have produced the catalogues for both BR and Toys R Us in a completely different way this year," Nyberg said.

"With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It's not a boy or a girl thing, it's a toy for children."

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