Let Toys Be Toys is targeting McDonald's UK to encourage the fast food giant to drop what the campaign group believes to be gendered Happy Meal toy options.
Following criticism regarding Hot Wheels or Hello Kitty Happy Meals, McDonald's UK stated its policy is to offer "either a Hello Kitty or Hot Wheels option, not a girl/boy option," but Let Toys Be Toys is concerned.
"We carried out a quick survey which showed that over 70 per cent of stores are asking if customers would like a boy's toy or a girl's toy," said Let Toys Be Toys' Tricia Lowther.
"You might have seen the recent fuss in the US when an eleven year old girl persuaded McDonald's to change the policy over there, so it seems very strange that UK branches should suddenly take this seemingly retrograde step.
"The fact that two very different toys have been introduced and one of them is pink, clearly suggests that these toys are meant to be aimed at boys and girls separately.
"We think it's a really disappointing step from McDonald's and hope they'll return to the more usual UK toy policy of just one toy for all. In the meantime we've asked that they re-examine their own guidelines and ensure that toys are distributed consistent with their policy."
Let Toys Be Toys has written an open letter to the CEO of McDonald's UK concerning gendered marketing, which can be found below:
Dear Jill McDonald,
Let Toys Be Toys campaign against marketing messages that tell children some toys are only for boys and some are only for girls. In the last year we have persuaded several major UK retailers (including Tesco, Marks and Spencer and TK Maxx) to stop marketing toys by gender, and a number of UK publishers to stop producing books explicitly labelled for boys or girls.
We were concerned to hear about your recent promotion of Hello Kitty and Hot Wheels toys. We believe that by offering two separate toys (and making one of these pink – which children learn at a young age is used to symbolise girls) children are receiving the message that there are ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’ and they may feel that there is something wrong with them if they want the ‘wrong’ one.
When we contacted you via Twitter, we were pleased that you confirmed branches are asked to ‘offer Hello Kitty and Hot Wheels to all children irrespective of gender’. However, in a brief survey, 70 per cent of supporters said they were asked if they would like the ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ option. By asking this, staff are assuming which toy a child will prefer according to their gender, a practise which relies on stereotypes and limits children’s choices.
Further to this, 13 per cent of those asked reported that they were not given any option, with staff seemingly deciding which toy the child would prefer just by looking at them. These actions in branch clearly contravene your stated policy on the matter.
This is particularly surprising given the much publicised decision by McDonald’s in the US to no longer offer toys according to gender following Antonia Ayres-Brown’s campaign. Our UK supporters have long praised McDonald’s UK for not taking this approach, whilst our American supporters have often expressed envy of your inclusive options.
We have numerous reports of Hot Wheels-loving girls and Hello Kitty-loving boys having to return to the counter to exchange their toy, and no doubt there are far more who returned home with a toy they didn’t want, too embarrassed to say anything or unaware that they could have chosen themselves. We have also heard of one instance where a staff member said they were instructed to ask customers if they wanted boy or girl toys.
We feel strongly that toys are to be enjoyed by all children, and telling them what is ‘correct’ for their gender pressures them to conform to gender stereotypes, limits their experiences and promotes division.
We hope this promotion is a one-off and that you are planning to return to one toy for all children.
If this is not the case, however, we ask that you follow the example of McDonalds in the US who have explicitly stated their intent to “re-examine internal guidelines, communications and practices” and make improvements to better ensure that your toys are distributed consistent with your policy.
Let Toys Be Toys