Her name is Maggie Cole, she’s a girl and she’s into superheroes too. Got a problem with that? Maggie, age 7, was walking through the aisles of British retailer Tesco when she spotted a Marvel Comics alarm clock with some of her favorite superheroes on it, accompanied by a sign that said, “Fun gifts for boys.”
Maggie was none too pleased with this sentiment, so she and mom, Karen, decided to do something about it. Standing beside the sign with her face curled up into a scowl, Maggie posed for a picture, which her mom then tweeted, along with the following statement: “My superhero loving 7yo daughter not impressed when she spotted this sign in @Tesco today @LetToysBeToys.”
Buzzfeed spotted the tweet and it soon went viral, prompting Tesco to respond to the outcry over gender stereotyping. The retailer says they will remove the sign from all of their stores and it’s a good thing because, Maggie—a fan of all things superheroes and Dr. Who—was clearly not cool with their shenanigans.
But the larger fight against gendered toys isn’t over just yet. Toys are one of the most important ways that children learn and internalize gender stereotypes. Not only do some toys like Barbie reinforce unrealistic standards of beauty, they also tell us that certain colors, activities, and occupations are “for boys” and others—usually the pinker, frillier ones—are “for girls.” But increasingly girls like Maggie are proving that these stereotypes aren’t natural divisions, they’re just adult ideas of how boys and girls should behave, melted down and turned into plastic.
In fact, Maggie’s story recalls another amazing 7-year-old girl named Charlotte who petitioned LEGO last year, asking them to “make more LEGO girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun, OK!?!” At the time, most of the LEGO girls seemed to prefer lounging on the beach to changing the world. Six months later, LEGO released a female scientist playset thanks in large part to Charlotte’s letter. Sheesh, these courageous girls are getting more done at age 7 than I am at four times their age!
But grown-ups are also allowed to join Maggie and Charlotte in their important work. On Twitter, Karen Cole voiced her support for the Let Toys Be Toys campaign, which asks retailers to “organize toys by theme and function rather than gender.” And while Karen has been surprised by Tesco’s response to her daughter’s stance on gendered toys, she’s happy that they spoke out together. On her blog she wrote: “I know most boys like superheroes and most girls like princesses, some, though, don’t—or like both. This is for them.” Amen.