Four-year-old Riley Maida stands in a toy aisle of a department store in Newburgh, N.Y. The backdrop is pink. The shelves behind her are stacked with plastic babies in pink onesies. To her left are hair-and-makeup dolls with exaggerated heads attached to truncated shoulders. The shelf above has rows of little dresses and pastel pink slippers. The shelf above that, more pink dolls in more pink dresses.
In the next aisle, there\’s a distinct absence of pink. This is the \”boys aisle.\” Lined with Nerf guns, G.I. Joes, superhero figures, building blocks and toy cars, it has a diverse color palette of blues, greens, oranges and reds.
Maida looks down the aisle of pink. Arms akimbo, the cherubic 4-year-old with brunette bangs furrows her brow. She looks into her father\’s camera and begins a rant that will go viral on the internet and make its way onto television networks like CNN and ABC.
\”Would it be fair for all the girls to buy princesses and the boys to buy superheroes?\” she says, smacking her right hand to her head in exasperation. \”Girls want superheroes AND the boys want superheroes!\”
She points her index finger and shakes her hand at the pink boxes around her. Occasionally jumbling her words while giving her impassioned speech, she questions why boys and girls need separate toy aisles and why some toys are designated for one gender and not the other. Boys and girls can both like pink, she says. Why do companies have to make boys and girls think that they can only like certain things? Palm open, she hits her right hand on the top of one of the boxes to emphasize her point.
A few aisles over, in the video game section, there is a similar marketing story that Maida has yet to learn. Unlike in the toy aisles, she won\’t find an expansive selection of video games for boys and an equally expansive selection for girls. Most \”girls\’ sections,\” if they exist, are lined with fitness titles and Ubisoft\’s simplified career simulation series, Imagine, which lets players pretend they\’re doctors, teachers, gymnasts and babysitters.
As for the boys section — there isn\’t one. Everything else is for boys.