From The Mary Sue, and though it’s the final paragraph, I think it sums up the whole “gendered toys” thing pretty well:
It’s not that girls don’t like pink or shouldn’t like it, it’s that all options should be presented equally to all sexes. But of course, money is a huge factor in all this and unless companies are 100% sure they’ll get parents to buy one product for both their sons and daughters, they’ll give you two very different ones to buy instead.
It’s kind of a vicious cycle. There’s one aisle for girls, where all the girly boxes have pictures of girls playing with the girl toys, and then one aisle for boys, where all the boyish boxes have pictures of boys playing with the boy toys. These are strong visual cues that are everywhere, and will continue to be everywhere because they are everywhere. It’s self-reinforcing.
And worse, there is all this “science” around how girls’ and boys’ brains react differently, and then there’s a whole body of Actual Science saying that no, the brain is pretty adaptive, and likes to learn, and when presented with just a brain it’s actually kind of hard to tell men and women apart.
Really the best thing we can do is let girls play with whatever toys they want to play with, and let boys play with whatever toys they want to play with, and stop giving such a damn about gender norms. Let kids figure out how to have fun on their own without bullshit marketing getting in the way.