Parents warned to be on the lookout for woke toys, consumer expert declares

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Toy companies have issued “woke” renditions of classic toys in recent years, which has prompted criticism from Americans who argue the industry is attempting to push a narrative with the help of local government and liberal-leaning Wall Street, one expert told Fox News Digital. 

A new California law went into effect on January 1 requiring every store in the state that sells childcare items or toys and has more than 500 employees to include a “gender-neutral” toy section or face a $500 fine.  

Proponents of the law argue it will eliminate gender discrimination and stereotypes about boys and girls, but the move comes on the heels of conservative boycotts of transgender-related items sold to kids many deemed inappropriate. 

Consumers’ Research issued a report about toy companies, calling out Mattel, Hasbro, Build-A-Bear and Fisher Price for pushing “woke” toys in an attempt to target America’s children and “normalize radical transgender ideology.”

Consumers’ Research executive director Will Hild told Fox News Digital that “woke toys” are “unfortunately” right in line with what he would expect based on the way that both “woke Wall Street and the governments, like the state of California, have been pushing far-left propaganda.”

“In this case, it’s an extreme LGBTQ agenda that’s clearly targeting kids and trying to basically force a view of gender that is both unscientific, unpopular and grotesque, in my opinion,” he said. 

The American Girl Doll brand, for example, which is owned by Mattel, released its latest rendition of “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image,” in 2023, which garnered nationwide attention for its discussion of gender transitions with prepubescent girls. 

“While gender expression is what you show on the outside, gender identity is how you feel on the inside—a girl, a boy or someone who doesn’t quite fit into either category,” the book reads. 

“Parts of your body may make you feel uncomfortable, and you may want to change the way you look,” the book says at one point. “That’s totally OK!” 

“You can appreciate your body for everything it allows you to experience and still want to change certain things about it,” another page adds. “If you haven’t gone through puberty yet, the doctor might offer medicine to delay your body’s changes, giving you more time to think about your gender identity.”

Mattel also owns Barbie, which released a transgender doll modeled after Laverne Cox, who has long hair and is wearing a ball gown, as well as the “Creatable World” collection of customizable dolls that encourages kids to create their own characters free of gender norms. 

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“It is a fashion doll, but it’s a gender neutral body and it’s a kit that comes with about 14 accessories, clothing, shoes, a long wig,” Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of Mattel Fashion Doll Design told Forbes. “The doll itself has short hair so the kids can put together all of these elements and build a doll and then rebuild it all again.”

“It’s about six kits, different ethnicities and all different accessories and clothing to put together in whatever expression they would like, and whatever character they would like to build,” she continued. “The target age for the product is five to eight and the doll itself is prepubescent. So it’s a body and an expression that’s not a realistic rendering, but it’s a stylized interpretation of a preteen child.”

Fisher Price released dolls of famous drag queen RuPaul that were marketed “for fans ages 1-101 years,” according to the packaging as seen on Amazon. 

Build-A-Bear also launched a RuPaul teddy bear as a “tribute to the world’s most famous drag queen” that is no longer featured on the brand’s website. The New York Post described the Build-A-Bear site’s original product description: “Two iconic pop culture institutions join forces for this one-of-a-kind collector’s item made in tribute to the world’s most famous drag queen.”

Hild said it is clear to him that these types of toys are “100% about pushing a narrative” and pointed out that in his opinion, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be necessary to mandate anything by law, as California has done. 

“It’s not like there isn’t enough competition in the children’s toy market, there’s hundreds of thousands of different toys in the world, there’s a great market for this,” he said. “If this was something that existed large enough for people to want it, it would already be in these stores.”

Hasbro’s Mr. Potato Head was made “gender-neutral” in 2021, encouraging children to create gender-fluid families with the potato characters.   

Melissa Melendez toy store thumbnail

“The possibilities to create your own families are endless with mixing and mashing all the parts and pieces,” Hasbro said regarding the classic toy’s rebrand. 

Some photos showed a potato mom with a mustache and a potato dad wearing mascara. Hasbro later clarified that the brand itself would no longer be gendered, but that the characters themselves still would. 

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Hild added, “Mr. Potato head… you don’t have to adopt a political or ideological framework in order to play with them… They forced you to make a political statement to buy a toy that has been around for 40 years.”

Mr. Potato Head

Hild said he sees the trend as part of a broader pattern in the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space, which has been criticized as an investment philosophy and as a way to push political preferences that critics argue are at odds with an asset manager’s fiduciary duty. 

“The question becomes, how do they suddenly inject a bunch of far left-wing politics into their investing? What they use to justify it is they say, ‘Well, things like net-zero targets are going to be put in place by 2050’ and ‘DEI requirements are going to be put in by law, so we’re just preparing these companies for the inevitable legal requirements,'” he said. “Then governments come along, and they say, ‘Look, the market’s already doing this, we’re just standardizing it or we’re just making it so that either investors or business people have clarity around what’s required.”

He explained that this environment has asset managers and governments claiming they aren’t pushing a social or political narrative as they are “ping-ponging between each other” over who is to blame for the “woke” policies. 

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“This is a perfect example of that, because you’ve got the state of California trying to undoubtedly use civil rights law as a justification for this,” he said. “They’re claiming, ‘Oh, this needs to be equitable for all children, non-binary or binary or whatever’ and then I guarantee you’re going to have asset managers and companies pushing ESG, start asking toy companies, ‘Well, are you prepared for this coming wave of requirements like California as this spreads throughout the country?’ That is how they’re going to work together to push this agenda across the country.”

Hild said there are many people who don’t take issue with non-binary options, which he said is fine “if it’s organic and what people actually want, but when it’s being forced on them, either by Wall Street actors like BlackRock… or by the government, they not only have a right, but a responsibility if they care about the free market to push back and say, ‘No, I find this offensive and I want it done away with.’” 

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