Gendering and Kinder Surprise Eggs

Tonight, I went grocery shopping. Among other things, I also bought a pallet of twenty Kinder Surpise Eggs, because St. Nicholas Day is coming up and Kinder Surpise eggs are ideal for handing out. For more on the North German custom of kids going trick or treating on St. Nicholas Day see here and here.

In my opinion, Kinder Surprise Eggs make ideal St Nicholas Day treats. They’re affordable even in larger quantities, particularly if you get them at a reduced price like I did. What is more, all children love Kinder Surprise Eggs, as evidenced by their worldwide success. Well, worldwide with the sole exception of the US, where Kinder Surprise Eggs are banned, because they are supposedly a choking hazard. Attempts to illegally import the eggs carry hefty fines. So guns and marijuana, medical or not, are okay, but Kinder Surprise Eggs, now that’s a horrible danger. Sigh!

Another thing to love about Kinder Surprise Eggs is that they’re not just a treat for all ages from toddler (since German parents actually do their job and don’t let very young kids play with Kinder Surprise Eggs unsupervised) to teenager (my otherwise so grown up eighth graders insisted last year that they weren’t too old for Kinder Surprise Eggs) but that they’re also gender neutral. Or at least, they used to be.

For when I was at the supermarket tonight and found the display with the price reduced Kinder Surprise Eggs, I thought, “That’s strange. Since when are Kinder Surprise Eggs pink?” Still I packed twenty eggs onto one of those plastic trays, put them into the shopping cart and continued towards the check-out. Then, directly next to the check-out, I saw a different display of Kinder Surprise Eggs in the traditional red and white packaging. I was a bit taken aback and went back to the first display to check whether I had accidentally grabbed some limited edition eggs, which would be more expensive. But no, the price for the red and pink eggs was exactly the same. Only that the pink eggs were labeled with a sign (which I had previously missed) saying “Kinder Surprise Eggs – For Girls Only.” Cue a lot of grumbling about sexism and aggressively gendered toys, while I swapped out the pink eggs for red and white eggs.

“What’s the problem?”, my Dad, who happened to be with me, asked, “Why don’t you just hand out pink eggs?”

“Because the pink eggs are labeled and marketed as ‘for girls’. Now how do you think an eight-year-old boy will react, when given something labeled as ‘for girls’?”

I’ve talked a little about the aggressive gendering of toys and the potential problems before on this blog. But this bugs me more than pink princess Barbie dolls and the like, simply because Kinder Surprise Eggs used to be such a great unisex toy/gift. Yes, the toys themselves are gendered on occasion, e.g. the sets of collectible plastic figurines include boy and girl figurines, other eggs contain little cars or – back when I was a kid, tin soldiers in historic uniforms. I loved those. But because you never know what you get when you buy them, the eggs themselves are gender neutral.

Of course, it’s possible that the toys inside the pink eggs are absolutely lovely. And come to think of it, Kinder Surprise Eggs did tend towards more boy-associated toys. There were always more cars and tin soldiers and male figurines than dolls and horses and girl figurines. And in the end, I did buy ten pink and ten regular eggs – after all, I get Nicholas girls, too.

But still, it’s kind of sad that even Kinder Surprise Eggs are gendered now.

I took some photos of the eggs side by side, which you can see behind the cut:

Kinder Surprise Eggs

A batch of ten pink and ten regular Kinder Surprise Eggs.

Kinder Surprise Eggs

A pink (on the left) and a regular (on the right) Kinder Surprise Egg side by side. Close-up, you see that the pinkness of the “girl” eggs is not quite so pervasive. Apologies for the somewhat dim photo, but I had to switch off the flash, because it ruined the contrast and the colours.

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11 Responses to Gendering and Kinder Surprise Eggs

  1. “Of course, it’s possible that the toys inside the pink eggs are absolutely lovely.”

    I was very curious so I did a bit of Googling and according to one source:

    The “just for girls” eggs contain plastic figures from the “Winx Club” television series – fairies with long legs, stripper shoes and tiny bits of clothing, who pose like models. Those four-year-olds not lucky enough to get a stripper fairy in their eggs can made do with little plastic rings or a bracelet.

    That news was from the 24th of August, so maybe the ensuring campaign against the eggs had some effect on the contents of the ones available now.

    • Cora says:

      It’s interesting that the pink girly eggs have been around for a while now, because I honestly never noticed them before I saw them at the store yesterday. But then I only buy Kinder Surprise Eggs once a year for St Nicholas Day and don’t really pay attention to them otherwise. And at least in Germany, ads for children’s products have almost entirely vanished from prime time television and only show up on designated kids’ channels during kids programming, so you don’t see new toys and candy on TV anymore.

      I googled Winx Club and found that it is an Italian produced cartoon series about fairies. The fairies are drawn anime style and scantily dressed with unrealistic body shapes, so it’s clear why many parents would be up in arms. Though looking at the pictures I found online, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, I would have been totally into that show, if it had been around when I was ten.” And of course, the big problem with the discussion about the gendering of toys and kids’ clothing is that many children tend to love the gendered stuff. I grew up in the late 1970s era of unisex clothing and toys and I know I would have been all over this pink princess stuff. As an adult I can of course see how problematic that sort of thing is, but that doesn’t change the fact that I would have loved a lot of that as a little girl.

      And since Ferrero, which produces Kinder Surprise Eggs as well as Nutella and the Rocher and Mon Cherie chocolates, is an Italian company, it makes sense that they would license the Winx Club characters. Though I don’t see why they couldn’t just have put the fairies into the regular eggs. Winx Club has male characters, too, as far as I could tell from the images I found online, so there could have been a token male figurine just as there was a token female with the dozens of figurine sets they did in previous years. And it no more would have killed a boy to get a fairy figurine in his egg, then it killed the many girls who got tin soldiers or cars or dredgers or other stereotypically male toys. And plastic bracelets have been available in Kinder Surprise Eggs since I was a little girl.

  2. Pingback: Jolly Old St. Nicholas | Cora Buhlert

  3. Laran says:

    Another aspect why gendering the eggs limits your option: You are less likely to swap your unwanted toy with that of another child. After all, getting something out of an Surprise Egg you don’t like isn’t the end of it but might be only the beginning – taking action to change your fate 😉

    • Cora says:

      That, too.

      Indeed, Kinder Surpise Egg toys that I didn’t want immediately landed in the St. Nicholas Day stuff bag when I was a kid or were swapped with classmates rightaway. And the cafeteria at the University of Bremen always had a shelf for Kinder Surprise orphans, where people (mostly students in their 20s) could leave unwanted Kinder Surprise toys and take a toy they wanted in return. It might still be going on for all I know.

  4. Wojtek says:

    There OK. Once I saw this show that they have to get the baby chikcs (THAT JUST HATCHED) back to the in the heat thing in 4 hours or they die .. So I think if baby chikcs (that just hatch) can do that, then so can you eggs. Also the mothers have to leave to get food for her, so she won’t die and the eggs will be fine like that. Because out in the wild, the mother has to leave a couple times to feed herself!!! So they probably was not heated from the mother a couple times. So don’t sweat it.

    • Cora says:

      I know that this is probably one of those weird, vaguely on topic spam comments scraped from hell knows where, but I’m letting it through anyway, because it’s hilarious.

      Kinder Surprise Eggs are made from chocolate. They hatch toys not chickens. Honestly, this is a total scraping fail.

  5. Megan says:

    I’m really glad that I’m not the only one shocked by this. I live in Canada, and I haven’t seen these around (even though I work at a Wal-Mart, so we would definitely sell them if we had them).

    In response, I wrote an email to the Kinder Egg website, expressing my objections to the gender-specific toys (and I advise anyone who feels the same way to do the same). If we can make a difference and stop the gender-stereotypes when we see them, we’ll set a good example to our youth.

    But it’s true that some girls would much prefer the toys sold in the Kinder Eggs for girls. Gender development is a complex subject.

    Anyways, thank you for writing this article.

    • Cora says:

      I suspect that Ferrero doesn’t sell every version of Kinder surprise eggs everywhere. Or maybe they already caught enough flack for the gendered eggs that they pulled them. The store where I bought them in December still had a bunch last time I was there, but that may be old stock.

      Anyway, glad you liked the post.

  6. Marina says:

    When I was a little girl I was always very disappointed when I got “girly” figures in my Kinder Surprise Eggs. I wanted toy cars only. I can even remember asking at the grocery store for eggs with cars in them!

    I do understand some girls (and boys) would want something different, but why not just put a variety of toys and package them all alike? If kids get a toy they don’t want they can swap!
    But if kids today are like in my childhood, the cars are the most popular toys.

    And on these being banned in the US….
    Parents here will give their children anything and let them have it without supervision; too much trouble looking after their offspring and make sure they don’t eat plastic toys. They really do need rules to protect the kids, because the parents can’t be trusted. They think if it is for sale it should be safe for an infant, which is about their own development stage anyway.
    I buy them when I’m in Mexico though. And take only the toys with me home. No problem, and much healthier than the drugs most Americans buy on vacation down there.
    And I still want the eggs with the little plastic cars in them, though it does annoy me a bit that they now have faces where the grille should be.

    • Cora says:

      Here in Germany, the most sought after Kinder Surprise toys are the little plastic figurines (Smurfs, crocodiles, hippos and whatever), though I always loved the tin soldiers best.

      Anyway, I agree that manufacturer Ferrero should mix stereotypically male and female toys and let the kids decide and swap those toys they don’t want. The cafeteria at my university had a swap shelf for Kinder Surprise toys, where you could leave unwanted toys and take one you wanted. And most of the people swapping toys were adults.

      The Kinder Surprise egg ban in the US is so difficult to grasp for many people worldwide, because the US allows so many things, e.g. guns, hormones in livestock raising, etc…, that are clearly more dangerous than Kinder Surprise eggs and yet bans a product all of us have known and consumed since early childhood without incident. I suspect a different culture with regard to parental responsibility and product liability (i.e. Europeans are less likely to sue for and courts are less likely to award damages in cases where a accident or injury was to blame on rank stupidity) is also a factor. Besides, I think there have only been one or two cases of kids eating Kinder Surprise Egg toys and choking in forty years or so. I’m also not convinced that protectionism doesn’t play a part. Though buying the eggs in Mexico, eating the chocolate and taking back the toys is a good solution to the problem and avoids fines. Most people, including kids, vastly prefer the toys to the chocolate anyway.

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