"Of course you can be a paleontologist when you grow up, you can be anything you put your mind to... You can't have dinosaurs they're for boys! What about this pretty doll?" - Society
There has been some great coverage recently about gender stereotyping and gender segregation of children's products for marketing. Parents and children have had enough, they are tired of being spoon-fed what it is acceptable to like based on a chromosome!
Drowning in a sea of pinkification?
Recent studies (Why so few? By The American Association of University Women) are showing that the drop of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) could be down to this marketed divide. All too often, you will find that the dinosaurs, the science, the space-themed clothes and toys will be marketed to boys. The girls can be redirected to something that will help them get back to that all-important job of looking beautiful, preferably in a nice shade of pink. While there is nothing wrong with a bit of pink, it shouldn't be limited to just girls and girls shouldn't be limited to just pink! It's all about options.
"I don't have a problem with pink. Do you have a problem with pink?"
I can sing a plainbow...
Boys are not free from the shackles of stereotyping either -- far from it. Browse most aisles for boys' clothes and you will be faced by an uninspiring range of brown, grey and blue. If you really want to see something depressing, check out the 3 years + clothing rail and see the color palette become even further muted!
Karen Haller, leading color psychology specialist, told me: "Children absolutely love color. The best thing you can do for your child when it comes to color is to let them pick their own colors, whether that's a vivid bright, a pastel or a muted tone. They are expressing how they are feeling or want to feel."
Boys are expected to don shirts with sayings like 'be brave like Daddy,' 'Chick magnet,' or my all-time least favorite, 'boys will be boys.' Because we couldn't possibly expect them to behave with them being all boyish and that...
How about we just let kids be kids?
There has been a rise in more inspiring options for girls recently, offering them clothes with dinosaurs, STEM prints and trains, and not all have been pink, I know this is crazy talk but do stick with me... And that is genuinely great, we need this.
Boys, however, have mostly been left out of the movement. They suffer from many of the same issues. Even if you only see the issue being the lack of inspiring, non-stereotyping products for girls (and presumably that would be because you want to see girls on an equal footing), then a massive part of that battle would be teaching our boys to see girls in the same way, on an equal footing with themselves.
We all fell a little bit in love with Emma Watson when she did her UN speech on gender equality and the 'He for She' campaign. She said it was about time we invited men to the table too: "How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation? Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too."
What's my tuppence worth?
There's a movement out there calling for gender equality, and I'm very happy to be part of it. My husband and I felt particularly passionate about it after our son came home from school at age 5 and told me, his very strong and present female presence, "I will look after you when Daddy's away, Mummy." "We can all look after each other," I replied. "You will need me to look after you Mummy because you're a girl." Say what now, child?!
To say I was lost for words would be an understatement! How did society get to you so quickly my boy? Then I realized that it hadn't. This seed hadn't been planted when he started school; this had been planted at birth. Every time he had been to a shop, saw an advertisement and had his gender questioned by strangers in the street, all this had conditioned him to what it was to be a girl and to be a boy.
I am trying to do my little bit! As are so many others.
In the UK, there's a couple of great campaigns: Let Clothes Be Clothes and Let Toys Be Toys, both of whom are simply campaigning to have the labels removed so kids can be free to like what they want to like. Like the Meerkat says, "Simples." This doesn't need to be an overly complicated battle or revolution. Let's just ditch the gender labeling.