The holidays seem to allow me less time to actually write something, but if I do, I thought it should be “seasonal.” A while ago I flipped through a store’s toy catalogue, just in time for Christmas and I was amazed and shocked by the strict gender policy. There is nothing new there, nothing you haven’t seen before, but all of it packed together, again and again, in every possible variation… it’s somewhat terrifying. Let’s take a look.
Just two kids holding their stuffed rabbits, right? Sure, the girl’s rabbit is pink, but that’s not too bad. The boy’s rabbit, though, has an interesting message in its speech bubble: “A good rabbit never gives up.” That’s all a man needs to know.
So, that’s the standard. A boy gets to be a pirate, a fighter, tough, in action. I know, it’s normal to complain about girls being portrayed as weak and passive (we’ll get there in a moment), but we shouldn’t forget that the image that is created of boys and men also is harmful in the development of male children, as they always have to live up to expectations, suppress emotions and have to work hard to be strong.
Girls are allowed to the following: Style! Decorate! Design! Not bad things per se, but it’s made absolutely clear that they are not part of the “action.” They sit in or next to their castles and admire and watch and look pretty and smile.
This is my favorite. At first I thought it’s great that a girl and a boy are actually playing with the same toys. But then I realized that the girl is making food while the boy is eating it. Hello future stereotypical husband and wife! Just think about how engrained this has to be in our cultural psyche for such a picture to exist.
I’m a boy, so I take the green, colorful one, which might not be the most masculine but at least it’s not PINK! I don’t touch pink.
Again, boys get the generic colors, girls get pink. One is all slide-action, the other is more pretty house with nothing to do.
We’re just talking about simple building bricks which at this age mostly means “building something high and see it fall again.” But still we can’t let girls play with all the colors, girlish colors are more than enough. Look at all these pictures and tell me there is no outside influence for those preferences.
This is the only picture in a 100+page catalogue that features a girl and a boy doing the same thing, without any discernible hierarchy or difference. That is the most exceptional picture of them all.
Who thinks of women when they think of “scientist”? Hm, anyone? Of course not, because boys belong to the labs.
The boy gets a scooter to do risky tricks and gets the tagline No Rules, the girl gets a pink one with fancy accessories.
Another favorite. Sure, the boys get all the weapons, they can attack, they shoot and are offensive. The girls get cutesy bows and little guns and are titled as spies. Sure, you can argue that they are allowed to use their intelligence, but its so much more passive than what the boys do.
And finally another display of what girls are supposed to do: shopping, make-up, fashion, singing, beauty, dressing up, pink, pink, pink. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against pink (well, actually I do, but that's not the point), but there is no reason to force girls of all ages into one single color, unless we want to make them easy to spot and indistinguishable from each other.
I say it all the time, but can’t repeat it often enough: no one has to follow those guidelines. We can easily go against dress and toy code and blur the gender lines, without anyone getting hurt. It’s in our hands and we don’t have to be controlled by the marketing of toy companies, by the strict categories of our culture. And we will all feel better for it.