Stereotypes Limit Thinking

‘Tis the season for gifting! It’s also No Gender December – a time to take a stand against gendered marketing of kids toys.

Think this is just about sensitive nutters being overly politically correct? Well, it’s not. Gender stereotyping limits the thinking, creativity, and lives of children the world over.

These stereotypes persist into adulthood. Just ask around. Simple questions show how deep-rooted our gender stereotypes really are. Should women compete in contact sports? Can they even drive cars properly? What about run a boardroom? Are stay-at-home dads able to raise kids properly? What do you think of guys that cry?

There are some really great speeches, online resources, and campaigns speaking out against inequality, against sexism, and against gender stereotyping.

But today, it’s gender stereotyping in advertising that’s burning my britches.

REAL MEN DON’T SMELL OF BERRIES. REAL MEN SMELL OF FENNEL & BRICKS

When it comes to kids, studies suggest that they love playing equally with ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’. It’s only when they reach an age at which they’re influenced by the media and social stereotypes that many start gravitating towards more ‘gender-appropriate’ attitudes.

But a large majority of people still don’t believe this. Many people say that girls are ‘hard-wired’ to like pink sugar and glittery spice and everything nice. While boys are genetically driven to trucks and explosions.

People, THIS IS UTTERLY STUPID. Some girls want to be sparkly princesses, and some boys do too.

Instead of telling us to let ‘boys be boys, and girls be girls’, how about just letting kids be kids. (Sidenote: The Aussie PM is really not worth listening to when it comes to topics such as these).

What about considering the possibility that our own cultural attitudes, our gendered marketing of toys, and parenting choices influences children to conform to current stereotypes?

In some ways, the times are changing. Some big toy retailers and designers are now blurring the old lines. Shaking up the puzzle box and preventing stupid ad campaigns isn’t immediately going to solve the world’s gender identity problems, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

So let’s just allow kids to be who they want to be. And maybe, just maybe, we can provide a society in which future generations will be able to shine, in whatever mode they desire.

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Lauren Wright

Globetrotting Aussie postdoc on the hunt for science, logic, and humanity. I research metabolism, mitochondria, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other weighty stuff.

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