It’s that time of year again. Christmas catalogues are dropping on door mats, and packaging up a nice bit of gender stereotyping seems to be as high on the Christmas menu as it ever has been.
Susan Whitehouse wrote to us recently, after the Cancer Research catalogue she received literally “sickened” her: with gender stereotyping like this, who needs the Disney princesses?
“For the Fashionistas and Creative spirits in your lives”
Fairies, crowns, embroidered, ribbons, tea sets, knitting needles and sequins.
“For sporty gadget fans and wannabe scientists”
Robots, detectives, power, torch, mechanical, monster and puppets.
No prizes for guessing which page is for girls and which for boys? In fact they don’t even bother trying to be subtle about it.
We might be forgiven for thinking this was a catalogue from the last century, but unfortunately not. Insulted? We are! how many of the scientists working on a cure for cancer are women? I don’t have the answer but I’d wager there are a fair few. The Women in STEM group that I met recently would have a thing or two to say about this that’s for sure. Loaded with messages, is this really how we want to label our girls? Fashionistas? At the age of four?
Ahhhhh Boots – I can admit that I didn’t have high hopes for you, and I’d be right!
The top ten toys for “little princesses”* – that’s ‘girls’ to you and me – include toys to make dreams come true, toys for budding fashion fans, Hello Kitty chocolate (we’ll come back to these shortly) a selection of Disney Princesses and a baby doll. Over the page, Miko make-up (with a similar looking cat to the aforementioned Hello Kitty) is marketed along with a picture of a little girl, no older than four years old. With the words “little girls who love accessories and grown-up make-up”. Grown up make-up? For four year olds! That’ll be for the fashionistas right? And on the next page another selection of make-up called “glitter babes” with some choice adjectives again including “sparkly, celebrity, spangly, trendy and gorgeous”.
For Boys - allowed to be called boys clearly: Scary, Speedy and Sporty describes the top ten toys. Lego is clearly FOR BOYS, and Playmobil, whilst featuring a girl in the picture, is in the ‘boys’ section, or immediately following the Boys’ page, and therefore off the radar for girls.
Whatever happened to simply TOYS?
We’ve been thinking about the Early Learning Centre as the one year anniversary approaches of our first campaign the “Early Learning Emergency”, and hearing from you too about how it continues to simply not live up to its logo or name, or indeed the new tv ad.
So in response, and with determination, maybe we can all encourage our four, five, six, seven year olds, and enable them – through play – to forget fashion, prettiness and sparkly celebrity gorgeousness. To search inside their fashionista self, and to release the real-girl … the free, alive, loud, challenging, funny, quirky true and wonderful **_________ girl inside.
I’ll end with a link to this fantastic performance by Katie Makkai on the dreaded “prettiness” epidemic.
*their words not mine
**insert your own adjective
***the film contains strong language
We’ll be back soon with more on the ELC …