Recently, I was with some kids and doing some colouring in - the epitome of childhood. It came to my mind to do a small experiment with the colouring in light of becoming aware of the ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ campaign. I wanted to see if the children would pick the gender role pictures for themselves or would they not. I gave them options of various pictures- a boy as a doctor, a truck, and ambulance, a girl as a nurse, a girl with a doll and a boy as a fireman. The feminists out there will be getting annoyed already about the stereotypes displayed here but I must say they actually helped this experiment.
So what happened? Well, some did choose the more ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ related pictures when given free reign over choice. But then there were also some that chose non-conforming pictures. It may sound a small point but just letting the kids choose what they actually wanted, let them have just that - what they wanted. The issue this experiment relates to is with some toy and book manufacturers marketing their product as either ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’. What makes it worse is shops also allowing this to happen and condoning it by having boy and girl sections too. I just can’t fathom it: what is the problem with allowing a child to make his/her own decision in what they like and want to play with? Playing with toys is a huge part of child development and pressuring kids into certain stereotypes does lead to problems such as fewer women in business and engineering roles and men still being laughed at for being a nurse or cleaner.
Manufacturers are right that the children that are more likely to buy a digger are boys, but why put a sticker on it and try to deter girls from it? The manufacturers are also getting ridiculous by applying gender to products such as: Pritt Sticks, colouring books, Kinder eggs, lunch boxes, Jenga, world globes and fridge magnet words. The good news is that many retailers have got rid of the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ isles and a lot of manufacturers have seen the sense in both genders buying their product, actually increasing sales.
There is nothing wrong with a boy playing with a doll or a girl playing football and really isn’t going to change them. The stereotyping is also detrimental to those children that may be struggling with their gender and the labels discriminating against their biological sex. Some children will of course also not be heterosexual. Although that may be a stereotype too that boys identifying as gay or girls as lesbian might have opposite likes, we must be careful to not discriminate against their choices too and allow them to develop who they are in their own time.
The changes are simple; the implications vast. Gender labelling is unnecessary and needs to be addressed. Society has many problems, but it is an accumulation of small but damaging concepts that need to change for the better. Signing the petition is one way to do your bit to support this cause and to also point out to shops and manufacturers that their methods are inappropriate.