A week ago, a tweet from Waterloo flew around the world. A University of Waterloo professor posted about gender stereotyping after seeing these baby pyjamas in Target.
Here she talks about why she took issue with the outfits:
The response was instant, global, and varied. She received numerous retweets, including many more pictures of gender stereotyping in children’s clothing.
Invariably, some responders felt that she was overreacting, that she had too much time on her hands, and that she was overly sensitive. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.” seemed to be a popular response.
But not all girls like pink, and not all girls think painting their nails and bedazzling t-shirts is bliss. And not all boys like blue, or have an avid fascination with Iron Man. And it makes you wonder, when marketers look at branding and packaging, do they not know this, or do they just not care? Or are they starting to look beyond the obvious stereotyping?
This question lead me straight into Toys’R’Us, a shop where branding flourishes, to see if the perceptions I formed a decade ago still hold true. Then, walking into the store, you were overwhelmed by the clear division between PINK, and all the exciting stuff. The good news is, there has been some changes. 10 years ago, all the scientific and discovery related toys would have been packed in the boys section of the store. Now there is a wide range of science and exploration learning toys displayed in a gender neutral section.
The bad news is that the differences between the boys’ section and the girls’ section still play firmly into traditional gender bias.The girls’ toys are still dominated by princess dresses, toys geared at nurturing girls’, well, nurturing side, and toys designed to practise the art of looking pretty and making pretty things.
Boys, on the other hand, have toys that allow them to explore, have adventures, be protectors and rescuers, and build.
Clearly, when it comes to marketing to children, the concept of boys playing with dolls that are not action figures, or engaging in arts and crafts, has still not quite penetrated the minds of the manufacturers and marketers of toys. Neither has the idea of girls as action figures or risk-takers.
So, is this overreacting, or does gender stereotyping in products geared towards children entrench stereotypical behaviour? What do you think?