Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hey Boy, Hey Girl

I came across the campaign Pink Stinks the other day ( - it targets "the products, media and marketing that prescribe heavily stereotyped and limiting roles to young girls" and I'm with it.

I'm quite sick of seeing everything from Kinder Eggs to Lego being separated out via the use of packaging into ones that are 'for boys' and 'for girls'.  Since when did a chocolate egg containing a crap plastic toy become gender specific and since when did it matter whether you were a boy or a girl to make something out of bricks?

I'm lucky that within my daughter's peer group many of her friends have mothers with interesting careers - she sees that it's equally possible for a woman to be a scientist as it is to be a sculptor, social worker, 'person in IT' (come on, even when I did it the kids didn't have a clue what my actual job was!) or teacher.  It feels essential to me that she knows all of these options, and more, are within reach.

And then, in amongst this rejoicing that my daughter sees a world of possibility is a never ending parade of Disney Princesses, feminised Nerf guns, and even entire shops with aisles that are dedicated to 'boys toys' and 'girls toys'.  For her, this results in a conflict between the role models in her life and what companies want her to believe she should like for the benefit of their bottom line.  She's smart enough to know the purpose of the advertising but I would be naive to think that it doesn't influence her, or to fail to recognise views and opinions on what boys and girls 'should' like hasn't influenced every generation before hers.

At this early stage in her life I'm fortunate in that the images she has access to can be managed to a certain extent.  We can make sure she doesn't see Rhianna with her tits or arse hanging out at an awards ceremony (again) when we're using the internet together.  We can stop Page 3 coming into the house.  We can give her positive choices that help her her value herself for who she is, and her achievements, rather how she looks.  But it's far, far harder when it comes to the question of toys and attitudes that tell our girls they should want princess figures and pedicures and our boys they should like diggers and guns.  

But it's not just a question of 'telling' the children that the advertisers are wrong.  Oh no, it's got to be balanced with not being too vitriolic in my opinion of toy princesses with big plastic tits and come hither expressions.  For her to make a choice, her own choice, I need to tone down the face that looks like I've just picked up a dog poo when we walk through The Entertainer.  But until they get shot of the pink packaging, that's going to be hard to do...

Soundtrack: Hey Boy Hey Girl - The Chemical Brothers


  1. I sometimes wonder whether people like me, and perhaps Pink Stinks, only tend to compound the issue that we are objecting to. If I go on about sexism and stereotypes towards men, I am still separating along the lines of sex, making that the relevant thing, rather than transcending it and seeing it as irrelevant. Maybe the same with Pink Stinks. Being 'anti-pink' still dwells as much in the idea of girlishness and pinkness, just from the other corner of the boxing ring. The attention is still might on the very thing we do not want to be talking about. Sometimes I feel that the best thing I can do for the Gender Debate is to spot myself whenever I am doing anything along the lines of gender, whether 'constructive' or not, and stop doing that. Then maybe I'll be able to see girls and boys and children, men and women as people, and Indians, paraplegics and bankers as individual versions of the same type of human being.
    Thanks for my morning dose Toni

  2. Hi Chris, Oh I know, sometimes I wonder that too but then I see a sticker book of 'jobs for girls' or a 'career Barbie' whose every job involves wearing a mini skirt and feel the urge to rage (in a constructive manner of course ;) ). What a debate it is - I'm glad we can be a part of it.