Day of the (stereotyped) Girl
What do you think when someone says to you it’s international day of the girl?
If it’s “Oh I should go and buy something pink and sparkly for the little cute girls in my life” You’ve probably stumbled upon this by accident, whilst googling “unicorn and princess costumes to gender stereotype girls to the point of nausea” or something along those lines.
The International Day of the Girl is not really recognised as widely as it could be (it was only declared a “day” in 2011), but it’s a day for girls (note: this is not a general term for women, i actually mean girls as in under 16) to raise their voices and be counted, for campaigners to push their agenda whether it is to prevent child brides, campaign for education for girls, end child trafficking and abuse, or simply to make girls, and the excellent things they do, something to be talked about (which is rare unless it is a beauty pageant).
I support many charities, campaigns and organisations which work tirelessly to make the world a better and more socially just place for women and girls – and this is a day where I get to say you are all bloody brilliant. In particular, I support Plan UK which works to empower and educate girls in developing countries (take a look and help them out).
This day of the girl however, I have been surrounded by all the bits of “girl” that have not been defined by the endless things a girls can be, but the commercial limitations of what a girl should be. Earlier this week I was confronted by something, that may seem trivial, but as I have written about before, actually isn’t.
A beloved part of my childhood Kinder Surprise has gone gender bias. Gone are the days where all, regardless of our gender definition, ate the chocolate in one breathe (oh, that was just me? ok.) and got to the little orange plastic box inside to find 3 pieces of a toy for us to piece together, a monkey hanging from a tree, a plane, a car or something none of us could actually decipher, but gave us endless joy. Well, by endless joy, I mean about 5 minutes until it was lost behind the sofa, only to be found again in the vacuum bag.
But now they have jumped the gender stereotyping bandwagon and helped all parents out by labeling their eggs blue or pink. I can just imagine before this, parent stumbling around their local asda, some of them in the foetal position, wondering which god forsaken toy would emerge from the chocolate egg and make their child too feminine or masculine. I bet it plagued their lives.
But it’s not only Kinder Surprise, it’s also Muller Yogurt too, and countless others. THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY RESCUE. Thus far I may have been buying XY diary products.
It might seem trivial but it’s not. When we define children by colours, symbols, toys and now food stuff, we aren’t catering to their needs, we are limiting their imaginations which later limits what they think they can be. Why are women more likely to be in caring, catering and cashier jobs? Shall we ask if the majority of them had baby dolls, easy bake ovens and were told to go shopping as teens? Why are men more likely to be in highly skilled, outdoors or scientific jobs? Were they playing with science kits, encouraged to play sports?
But there is also a darker part of gender stereotyping, the part that encourages girls to be nice (read; submissive) and boys to be powerful (read; aggressive), this can (but not always) play into a false dichotomy of what men and women should be towards each other.
If you think this is far fetched, nothing illustrated it better to me, than when a friend pointed me in this direction:
That’s right. It’s a cat calling lego sticker. Shouting “Hey babe” at passing women as he works on the site. Seriously. (not sure how this passed me by!). “Hey kids, cat calling and street harassment is fun, why not try it in the playground?!”
The link between toys targeted at boys, teaching them what being masculine is and then their attitude towards women, suddenly becomes much clearer, yes? (note: lego no longer stock this, but they did, and it had to get passed several designers, printers, managers and marketing bods that thought it was ok to give the green light to…)
This International Day of the Girl, why not swap it around a little? Buy something (or don’t feed “the man” and use something at home!) targeted at boys for a girl, and buy something targeted at girls for a boy. It’s just a colour and it’s just a toy. Lets be a little more ambitious for the girls in our lives.
I’ve bought my younger nieces a science kit, where we get to play with gunge. I am pretty sure I will regret it.