I’m going to give you fair warning right now that this is a rant blog post because I need to get something off my chest. When are we as a society, especially in the world of children’s products and marketing them, going to stop with gender stereotypes? Enough is enough.
As the mom of a son and a daughter I have some pretty good experience with shopping for both sexes, and quite frankly in my almost seven years of motherhood I have come across blatant gender stereotypes time and again when shopping for my kids. While there has been some progress, there certainly is a need for improvement.
I could vent about my frustration with the children’s clothing industry, and how I’m sick of certain colours only being for girls or for boys. I could express my annoyance with how girls clothing seems to be all frilly and full of princesses or other cutesy characters (unicorns seem to be on trend in girls fashion at the moment), or how boys clothes are full of sports graphics.
And I could go on with examples of toys and other children’s products that fall in line with gender stereotypes, but right now I want to focus on the particular culprit that got my blood boiling enough to write this blog post (I came across it in a Facebook post shared on a friend’s timeline last week). They are two books published by Barron’s Educational Series titled “The Girl’s Book of Adventure” and “The Boy’s Book of Adventure.”
While the books are both very educational and contain useful information, such as first-aid instructions or how to tie a sailor’s knot, as you go through what’s available to learn in the boy’s book versus the girl’s book it’s a little bit concerning to this mama, not to mention somewhat insulting. Let me provide you with some examples.
Topics for boys include:
- Identifying different types of insects
- How to read a map
- Learning morse code
- Tips for catching a fish
Topics for girls include:
- Beauty tips
- How to make paper jewellery
- How to make potpourri
- Identifying wildflowers
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s 2018, right?
In fairness, I will point out that the girl’s book also includes how to predict the weather and a section called The Hiker’s Toolbox. And don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not necessarily saying that the information in these books aren’t helpful skills for children to learn. My problem is that all of this was divided into two different books, to begin with. I think all of these topics are great, and in fact would be happy for both my son and daughter to learn them. However, I look at these books and wonder: why isn’t bird watching, identifying animal tracks and rescue techniques important for girls to learn? Why can’t boys learn photography tips and how to make a dreamcatcher? But my main question to Barron’s Educational Series is this: why not take all topics from both books, put them into one book and title it “The Children’s Book of Adventure?” Or perhaps even categorize them differently, one as a children’s book of arts and crafts, and the other a kids book about the outdoors.
My point is that dividing these categories between boys and girls is sending the wrong message. As adults, we are out there encouraging our girls to become more involved with STEM and telling our boys that it’s okay to be sensitive, but then the retail industry continues to make products that say otherwise. And the additional problem to that is we’re buying this stuff for our children, and, therefore, products like this continue to be made and these stereotypes get passed on from generation to generation.
We need to stop with the gender stereotypes and let our kids be kids, and more importantly, unique individuals with an array of interests. We should focus on allowing them to learn about anything that excites or inspires them and stop putting a label on these products as being for boys or for girls. Isn’t what’s important here is that our children, our next generation, are learning valuable life lessons and skills? It’s time to take gender out of the equation when it comes to producing and marketing children’s items.
My goal as a parent is not to teach my daughter to be a girl who only cares about pretty things, or for my son to be a boy who is tough and only likes sports. My goal is to teach them both to be smart, caring people who strive to learn about anything that makes their heart happy and to provide them with the skills they need to live a successful life. As a mom, I’m going to gravitate more to products that support those values.