Gender stereotyping is a problem and it’s harming you and your children
The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.
Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department in June 1918
Pink for girls began in the 1940s. Pink really began on the catwalk when Elsa Schiaparelli brought the colour into her collection by mixing a bit of Magenta with white in the dyes. She called it shocking Pink. Before this, mainly boys were made to wear pink as it was a softer version of what their fathers would wear which was red.
Bright colours weren’t really around until the use of chemical dyes. This was when all manner of colours were beginning to be available for the consumers.
Fast forward to the 21st century and we seemed to be locked in this idea that girl wear pink and boys wear blue. I say locked in because some people actually believe that girls have been wearing pink for centuries. They haven’t.
Recently, people are starting to notice the gender divide in clothing. How children’s clothing in the mainstream shops are very biased. Boys clothes are full of bright strong colours, the words that are printed on the shirts always denotes the wearer to be adventurous, strong and able to be who they want. Girls clothes, however, are full of pinks and pastels. Animals such as puppies and kittens or unicorns. Cute and sweet and dainty. The messages that are printed on the clothing for girls usually denotes that the wearer is pretty and only thinks about rainbows and unicorns or modelling.
If you think these messages are fine for the children in this age then you do need to think again. Call me a snowflake but we need to start being more confident in our girls as we are our boys. Please have a look at this website (Let clothes be clothes) that writes specifically about this topic. Check out their Facebook page here.
There have been many studies on children and stereotypes. For example. This was a study done on 256 children aged from 3-10 years. The conclusion was Analyses revealed that girls and older children provided a higher proportion of stereotypes, and that appearance stereotypes were particularly prevalent in descriptions of girls and activity/trait stereotypes were more prevalent in descriptions of boys*. In this study, they are showing children at young ages understanding stereotype and conforming to them. This was done in 1988, and we can believe that gender stereotypes are used more rigidly in the present day. This most certainly can and does affect our children.
After sharing my post on my facebook about the pants/panties and the massive gender divide, I got a lot of comments about how no-one cares about this anymore. I feel so many parents have been bombarded with so many messages that they are desensitised to it all and would rather not care. This is such a sad way to look at something like this which is about changing the way we see girls and how they see themselves. Find the post here.
I also got a lot of comments telling me that if I like the boy’s ones then I should buy it. I did. I got my daughter some ‘boy’s brief’ with rockets on. She picked them out of the 5 that I pictured in the post. Now, let’s fast-forward 10 years, now she will have her own thoughts and ideas. Let’s say she loves rockets, but she is too embarrassed to shop in the boy’s section, so she is stuck with puppies and unicorns in the girl’s section. If she does choose to shop in the boy’s section, she might be ridiculed by her classmates. Vice versa for the boys. The children’s clothes section should be all together and should not be gender-specific.
One of the comments I received was this after sharing the post in a group and asking whether gender-specific clothing is a problem.
Yes, this is a massive problem.
By the age of 7, most girls already define themselves by their looks, and most boys already think themselves smarter than girls. It’s nonsense like this in shops that perpetuates this damaging stereotype. Girls clothes are covered in glitter and princesses with words like “cute” and boys clothes are full of rockets, footballs and slogans about being tough.
Childhood sets the scene for everything. Is it any wonder that men monopolise the board room and earn more, and women spend thousands and thousands of pounds every year trying to make themselves look prettier, and that the majority of women are unhappy with their bodies.
I’m currently reading a book where the author has studied meta-analysis of boys and girls growing up, and the data shows clearly, that without these messages children are bombarded with everywhere from their own homes, to the toys they are given and the clothes they wear, that there are barely any differences between boys and girls before they hit puberty. This includes things like attention span, physical abilities and their interests
I feel very strongly about this and could write pages, but I shall leave it there. If anyone is interested, the book I am reading is called “parenting beyond pink and blue” by Christina Spears Brown PHD
It seems people look at this in such a small way. If we look at the whole picture of gender stereotypes, it is these stereotypes that affect the choices many young girl and boys make. Not their personal preference.
These expectations of what girls should like and what boys should like are slowly but surely leaking into adulthood. For instance, why is it that less young women have high paid jobs than men? Moreover, why is it many women get paid much less than the man in the same job?
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The types of clothes and toys on offer to our children shape who they are. Many young girls grow up to be women are so obsessed with looking pretty and trying to be the ‘ideal’ woman because this is what is projected at them from a young age through the things they wear, watch, and play with.
Many people think that this is the norm and I shouldn’t spend my time worrying. Well once it was the norm that women couldn’t vote, and couldn’t have their own bank account. Once it was the norm that people of colour were slaves. Once it was the norm that women weren’t allowed in drinking establishments, or even allowed to have jobs. This is another ‘norm’ that it is about time we changed.
We need to start somewhere, and pants/panties might not be seen by others, but they are by our children, and they too are a massive part of gender stereotyping. It’s a tip of a massive iceberg.
We, as a society, are making slow changes. However, this is only one mainstream shop, there are many others that too, that capitalise on gender stereotypes.
Gender stereotypes are harming our girls and boys. Boys are scared to be ‘girly’ in fear of being bullied. Girls who are ‘boyish’ are called tomboys and are expected that they “grow out of it”. Many people are angry about gender stereotyping, and we should use this anger and put it towards change and not hate.
We are making a difference and if we stand together we can make sure it happens.
I have done a previous post about why children should just be children
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*Accessibility of Gender Stereotype Domains: Developmental and Gender Differences in Children