Who is to Blame for Gender Stereotypes?
The manufactures? The shops? The advertising? The parents? Or even other children?
Gender stereotyping has become so commonplace in our society that it is rarely questioned - not often are people caught suggesting that maybe pink isn't exclusively a girl's colour or that it's not only boys who are interested in cars and video games.
Studies have shown that gender stereotypes with toys actually can affect the studies and therefore career choices of children - boys being more likely to get science kits and building sets and girls being given dolls. This can mean that boys will go for scientific, mathematical or technology-based subjects and girls might go for design or art.
This would make it look as if the blame rests with parents, who buy the toys, but shops and advertisers do their bit too, from the subliminal messaging in adverts - you will only ever see girls playing with dolls and boys playing with train sets or airfix models - to the large signs in shops indicating "Girl's Toys" and "Boy's Toys".
As one interviewee said, not much has changed for a while in this respect apart from the amount of advertising. She said that her daughter had options of toys to play with – not just pink fluffy teddy bears, but toy cars as well. This is, in fact, a mild form of gender neutral parenting.
Gender neutral parenting was first “developed” in the USA in the 1960s and involves raising a child not exclusively as a boy or girl – the child wears both boys’ and girls’ clothes, whatever takes their fancy, and plays with toys made for both boys and girls.
One of the commonly acknowledged issues with this way of raising children is the reactions of other people who are “sometimes a bit hostile” and confused. While most adults get over their surprise once the parenting method is explained, the same cannot, unfortunately, be said for some children.
School can be a difficult time for any child, and most just want to fit in to avoid teasing, social exclusion and bullying. This can easily lead to peer pressure and children – boys especially – not wanting to admit that they play with toys “for the other gender”.
So could children be responsible for the continuation of gender stereotypes?
“My brother is only four years old and he already thinks that pink is for girls and blue is for boys – if at dinner he gets given food on a pink plate he says ‘I don’t want this plate; pink is for girls’,” said one person who was interviewed on this subject. “We think this is sad, because it restricts options and freedoms.”
In conclusion, while it might be hard to pin down who exactly is responsible for gender stereotyping, we can be sure that it is a deeply ingrained part of society – and a part many people want to change, seeing it as unfair, unwarranted and sometimes even sexist. One concerned parent said, “This is the 21st century; children should be able to get what clothes and toys, and in the future, choose courses and careers, they want without being influenced or pressured by gender stereotypes. Things are modernising all the time, and, well, it’s time we got into 2014 in this respect, too.”
By Flora , Eve and Emily