Gender [Non]Specific

Thanks Garrettc

I have an issue. One that has just been reignited by this post from one of my favourite bloggers. It appears that in spite of our best efforts, things continue to go full circle in the gender debate/divide.

She’s objecting to the fact that a popular UK children’s store has now become the seller of plastic tat and, not only that, advertising that continues to gender stereotype our kids.

This is not the first time I’ve been enraged by this issue. Not at all. This very evening I started to read a story to Squidge. It was from the Orchard Book of Magical Tales, retold by Margaret Mayo. I started seething from the first story and haven’t bothered to read any further. In fact, the book has been removed from her libary and is to be burnt ceremonially (kidding!).

The first story is called the Lemon Princess and starts off by saying that the Prince needed to find a wife, but no woman was good enough for him because he wanted the most beautiful woman in the world. No normal babe would do.

He gets told where to find her from an old crone (oh, fabulous), he finds her but loses her thanks to the machinations of an ugly servant girl with coarse hair and dry skin [insert irate bad word here], but beauty wins out in the end because our magical princess is not only super stunning, but she can cook, weave, clean, and serve her man too.

This book is written by a woman! What on earth? I was fuming. Then I read Vonnie’s post above and sighed. After all the hard work that the original women did to get us equal rights, it appears that it has all sort of stopped and started stagnating.

Partially dressed women are still used to promote “male” items such as cars/computers/gadgets. Youth is more important than the funny wisdom of the older woman. And women who want to stay at home and care for their families are attacked and vilified by their own gender. What’s that all about? I thought feminism was about giving us a choice? Not about deriding each other for not being some kind of ideal. That’s just slapping another stereotype onto us.

It is something I ponder a lot. My daughter is hugely into pink. She loves Disney princesses, she loves froofy dresses, she loves all girly things. All on her own bat. I never said, “You is girl. You play Barbie,” she just loves pink. She also loves Doctor Who, Toy Story, climbing and other such pursuits that should, theoretically, clash with her girliness. But why should they clash? Can’t she be a princess who likes computers? I have (I hope) allowed her to be whoever she wants to be and I’ve done my best to let her know that she’s capable of anything.

But, one day (not now obviously), should I tell her that all things are not created equal? That mummies don’t get the same pay as daddies? That many men (and women) will judge her on her looks and not her brains? Or do I hope that, by then, things will have oozed outed of the stone age and that women will have stitched the gender divide right up?

And just to leave you with something to ponder, apparently a study held in 2008 shows that toys are more gender specific than ever before.


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chrissy
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 11:36:32

    You should read this: interesting article on topic – an interview with comics writer Kelly-Sue Deconnick where she talks about freaking out in the sonogram when they found out they were going to have a little girl instead of a little boy:


  2. Kelsey
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 20:41:47

    Terrific post.

    I’ve always been concerned about gender specific issues, and when I ran a dayhome, often wondered what the parents were thinking? Why did little boys hate to play with pink? Who was instilling these values into innocent children?

    But now that I have a boy and girl of my own, I’m seeing that it’s a natural selection process. Put a bucket of pincesses and trucks in the middle of the room, and my daughter will have Ariel out within seconds, while my son bashes her with a truck.

    I still refuse to buy her a Barbie, mostly because after watching Barbie’s “The Magic Of Pegasus”, I was disgusted. One of the women watches her sister being buried in an avalanche, hands to her face, oh my. But hold on, Ken to the rescue, and with two scoops of snow digs her out. I was so angry of the incompetance portrayed.

    Anyways, point is, in my experience, some stereotypes exist because it seems to be what the children are drawn to, but the helplessness of women in so many childhood stories? I’m teaching my daughter that a damsel in distress is more pathetic than romantic, and hope that she agrees.


  3. Leslie
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 20:46:14

    This is really interesting, especially the study you noted at the bottom.

    I do think that tides are destined to turn, with woman (like you, here, now) being completely aware of the HUGE problem this stupid fantasy poses. The internet is giving a voice to women (which then empowers women through feeling the power of community behind them). Keep preaching, sister!


  4. Sunny Day
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 20:49:34

    I have commented about this before citing movies and TV but I completely forgot about children’s books. Of course, one reason I probably forgot was that I had only boys. I am glad I read your post.


  5. Jen
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 23:20:54

    Over from Blog Frog. Keep up the writing. I don’t think the gender issue will ever go away. It is so embedded in our society. Always a good topic.


  6. Beth Zimmerman
    Jul 27, 2010 @ 21:47:46

    Hey there … I’m running low on time but wanted to respond to your request for a blog critique. Very cute blog! LOVE the header! Colors are excellent! Only suggestions I have are to make subscribing easier by moving it to the top of the page, including more subscription options, and add a Google Friend Connect widget! 🙂


    • Tamsin
      Jul 28, 2010 @ 21:30:30

      Why thank you so much Beth! Your feedback is much appreciated. I’ll get right on those changes (when I have a spare second!). Thank you.


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