‘Gender neutral’ not exactly what I’m going for…

Friday, on the local San Francisco public radio station, KQED, I heard a show about children and gender neutral toys. It was a great program, featuring the brilliant Peggy Orenstein, among others, and I was psyched to hear the topic of kids and toys debated as we go into the Christmas season. But, I’ve got to say, I’m not entirely on board with the term “gender neutral” that the host kept using to define a goal. And that is a term that the media seems to cling to when the topic of sexism in kidworld is discussed. When I was on Fox News, the host kept trying to put the same words in my mouth, and I didn’t like it.

Let me be clear here. I absolutely believe toys in stores should be divided by type– building, outdoor, figures/ dolls etc– not by gender. I don’t believe objects should be color coded to imply they should be played with by boys or girls. I am hard pressed to think of something more absurd and simultaneously socially accepted than this. I desperately want to see girls and boys pictured playing together on boxes. When the term “gender neutral” is used, I think this is the goal referred to, a goal I share with all of my heart.

I guess the issue from me is that powerful female characters are already drastically missing from the fantasy world created by grown-ups for children. When we talk about “gender neutral,” I fear that girls will continue to go missing from this debate– about children, toys, play, and sexism– even more. “Gender neutral” needs to be a goal of sorts, but we also have to keep in mind that all kids need to see more girls and women doing more things. Do we call that “gender neutral”?

Another problem for me with the term is that “gender neutral” doesn’t inspire me. “Gender neutral” makes me think of a bunch of grown-ups or academics or psychiatrists sitting around wearing super thick glasses and holding notebooks.

Here is what I want to see in kidworld: More females having adventures. More females doing cool shit. Got it? Do you call that gender neutral or do you call that being alive?

I want options. Variety. Diversity. Multiple narratives. I want all kids to see many more images of powerful and complex females, to see girls taking risks, saving the world, being brave, smart, and going on adventures in the fantasy world and in the real one. You could argue that we need to see more images of boys being kind and geeky and paternal, but from my vantage point, as a reader, movie goer, and watcher of TV shows, that’s pretty covered. I honestly believe the best way to help boys get out of gender stereotypes right now is to show them females being strong, being the star of the movie, or the central figure in a game that everyone wants to play.

But, as it stands, this is not the case at all. Strong female characters have gone missing. Part of this lack is because there are so few female characters in kids’ movies. Those narratives get licensed into LEGO and diapers and clothing. But even when female characters show up, they get “make-overs” or companies like Stride Rite will remove Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Leia from their Justice League, Avengers, and Star Wars products and marketing. It’s really shocking how strong female characters keep disappearing from toys, clothing, and all kinds of children’s products.

Here’s my four year old daughter (holding a lunchbox from the Seventies.)

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My daughter isn’t a “tomboy” or a “girlie-girl.” She likes pants; she likes dresses; she like yellow, she likes pink, she likes black. She likes to race and play soccer and read and make art. She loves superheroes and her mermaid Barbie. But the older she gets, the more I see her choices getting influenced and limited by stores and marketing and media and peers. My goal is to have her world grow, not shrink. I’m not sure that “gender neutral” is what she needs.

 

58 thoughts on “‘Gender neutral’ not exactly what I’m going for…

  1. I agree with the term gender-neutral being a bit rubbish and I feel it’s been pushed onto campaigners by the media, rather than coming from them.

    I also agree with what you’re saying about the representation of girls to a degree, but I think it’s really important that we show caring boys as well.

    Part of the problem with our culture is that girls are expected to show empathy and be caring while boys are not. When you say you want more kick-ass girls isn’t that saying you want girls to be presented more as boys currently are? And doesn’t that suggest that qualities such as kindness, empathy and love – all associated with girls not boys, are not as important as being adventurous?

    Just as our culture tries to make girls meek and caring, it stunts boys’ social and emotional skills.

    Why are one set of qualities valued over another? Because they’re seen as male? Isn’t that falling into the male is better than female trap all over again?

    If it came down to either/or I personally would prefer a caring world over an adventurous one, but ideally I’d like to see it recognised that everyone has the potential to be both.

  2. Margot–your post could not be more timely for me as I have just launched my new company/brand called Be Free Zone for which I am using the term “gender-equal” instead of “gender neutral.” I feel the same way you do about it and spent a lot of time noodling on something new that could send a different message than “no gender.”

    Of course, you know my brand includes my character TooLula–who personifies the Be Free Zone but also offers a female character who can perhaps be a role model for girls while also showing boys that all girls are not the same. My new collection of tees is called “SHOW YOUR COOL” and offers great designs and colors for girls and boys.

    I hope you’ll check it out. http://www.befreezone.me

  3. You know how hard it is to get a pair of plain jeans for a girl? Even worse overalls? It seems every item of girl’s clothing is glittered, bedazzled, embroidered and pink’ed to within an inch of it’s life. And I can feel the quality of the denim isn’t the same as thicker denim would be hard to add gems to I guess. the term gender neutral may have its problems but my observation is that things have gone hypermasculine and hyperfeminine.

  4. I agree with your take on the subject, but you lose a lot of empathy when you stereotype academics. If you don’t like what is happening in the area of your choice, why think it alright to do just that in another?

    • Hi Paul.

      I think you are referring to this sentence:

      ““Gender neutral” makes me think of a bunch of grown-ups or academics or psychiatrists sitting around wearing super thick glasses and holding notebooks.”

      I was stereotyping– that’s why I used the terms “grown-ups” and “superthick glasses” and “holding notebooks” My intent was to make a funny exaggeration to highlight how wonky the term “gender neutral” is but I apologize if you were offended. I am grateful for academics and have brilliant ones in my own family : )

      Margot

  5. While I agree we absolutely need more strong female leaders in our society, in our children’s toys, in movies, in cartoons etc. the idea of ‘gender neutral’ is actually to encourage people not to fall for the social construct society has created for gender. Hopefully many of you know there’s more to gender than just male and female, it’s far more complex and that’s where the term gender neutral comes in. Gender neutral toys allow children to decide as they are growing up whether or not they want to identify as male, female, gender queer, transgender etc. (so many more gender identities could be added) Just because you are born with certain body parts, it does not mean you identify as that gender. Fighting against the beinary genders through using gender neutral options is the best way for people to identify in a way that fits them, not society.

  6. my partner has two children from another relationship that sadly didnt work out. he has said a few times when speaking of them that they ‘hit the gender roles right on the head’. its very hard to not say something like ‘ that is not something to be proud of’ when there arent my children and really i know i have no say in how they are raised and its not really my thing. but honestly, i wud love to see them just live a little bit outside the pink box and the blue box…

    • Just as it is perfectly alright to identify as a gender other than that which they were born into, it is also pefrectly alright for a boy to be just that.

  7. I was blessed with two boys, though if I had had a girl i would definitely have gotten her stuff like legos, and other toys, esp geeky toys….if she wanted a kickass herione action figure I’d make her one, does take much to mod toys these days and make them their own outfits…well we could fashion her her own comic book based on a character she helped create.

    It really is the parents who set the stage on gender bias and neutrality. my boys both had baby dolls and played with them. They had Baby Bob (their grandmother already had it), when I hear my son say “no way, that’s for girls” I look at him and say, “who said?” When they reply it is sometimes, “cause its pink” and I say, I like pink…..look here, my stuffed Gloomy Bear is pink and he kicks ass…..now mind you I am a large guy, piercings, tattoos, sometimes I have a mohawk….and I tell them, “its ok to play with dolls, its ok to play with things other people think are just for girls.” and then I usually will point out female superheros that kick ass like Storm, Rogue, etc….and say things like….”take rogue for instance, she nearly killed Wolverine just by touching him”

    • Hi Craig,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I love your comebacks to your kid. If you are up for making me a list, I would love to post them on Reel Girl.

      Margot

  8. Pingback: · Gender stereotypes of pink and blue

  9. I do apologize if I’m about to rehash a previous comment — there are so many!

    I like the spirit of this post, but I think both the author and the people against whom the author’s railing are all conflating characters, things, and audiences.

    I want characters to be interesting and average over all stories to be about 33% men, 33% women, 33% why-do-you-need-to-label-them. That’s not gender neutral, that’s very gender-aware. Because of historical bias, I’d be fine with a backlash of 10% men, 90% anything not-labeled-men for a while. It would even out again.

    I want things to be gender-neutral, described without reference to gender, and marketed without concern about gender-norms, because THINGS ARE THINGS!

    And the audience for characters and things (that includes consumers/purchasers of things) are going to be gender VARIOUS and vigorously and more and more out of the closet that way. Which is awesome.

    So, if you want to market a character in a movie (which is an unavoidable goal for the foreseeable future), here’s what would be a great way to do it: 1) start with a dynamic character who can’t be described in one word. If it’s a one-or-two-descriptor character, you already suck, start over. 2) allow that character to possess things that make sense for them. Some of those things can be pink, others can be blue or black, still others can be any color or shape or flavor, I dunno. The gender and orientation of the character be damned. This is part, by the way, of how they’ll be interesting. 3) market it to everyone. Show boys and girls playing with the character or the character-branded items together.

    In this fashion, you will decrease the suckiness in the world and coincidentally probably make more money. At least, that’s what I think of all this.

    * I’m not saying “you” as in the author’s doing anything wrong, I just didn’t know how else to address the universal perpetrators of gender-problems. I apologize for the sloppy writing!

    • hi paulidin,

      I like your comment, I think we agree, certainly for the need for dynamic characters and more women/ girls and marketing them to everyone. I also agree THINGS are THINGS. So is the point where we don’t agree– the 33% why-do-you-need-to-label? I’ve got to think about how I feel about that. I would love to see more gender ambiguity, but I don’t know about 33%. I really, really, really want to see complex and powerful women and girls.

      Margot

  10. Just thought you’d like to know that Imaginext from Fisher Price is actually ADDING female super-heroes to their line. Slowly, but surely.

      • There is WW with invisible plane and WW with Superman.No batgir unfortunately.But they have cat-woman with her bike,I guess b/c the character is a minority feisty in the Dark Knight Rises film (played by Anne Hathaway).They also have Harley Quinn a female villain in the DC Universe.

  11. When I saw that LEGO was developing a “LEGO Friends” line ripe with pastel coloured bricks and “Girl” themes I was horrified.

    NOT because girls shouldn’t play with LEGOs but instead: I never though of LEGOs as being a toy that had any gender.

    I mean, as a child, the sky was the limit! Want a house? Build a house? Want a spaceship? Build it! I noticed this year that the the LEGO Friends aren’t even on the same aisle as traditional or “Boy” LEGOs. It’s absurd. Why do we need gender segregated LEGO aisles? Will boys get teased if they want to make a house and shopping mall out of LEGOs? Is it taboo for girls to play with Pirate LEGOs or Space LEGOs? Total marketing sexist crap.

    By the way, I’m a dude.

    Loved your post.

    • Hi Tim M,

      It is SO awful with LEGO. I don’t know if you read my recent post about shopping with my daughters and we ended up with FRIENDS, dumbed down, idiotic FRIENDS because she wanted girl figures and there were NONE in ALL the other sets. After she completed the FRIENDS set, we went shopping again, and asked for a set with Leia, because we heard she was in the sets, and she is in the set, wearing a metal bikini and a chain! I put a picture of her on Reel Girl’s Facebook page. So LEGO puts hardly any female figures in its sets, so girls can only play slave, then says– girls aren’t interested in LEGO, go figure, and then makes sets where girls sits around in hot tubs and cafes. ARGH. It’s insane. I think people in the future will look back on this time and what we did to boys and girls and be appalled.

      Margot

  12. I just wanted to respond to this quickly because it’s late and I’m about to go to bed, but, I really feel I need to say this. I believe that we DO NOT need intensive focus on strong female characters pushed into prominence. I think that being focussed on pumping up one gender in an attempt to even things out, just reinforces the divide.

    I think that “gender neutral” is important. Having boys and girls on toys in equal proportions is integral. We need our kids to see both genders equally, not one more then the other, equal. I think the same goes for doll houses that show the “nuclear family” image etc.

    Dividing toy stores up into sections, as you suggested, building, fantasy play, puzzles, art/craft, outdoor toys etc is a great idea and one that seems so obvious to me that I’m amazed constantly that it isn’t more common.

    I’m a feminist and a mother. Unlike many voices I hear online, I’m a mother of a boy. A boy who likes to wear dresses with butterflies on them or shorts with sharks and t-shirts with transformers. He likes to play with laser guns and robots AND my little ponies and have tea parties.

    There are differences between boys and girls, and boys and boys, and girls and girls. We shouldn’t be letting marketing researchers decided for any of our kids what they, as individuals, should or shouldn’t play with.

    Gender neutral marketing is extremely important for individuality and self confidence. But just because something is gender neutral, doesn’t mean it can’t have a single strong female or single strong male character as part of it. It just means that we get to see boys and girls playing with wonder woman dolls and batman dolls. Gender neutral doesn’t have to mean watered down 100% equal portions of girls or boys. It has to be branded so that neither gender feels that items are focussed towards their gender, they have the freedom to choose, end of story.

    Good night.

    • Hi Tracey,

      Great comment and I agree, except that I don’t think strong female characters will exist if we don’t prioritize creating them.

      Margot

  13. I think that the gender-neutral action has gotten out of hand, as all things do when they are new. When the pendulum swings back and a balance is achieved, we may have a good thing. I don’t like the term gender-neutral, since to me it indicates no gender at all. I like a difference between the genders! However, I would it to be balanced and fair. I can be soft and feminine and defend myself, work on a machine or in a classroom. I want a man who is strong and manly who can also change a diaper, work as a nurse, take care of the home, work the farm, repair machinery, split wood, or work in a classroom. Different, yet equal!

    • Hi Sassy Sue,

      I think those definitions of feminine and masculine and culturally created and have little to do with anything but keeping men in power positions.

      Margot

      • Everything is culturally created when you get right down to it. I agree there is an obvious seperation in gender, believe me, as a woman and the most skilled and senior mechanic in my shop, I have had plenty of opportunity to find it. If I had a little girl, I would take her into the “boys section” and teach her how to shop without skipping a beat. I would encourage her to buy whatever she wanted in whatever color she wanted and give her the tools to be confident about it. Regardless of the color and marketing of toys, the adult world is still very one sided. Im torn between hoping that changing toys will lead to future balance and feeling like it will not prepare our little ladies n gents for whats out there.

  14. Hi Margo,

    I found this article from the Toward The Stars page on Facebook.

    Talking about girls taking risks and saving the world, I’M LOOKING TO PARTNER WITH AN ILLUSTRATOR on a children’s story I wrote, where a little girl meets an incompetent knight and does quite a good deal of that. OK. Maybe she doesn’t save the *whole* world, but more than enough enough for an afternoon…

    Anyway, I’d really appreciate if you could read the full story [1000 words]:

    http://www.dontyougetintotrouble.com/read-the-story/

    and then see what you think and if you could put me in touch with any readers/contacts who could help me make this project see the light of day, to be enjoyed by boys and girls.

    I had found a fantastic young illustrator who loved the story, this time last year, but he got picked up by a publisher before we could sign a contract and ditched my indie project. I haven’t had the time and energy to devote to the search for an illustrator since, but your article had just inspired me to give it another shot.

    Thanks!

  15. Great post. I don’t struggle too much with attaching a name to what I want for my kids (a daughter 7 and a son 5). If it’s going to be called “gender neutral”, OK, but the environment is far from “neutral” at present. Once the culture of advertising, toys and kids TV (not to mention the workplace and entertainment in general) are more open to less proscriptive gender roles then things might be “neutral”. Right now it seems like there’s a lot of work needed simply to have people realize there is a meaningful issue here at all. Many people seem genuinely unaware of (or unconcerned about) the messages that children receive about what being a boy or a girl is supposed to mean. My kids seem very comfortable with the idea that playing is about fun, not about doing “girl things” or “boy things”. I hope that their sense of freedom isn’t lost as they grow up. I hope that it’s enough (or at least significant) that there are people in the world that have a similar outlook as they raise their kids.

    • Hi Peter,

      Sadly, I agree. I live in San Francisco– liberal, progressive city that it is, when I talk about how movies for children are sexist, most people have NO idea what I’m talking about. What gives me hope is when I explain it, just point it out, those parents often say, “I never thought of that before but you’re right.” Hope they’re not just being polite to the crazy lady.

      Margot

  16. While I agree I also think that the gender neutral debate needs to embrace the softer qualities tha more boys should be allowed to embrace. So much of what is considered gender neutral it seems, seems to be suggesting things that are toys and activities typically considered boyish. I want to see more boys accepted as playing princess or whatever and still be as much a boy for it, and that it is not a negative thing to do anything that might be classed as girlish…and even if its girlish that is still a good thing.

    • Hi Debby,

      I agree that in marketing, we need to see more boys playing with dolls, babies, strollers, kitchens etc. But, as I wrote in my post, boys get to play so many parts. In movies this year like Monster University, Turbo, Planes, Despicable Me, I could go on– you see so many male characters play so many types of males. Female characters don’t get the same range, in part because there are so many less of them. The fewer there are, the easier to stereotype.

      Margot

  17. Er… from Dora the Explorer to Hunger Games, I do see strong female characters in children’s literature and fiction. Perhaps not enough of them, but when they exist, they’re big. I think what we really need is to see more females in support roles in fiction – rather than as the ‘token female’ in character groups.

    • Hi Winged Wolf,

      Dora is the perfect example of what I’m talking about– she started out cool and then got a princess make-over http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/03/19/dora-the-explorers-makeover-gwen-and-i-saw-it-comin/

      She’s basically replaced by her male cousin, Diego now.

      I am a huge fan of Hunger Games, but its the exception, not the rule. The rarity is not only Katniss but the gender equality that exists in Panem. Katniss idoesn’t ever shock anyone doing what she does “because she’s a girl.” This is exactly what kids need to see. Hunger Games is also for older kids. Check out Reel Girl’s Gallery from the lat few years of movies for children and you’ll see how few female protagonists there are.

      Margot

  18. The word “gender” anything is inappropriate to me. It implies that we still need to identify a gender or “not a gender”, which to me says we still need to define a difference. It’s a toy. It’s a shirt. It’s a hero. Period.

    • Hi Heidi,

      I’m not there yet. I see what you’re saying and its something I like to think about and imagine as an intellectual exercise, but for me, my family, the world, I really feel we need to see more girls and women being powerful right now.

      Margot

      • I forgot to add that “gender” brings up the whole other issue of the divide between sex (male/female) and the construct of gender.

  19. As I think I wrote on your facebook page, I’m aiming to get everyone to replace “gender neutral” with “gender plural”. All the options for all the kids, and feel free to grab a bit from here and a bit from there.

  20. Have you heard of Disney Junior’s Sheriff Callie’s Wild West? The show features a calico cat as the main protagonist and a woodpecker named Peck and a cactus named Toby as her friends.

    GoodPoints About The Show and Protagonist

    1) The protagonist is a female animal character and female animal protagonists are even fewer and more far between than human female protagonists.
    2) She may wear pink (a stereotypically girls’ color), but she also wears blue (a stereotypically boys’ color) and doesn’t wear a bow on her head.
    3) She is a sheriff, which is usually portrayed as a male job, rather than as a princess.
    4) She isn’t an all-white cat like so many other female cats (Marie and Duchess in The Aristocats, Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and Charmmy Kitty, Sonya from Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats, Toodles Galore in Tom and Jerry, Mewsette in Gay Purr-ee) are in fiction. In fiction, white is the stereotypical color of female cats.

    What rating on your Heroine rating scale would you rate this show?

  21. What an awesome article. Reminds me of way back in the day when I was in Trouble (yes capital T) in kindergarten for playing in the “boys” section. Back then we had playtime divided. Girls had their section. Boys had their own area that was physically divided off from ours– by a wall of blocks. They could play anywhere– but girls were only allowed in the girl appropriate area. Yes– ours was the “kitchen.” I got a great lesson in gendered play at 5? And I was both a girlie girl (mom kept putting me in pink) with 2 brothers and I was heartbroken when mom didn’t get me a 12 inch Darth Vader for my 6th Birthday. That was more than 30 years ago. I do like seeing strong women in hero molds– and agree we NEED more. Check out the Rainfall films Wonder Woman trailer. That’s what we need for our girls. Not more Twilight nonsense. And the concept of gender neutral is a misnomer. It’s exactly what you said– we need more women to be seen doing more and we want Hollywood to show it happening. Thanks again!!

    ~Jessie

    • mythinkbooks,

      I hate to report things are pretty much gendered like that TODAY in preschool. There is no wall, but the boys and girls are often that split.

      Margot

  22. Agree, Margot, the term ‘gender neutral’ makes me think of ‘branding beige’ as in usurping toy joy for politically correct blandness, none of which is the objective here. (You’ve done a great job pointing out the narrowcasting and limitations in Geena Davis style)

    I find the media magnification of this term “gender neutral” all the more disturbing and polarizing because those of us that feel it ‘doesn’t make the grade’ and needs corrected before being distilled into sound bite d’jour get the eyeroll as if there’s ‘no pleasing some people’ when in fact it’s just once again trying to shoulder shake the pop culture powers that be to accurately depict both the ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ to return to a larger scope of worldviews for boys AND girls that isn’t self-limiting.

    I dare say neither gender would accuse Katniss in “Catching Fire” of being ‘neutral’ in any way, shape or form…Hope we can turn up the media volume on strong, smart, capable, (and yes, she just happens to be wearin a smokin’ hot dress quite well {literally} which is anything but generic/bland or ‘girly girl’ archetype)

    Strongly feel critical thinking/media literacy is “catching fire” to finally pushback against pundits putting words in mouths, and media moppets slinging soundbites…The backlash to ‘get it right’ has begun, akin to that 3-finger salute Citizens of Panem use in the movie. May the odds be EVER in our favor. 😉 (Will tweet this out tmrw when I’m back. Great post. Thx!)

    • I guess I’m not worried about bland joylessness as much as a lack of change. Let me take legos as an example. A basic lego set without the characters or the predetermined structure you’re supposed to be building would probably be considered gender neutral. But would that at all change the way those sets are marketed to children if the toys are already considered gender neutral? Besides, we already know that boys are considered the norm. If we’re not pushing for the inclusion of female characters, how do we know that gender neutral doesn’t just mean more movies where girls go missing?

      • Yep, agree in that context…gender neutral takes on the everyone plays/let toys be toys vision of yesteryear (begged Lego for that in this post to “Build on Possibility+ Brain Plasticity” (vs gender targeted assembly sets) http://www.shapingyouth.org/lego-friends-please-build-on-possibility-brain-plasticity/ as they once RULED the free play/open space imagination stations before the shift twd packaging boxed figs-n-sets w/monetization of licensing/use fees +big name franchises (e.g. Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc) when everything started shifted toward mktg heavily twd boys (reflecting the Hollywood mess right into the mktg sphere)

        As for pushing for inclusion of female characters, I’m guessing manufacturers+decision makers in media/mktg sphere (Lego toys/film, etc) could give a flying fig (lady fig?) about fairness factor valuing dollar signs as the guiding light…so at least emerging shero characters like Katniss Everdeen are tipping that scale in a positive direction w/highest opening wkend global gross$$ starring a female lead EVER. http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/catching-fire-does-super-hero-numbers-and-becomes-highest-opening-weekend-starring-a-female-lead

        With numbers ($$) comes change in…numbers (%) as we inch toward change; and if the blogosphere is any indication (wildly applauding the Lego lady scientist figs, new representations, leaving Merida as the bold, brazen free thinking indie spirit that she is, etc.) we’re overdue for a ‘market correction’ and industry will put their ‘listening ears’ on (even if it’s only to hear the ka-ching of the sales register).

      • I think this comment explains the point better than the original article does. When I hear pople pushing for stonget female role models but not gender neutrality, I think of Real Women and picture girls feeling empowered! to play house while boys are still playing football, because boys will be boys. To me gender neutral means no play activity — house or football — is presented as gendered, so children are free to choose according to their own ideas, not their interpretation of gender expectations. I’m not sure that leads to female erasure, since I am old enough to remember the 70s when people took this sort of thing seriously and play was much more open for all children. Can you maybe unpack a little more why you feel gender equality leads to all-male models of play?

    • Yes! “the term ‘gender neutral’ makes me think of ‘branding beige’ as in usurping toy joy for politically correct blandness, none of which is the objective here.”

      • I can see why people would get caught up with trying to call it gender neutral, gender something, but in my mind, what I want to see are non-sexist toys. The way that toys are marketing to kids is straight up sexist! Boys are encouraged and marketed to with toys that challenge their intellect, building and spacial skills and toys that will directly contribute to skills that will lead to learning and career skills. Girls on the other hand are tempted by princesses, fairies, unattainable thin, pretty themes that do not prepare them for anything except to become vapid, materialistic women who care only about how they look and pleasing others! I definitely agree that one step is to get rid of the segregation of toys in stores and the over-exaggeration by the media of what is feminine and masculine. But there is still a long way to go, we need to see more powerful, main female characters, but at the end of the day characters are just that, fake characters. We need to simultaneously expose young girls to real female leaders past and present: Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Hilary Clinton. I bet every teen knows who Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg is, but could any of them name a female CEO? Doubt it.

        • Actually I think girls/women could name female entrepreneurs, CEO’s, and businesswomen but we don’t think of them in the same context as the famous male figures because of the way we frame the discussion about the work that men and women do. Bobbi Brown, Aerin Lauder, Vera Wang.

  23. In the Spanish from Spain there isn’t a term for girlie-girl, and the word for tomboy (marimacho) is really offensive, so maybe I don’t understand very well those adjectives, but I don’t like the terms girlie-girl or tomboy. I think that I don’t know any woman what can be defined with those adjectives. The women that I know have lots of different interests, some of them more “feminine” and other, not so much. Even if you like make-up, fashion and enjoy dresses, that doesn’t mean that you have to like everything in pink, and only read love stories. And you can enjoy sports and cars and whatever is “for men” and still like Disney princess. People are complex, and women are people, but I have met lots of people that still think that we all think in the same way, we read the same, we dress the same and always react in the same way. I always have thought that those adjectives are such a simplification that they don’t really reflect any woman.
    The other day, my niece was playing with a game where you have to dress up and apply make up to a doll, ¿is she a girlie girl? She likes football, and sports, she likes the Power Rangers and when I lend her my X-men comics, her eyes sparkled, and she made me tell her the name and power of every superhero in the comic one by one. Twice. ¿Is she a tomboy?

    • It sounds like she is a well rounded girl. The type of girl I was in the 70s, but it seems few girls growing up now are still that way by the time they hit kindergarten. Marketing in particular and society in general are trying to push them into these girlie-girl roles. I feel like it is much worse now than when I was a kid. Back then it was finally seeping in that girls and boys can have the same interests and play with the same toys and toys should be marketed to both. I can remember seeing both little girls and boys on the same boxes of toys such as trains, toy vacuums, etc. Now there is rarely a child of the other gender on these toys, girls are plastered on what is traditionally thought of as “girl” toys and it is the same for the boys. I think it does have an effect. I remember when I was a kid, I never thought of toys by gender, only by what they did/were and the stores didn’t have pink and blue aisles and even Barbie could be seen wearing something other than pink. The only time that I thought a toy was only for boys, was a particular brand of toy car racetrack. I really wanted one, and I played with this brand of car toys since I could remember, but because it was advertised using only boys in the advertisements, I came to the conclusion that for some reason this toy could only be used by boys, so I know first hand how kids pick up on the marketing messages.

      • Hi Dreolin,

        It’s really bad now, appalling. Sexism in kidworld is so extreme and mainstream, it blows my mind. I think the next step, if we don’t turn this around, is breakfast cereal for either boys or girls, right now there is not a single female mascot in kids cereal. How do you solve the problem? Give girls something pink with a princess.

        Margot

    • She’s a girl 🙂 I think this is the point – our girls are so much more than princesses and pigtails – they are full of wonder and excitement and science and art and music and friendship and war-play and skinned knees and jewels and all the wonderful things there are about being a _kid_ and not a gender.

    • There is a great meme I saw on Toward the Stars of a girl hanging on a tree and it has “tomboy” crossed out, below it reads “This is a girl acting like a girl.”

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