Kids trained to think stories about boys for everyone, stories about girls only for girls

Soraya Chemaly is my new favorite writer. I can’t get enough of her blogs on Huffington Post and Salon. From her post What Does it Mean that Most Children’s Books are About White Boys:

One day when my daughter was in third grade, she had to explain to a classmate what sexism was. Four kids — two boys and two girls — had been put in a reading group together, given a basket full of books and asked to talk about them and decide together which one they wanted to read and discuss.

As they went through their choices, the boy picked up a book whose cover showed an illustration of a woman in a hoop skirt. He quickly tossed it aside. My daughter suggested that it might be good, and asked if he’d already read it, because she would like to. He said no, it was a girl book and he wouldn’t read it. Her response was pretty cut and dry: “That’s a sexist thing to say,” she explained. He was a friend of hers and an intelligent kid. He paused long enough for her to realize he wasn’t sure what she meant.

“Do you know how many books with boys in them I read?” she said. “You should read girl books, too. Not reading them just because they’re about girls is sexist.”

Frankly, today, I’m pretty certain that what she, a 9-year old, told her classmate was more than most adults can muster.

 

Chemaly is so right. Sexism gets passed on, generation to generation, from parents who continually read their kids stories and take their kids to movies starring males. What happens when the narrative is about a girl, when a girl is shown front and center on the book cover or on the movie poster? Parents, too often, decide that kind of entertainment is just for girls.  Of course, multinational industries like Target and Disney support and enforce and make money off of gender segregation. Disney execs, when changing the title of a movie from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” and making Flynn Ryder a costar to the female, hold a press conference, telling us, with no shame at all, that while girls are happy to see movies about boys, boys refuse to see movies about girls. So are girls just born open-minded, generous, and altruistic, perfectly happy to be marginalized, cast in the supporting roles, if they get to exist in the story at all? Or, are girls trained, from day one, from before day one, frankly, while still in the womb, that stories about boys are important?

Chemaly goes on:

Do you know what percentage of children’s books feature boys? Twice as many as those that feature girl protagonists. In the most comprehensive study of children’s literature during a period of 100 years, researchers from the University of Florida found that:

  • 57% of children’s books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female.

  • As with television and film, books with animated characters are a particularly subtle and insidious way to marginalize based on sex, gender and race. In popular children’s books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters.

  • The average number of books featuring male characters in the title of the book is 36.5% versus 17.5% for female characters…

    Researchers of the study above concluded, “The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children’s media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games and even coloring books.”

     

    Please seek out books and movies and games with smart, strong girls for all of your kids. Here is a list of movies Reel Girl recommends. Check out the “Reel Girl recommends” category as well. Other categories to explore on Reel Girl include books, games, television shows, Cool and Radical Girls, and Top Heroine Rating. Or do a search for a book or movie title on Reel Girl to get my review. I rate media and products with 1 – 3 S’s for gender stereotyping and 1 – 3 H’s for heroines. For media or products to avoid, look into Reel Girl’s Worst Stereotyping category. Everything I rate, I’ve personally read, played, or viewed, often with my three daughters, now ages 4, 7, and 10. Great resources also include A Mighty Girl and Toward the Stars.

Peer bullying on the rise when preschool girls wear ‘boy’ shoes

Yesterday, I posted this video of my 4 year old daughter talking about getting bullied at preschool for wearing ‘boy’ shoes.

I’ve gotten so many comments on Reel Girl’s Facebook page about kids being bullied by their peers when they step out of these gender norms that surround them like shrink rap, I’ve started asking parents if they would video their children telling their stories. Meanwhile, I Googled ‘bullied for wearing boy shoes’ and found some stuff that is making me cringe and want to scream, so I’m going to blog about it instead.

From Coupon Cilpinista:

Yesterday my 4 year old wore her waterproof slip-on shoes for boy or girl to school (they are black Timberland moccasins) and she told me this morning, “The girls would not play with me yesterdays because they said I was wearing boys shoes, can you please put sparkly shoes on me ???”

I was in shock. Are you serious? Is this something I should address with the school??? BULLYING starting THIS YOUNG??? I don’t know what to think– my daughter loves those shoes and her sparkly shoes are not comfortable or for winter weather but she wants to wear them to appease the bullies in her classroom.

What would you do?????

 

Here’s some advice she got from 8 different fans of hers, without irony, each confirmed with multiple likes:

Cover them in glitter. Change the shoelaces to a girlie style.

 

Bedazzle her moccasins

 

Add something to moccasins to make it more “girly”

 

This is so sad – I’d talk to the teacher for sure. I also like the ideas of “girling up” her boots with shoe laces, etc. Good luck CouponClipinista

 

put sparkles on the shoes…that should do it.

 

Yep. I would bedazzel the crap out of em. I can tell you from experience, the school wont do anything!!

 

I agree. Bedazzle them. glue on a few rhinestones or a bow.

 

Bedazzle her shoes :o )

 

Note to parents: Gender stereotyping CAUSES bullying. Bedazzling shoes? Not a solution here. What is that teaching your kid? To do whatever the bullies say to do. And what is it teaching the other kids? Keep bullying. Is that the lesson we want to be teaching here? I honestly don’t even think these 4 year olds know they are bullying, because not enough parents and teachers are telling them that. I think these kids believe that they are stating a fact.

Some parents tell Coupon Clipinista similar stories:

At 4 my daughter LOVED Spiderman. There was no talking her out of getting the Spiderman tennis shoes. She wore them to school and was told they were “boy shoes” (They were.) When she came home telling me about it, I told her, “do you like them?” “yes.” I told her to tell the kids when they said that again that anyone can wear Spiderman shoes. She had the same situation about the same age about wearing the color blue (still her favorite color 6 years later.) Her PreK4 classmates told her blue was for boys. We talked again and I told her that she can wear ant color she wants. And if the other kids don’t like it, too bad for them…they are going to miss out on wearing lots of cool colors. She went to school confidently and told them you can wear whatever color if you are a boy or a girl. I liked the idea of teaching her to be confident about her ideas even if they were not always “girly”

 

Another mom/ teacher:

As a teacher, sad to say, yes, bullying starts this young. My son, at 4 loved his pink t-shirt. Wore it to preschool once, and will not wear it out of the house (so sad) due to peer’s comments – at 4!!!! Yes, speak to the teacher, so he/she knows what is going on in their classroom and can address it. Then talk to you daughter. Don’t let her give in to peers. Point out how to be an individual and to take pride in that. When all is said and done, I woud let her wear the shoes of her choice. Unfortunately, it will be the choice peers, unless she is strong and willing to be her own person.

 

Apparently, there was a whole controversy around this post:

Yesterday my mom posted a picture on Facebook of my 5-year-old brother … wearing a pair of shoes he picked out for his first day of preschool. She explained to him in the store that they were really made for girls. [The boy] then told her that he didn’t care and that ‘ninjas can wear pink shoes too.’

However, my mom received about 20 comments on the photo from various family members saying how ‘wrong’ it is and how ‘things like this will affect him socially’ and, put most eloquently by my great aunt, ‘that sh*t will turn him gay.’

 

From that story come links about “gender non-conforming camp.” Seriously? We’re talking about shoes here. Shoes. Preschoolers. Bullying epidemic. The solution is not sending the kids off to some camp. The solution is to stop buying into the gender segregated marketing that is so aggressively targeted at kids and parents from multinational companies.

A Reel Girl Facebook fan posted a great link about the Miller Mix story: 

My daughter, fresh from day one of a much-loved and progressive preschool, announces her sporty blue Toy Story sneakers — once adored — are for boys
and no one at her school likes girls who wear boys’ shoes.

 

Finally, a great solution posted from Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals: A Letter to Bella and Other Girls with Blue Shoes.

I heard from your mom that someone at school said your shoes were for boys. Maybe because they were blue or maybe because Buzz Lightyear was on them. At our house, we say, “Colors are for everyone.” Sometimes people get mixed up about that because they don’t think about it very hard. That makes me feel frustrated. All you have to do is look around the world and know that colors are for everyone.

But Bella, isn’t that silly! How could your blue Buzz Lightyear shoes be for boys if colors are for everyone and Buzz Lightyear is from a movie made for all kids and you are a girl standing in those shoes! I think people get confused about that, because they think something is only for boys because they never took the time to consider girls. I think people should consider girls.

Since you are four years old, you know a lot of stuff, and you know that girls can like or do anything boys can. And boys can like or do anything girls can. Things are kind of silly right now because grown ups keep getting in the way of kids, and some grown ups who are in charge of the companies that make stuff for kids like toys and clothes, they don’t have good imaginations like you and I do. These grown ups try to fit kids into little boxes that are labeled “Boy” or “Girl”, and then they only let certain colors or ideas into each box. They do that because it makes it easier for them to sell their stuff. Since boys and girls don’t grow in boxes, you can see how really goofy this is. But I have to be honest with you, there are a lot of grown ups who don’t question these pink and blue boxes, and then they teach that thinking to their kids, and then their kids lose their imaginations.

I couldn’t agree more. Here’s an ad I saw in a window of a Stride Rite in the neighborhood where my kids go to school. I also speak about one of the times my daughter was teased for her shoes.

striderite

Here’s me on Fox and Friends talking about the gender stereotyping in this ad and what kinds of damaging messages that’s sending to kids. I also speak about one of the times my daughter was teased.

Here’s my letter to Stride Rite Until you stop gender stereotyping, we’re through.

Once again: What happened to my daughter is not an exception. This kind of bullying is happening to kids in preschools all over America. It’s on the rise, because gender stereotyping kids is on the rise. Check out these pictures of kids toys/ clothing from the Seventies and now. What are we doing to stop this? Oh, that’s right, bedazzling.

In Europe, they’re trying something else. Due to a campaign in Europe by Let Toys Be Toys For Girls and Boys, stores in including Toys R Us, stopped segregating products by gender, and instead, are organizing them by type. Here’s what Toys Will Be Toys reported on Toys R Us.

 

The retailer today confirmed that they would draw up a set of principles for in-store signage meaning that, in the long-term, explicit references to gender will be removed and images will show boys and girls enjoying the same toys. They promised to start by looking at the way toys are represented in their upcoming Christmas catalogue.

 

But what are we doing in America? Been to a Toys R Us lately? Or a Target? Or a Stride Rite?

 A Mighty Girl has started a similar petition in the U.S. to the Let Toys Be Toys petition in Europe, hoping to stop stores here from selling kids gender segregation. Please sign. Don’t be a passive bystander. Do something to stop the bullying and these limits placed on our children.

If your kids have stories about being bullied for not conforming to these caricature gender stereotypes, please share them. I’d love to see the videos of your kids telling their stories if you would like to post them here.

 

4 yr old girl bullied for wearing ‘boy’ shoes

Here’s my 4 year old daughter talking about how kids at preschool teased her for wearing “boy” shoes. A group of them wouldn’t let her enter the “train hole,” a play structure shaped like a train, because she was wearing her Star Wars shoes.

After my daughter told me about the teasing, which happened more than once, I spoke to her teacher who then talked with the kids about how anyone can wear any kind of shoe they like.

The bullying that happened to my daughter occurs in schools every day, and we all need to be doing more to stop it. Instead, we’re exacerbating it by buying into gender marketing sold to us by multi-national media companies and chain stores.

A couple of years ago, there was a story about a first grader who brought her Star Wars lunch box to school, and she was teased. That story got some media attention, but it seems like too many people think that incident was some kind of anomaly, have forgotten about it, or still haven’t realized how damaging and limiting it is for kids when we gender stereotype them.

Whenever I blog or speak about gender segregating kids, I get the argument that it’s just “natural,” and if your kid happens to be the rare exception, she can “choose” another toy or T shirt if she wants. (Here I am recently responding to those arguments on Fox News but they are all over this blog as well.) How many kids have the courage to be the “exception?” And why has straying from pink or princess become an exception? How long until my daughter starts “choosing” the shoes that she’s supposed to wear and like, shoes that she doesn’t get teased for wearing? I’m stating what should be obvious here: When one type of product is aggressively marketed to boys, and another type to girls kids don’t have a choice.

Due to a campaign in Europe by Let Toys Be Toys For Girls and Boys, stores in Europe including Toys R us, stopped segregating products by gender, and instead, are organizing them by type. Here’s what Toys Will Be Toys reported on Toys R Us.

The retailer today confirmed that they would draw up a set of principles for in-store signage meaning that, in the long-term, explicit references to gender will be removed and images will show boys and girls enjoying the same toys. They promised to start by looking at the way toys are represented in their upcoming Christmas catalogue.

This is great news for Europe, but go to any Target or Stride Rite in America, and you’ll see how far this country lags behind. Pinkwashed sections of stores marked for girls offer Barbies, dolls, and anything pink, princessy, or sparkly while areas marked for boys sell products in primary colors that have something to do with cars or superheroes. A U.S. organization called A Mighty Girl has started a similar petition in the U.S. to the Let Toys Be Toys petition in Europe, hoping to stop stores here from selling kids gender segregation.

Mass marketing by gender is changing how we see each other and the world around us. On the Huffington Post, Lori Day writes:

I was talking to a teacher friend recently who said that 10 or 15 years ago, if she asked her Kindergarten class what their favorite colors were, she heard many different answers. Now, she still hears the boys name many different colors, but the girls almost all say pink…

 

There are so many colors in the rainbow. Kids should get exposed to all of them. Please sign A Mighty Girl’s petition.

Kids underwear with female superheroes sells out!

Sick of going to Target and seeing only princess, Hello Kitty, or Monster High underwear for your daughter?

Check out this totally cool female superhero underwear that I saw on  A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page:

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Supergirl:

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And Batgirl

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Seeing this reminded me of a Huffington Post story a few people sent me last month: “Why I Bought Boys Underwear for my Daughter.” The post was written by a frustrated dad trying to shop for his 5 year old daughter:

Our underwear shopping system seemed to be going fine until my daughter discovered the existence of the boys’ underwear aisle.

Dad! Come over here!”

I followed her voice and found my daughter standing, slack-jawed and indignant, looking at the much, much larger and more varied selection of character underwear in the boys’ aisle.

 

“They have LEGO ‘Star Wars’ underwear! And superheroes! OH! And ‘Phineas and Ferb!’ Dad, can I get these? Do they have girl ones?”

And I had to stand and tell her that no, no, they didn’t make girl versions of these brands of character underwear and I didn’t really have a good explanation why.

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of children’s character underwear, here’s a quick breakdown:

In the girls’ aisle, they have underwear featuring Disney princesses, Hello Kitty, Monster High (a goth-themed toy line), and maybe a few Nickelodeon-branded kids shows (“iCarly,” for example). That’s it.

In the boys’ aisle, they have underwear featuring ‘Star Wars’ (both LEGO and regular versions), DC Superheroes, “Phineas and Ferb,” “Toy Story,” “Batman,” “Transformers,” “The Avengers” –- it’s a much larger character pool.

 

So up to there I’m totally with this Dad. But then, this:

Do kids’ underwear manufacturers think that, if they put an image of a male character on girls’ underwear, that it will somehow turn the girls into boy-crazy sex maniacs? The logic completely escapes me.

 

The logic is that there are limited female characters on underwear, because there are limited female characters at all. Even though females are half of the kids population, in kidworld, except for the pink ghetto, girls are shown as a minority.

My big issue is that my daughter is a huge comic book, “Star Wars,” and superhero fan, and, in my vast shopping experience, I have never found any girls’ character underwear that spoke to any of those creative properties. Fine — If you think that having Anakin Skywalker on her undies will turn my daughter into a lusty, inhibition-challenged Jedi-chaser, then just let her have some underwear with Princess Leia or Ahsoka Tano on it, OK? But none exists.

There’s a pack of boys’ DC Superhero underwear that only has the logos of various superheroes on them. Why couldn’t they make those for girls? If the Superman “S” or the Batman bat symbol can appear on boys’ undies, why can’t you stick the same logo on girls’ undies and just call them Supergirl and Batgirl underwear? I couldn’t even find her any Wonder Woman underwear, even though I know my sister was the proud owner of Wonder Woman Underoos back in the ‘80s.

The dad, as you can tell by the post title, ends up buying his daughter boy underwear:

I’m glad this dad saw a problem here, but the larger issue is the lack of heroic, female protagonists in stories marketed to girls and boys.

But here’s the good news. Now there is female superhero underwear. Not only that, but on its Facebook page, A Mighty Girl reports:

Last week we posted about our discovery of a new line of superhero underwear for girls but they were so popular that they sold out on Amazon half an hour after our post. Well, we said that we’d let you know when they were restocked and thanks to A Mighty Girl supporter Megan Millaway Burks for giving us a heads up that they are now available again.

Of course, we can’t promise that they will last very long this time as well so our apologies in advance if they become unavailable. To check out the new superhero line for girls, with seven different designs featuring Batgirl, Supergirl and Wonder Woman, visit http://www.amightygirl.com/7pk-dc-comics-girls-briefs

Also, due to the many requests for more options, we found several new superhero underwear sets for teens and adults and added them to our clothing section at http://www.amightygirl.com/clothing?clothing_type=153

To check out all superhero-related clothing on A Mighty Girl, including many t-shirts and PJs, visit http://www.amightygirl.com/clothing?clothing_themes=144

Sold out. Are you listening Hollywood and Target? We are starved for narratives, toys, and clothing with female protagonists.

Buy female superhero underwear here. (Or try to!)

 

More cool female action figures

I tore these cool women away from my kids long enough to get them photographed. My husband took the pictures.

actionfigures1

So here we have soccer players (they come with a ball they can kick), Catwoman with her whip and motorcycle, Batgirl, Wonder Woman with her plane, Hawkgirl, and Princess Leia.

actionfigures2

Next we have Coraline (who you’ve seen in an earlier post) Katniss and Merida (who were not Christmas presents but wanted to join the party) and Rue from the Hunger Games.

actionfigures3

Catwoman, Serafina Pekkala, Lyra Silvertongue, Black Widow, Wonder Woman (already missing her laso) and another Batgirl

All figures except for Merida and Katniss were found on A Mighty Girl or Toward the Stars. That little Wonder Woman on A Mighty Girl’s promo was the one who started me on my shopping spree.

‘The thing is, 89% of engineers are male, so we literally live in a man’s world’

Stanford educated engineer, Debbie Sterling, was always bothered by how few women were in her program. (Of 181 students in her program, she was the lone female.) It’s not that she didn’t understand why the gender gap existed. She related. As a child, her parents didn’t play LEGO or Lincoln Logs with her. It never occurred to them– or to her– to encourage exploration in building toys. Sterling didn’t get interested in engineering until high school. Now, she’s found a way to get more girls into building earlier. And guess what? Her tactic doesn’t involve turning  a toy pink.

Sterling created Goldieblox. She describes it as “a book and a construction toy combined. It stars Goldie, the girl inventor and her motley crew of friends who go on adventures and solve problems by building simple machines.”

One thing I LOVE about this toy is that Sterling created a narrative with a female protagonist around the activity of building. While I don’t necessarily agree with her reason for this tactic (“Boys like to build, girls like to read”) I do think that there are not enough stories starring females that revolve around action, adventure, and building. Most action toys– Batman, Star Wars figures, Superman on and on– have stories that go with them. If you gave a kid a Darth Vader figure without a billion dollar marketing movie machine, let’s just say that toy wouldn’t sell so well. While there is no Goldieblox blockbuster in theaters, helping children to create a story around a character is key to inciting interest and play. I create stories in order to get my kids dressed in the morning or into the bath. Narratives are the most powerful tools we have. Sterling uses narrative brilliantly to sell her toy, not only in the product itself but in the video she created to raise the money she needed to get it in production.

Here’s the video she made for Kickstarter. Please watch, it’s so inspiring.

After this went around the web, Sterling surpassed her goal of 5,000 orders. Goldieblox is in production. Not only that, the company has already started receiving orders from toystores. Goldieblox.com was just launched and you can order your toys there.

Sterling says, “The thing is 89% of engineers are male, so we literally live in a man’s world. Yet 50% of the population is female. So if we want to live in a better world, we need girls building these things too, We need girls solving these problems.”

I started Reel Girl just after Christmas almost three years ago, so freaked out by the pile of pink toys my three daughters received, most involving some form of dressing dolls: paper, wooden, plastic, magnetic, tiny, large, soft, and hard. I have to say, this year, with sites like A Mighty Girl’s and Toward the Stars, new toys like Goldieblox, books and DVDs I’ve sought out (Reel Girl recommends) this is the first year since I had children that I am actually excited about Christmas shopping.

A Mighty Girl: great resource for buying toys

I think I just bought half of the “dolls/ action figures” compiled and recommended by A Mighty Girl, and I don’t even feel guilty about my spree.  I am hoping that I can hold on to the Wonder Woman in her invisible airplane until Christmas, but it is so cool, I don’t know… Toys are so key to imaginary play. When kids are given these kind of tools, instead of plastic hairbrushes, make-up, and dolls to dress, so aggressively marketed to girls, their narratives go wild. You’ve got to check these products out. Some, like the Jane Austen doll, are not available. (BOO-HOO) Several, when you click on them, say that only a few are left. It really makes me get how much of this is about MARKETING. Who knew about these toys? Yes, Wonder Woman remains in her underwear. Baby steps, here. We are desperate for MORE stories featuring female heroes. A much wider variety of costumes and poses are needed in the toys of kidworld. (Does this image show the importance of a pose or what?) But for what’s available out there, A Mighty Girl’s new resource is unmatched.