Don't Conform, Transform
From the Archives: A post examining the gender stereotypes that are often presented to children. Girls are promoted glamour while boys are sold on greatness.
So I was shopping with my daughters today at a large store. We ended up in the book section, and I saw two books sitting next to each other that made my blood boil. One book had a red cover and a picture of a girl in a bubble bath, it was titled The Girls Book of Glamour: A guide to being a goddess. The other had a blue cover and a picture of a boy playing a sport. It was titled The Boys Book of Greatness: Even more ways to be the best at everything. On the back cover of the girls book, it said “be confident, be glamorous, be gorgeous” and then listed things you could learn in this book, like how to put on a fashion show, give yourself a mini-facial, and get the hair you really want. On the back of the boy’s book it said, “You can be the best at even more things (apparently this is the second edition)” and listed things you could learn in the book such as how to: tell a good joke, hypnotize someone, and break-dance.
As the mother of three daughters, this break down of interests by gender made me angry. What if my daughters want to learn to break dance or tell a good joke? At their ages (7-11), why on earth would they be interested in giving themselves a facial? This is a perfect example of what we call “premature sophistication” where the market for particular products and services is pushed downward to younger and younger children and they begin to think it’s desirable to be involved in activities that aren’t really appropriate for their age.
Now, I’m sure that some girls would like the Glamour Book for Girls. I like glamour as much as the next person, but, why market such specific ideas to each gender? Isn’t one of the great things about the time in which we’re living the fact that both boys and girls are allowed to have interests and skills that aren’t so gender specific? A woman won second place in the Indi 500, for goodness sake!
What bothers me about this type of gender-specific marketing is that it sends the message to girls that if they’re not interested in things like having a fashion show or giving themselves a facial, then there’s something wrong with them. If they’d rather learn to break dance, that’s a problem. You may think I’m overreacting, but I’ve been working with kids for many years, and I live with three of them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a girl look longingly at a race car, dinosaur, football, or microscope, and then say, “But that’s for boys…” That breaks my heart. I want all girls to know that no matter what their interests are, if they like it, it’s not just for boys! My favorite line at this point is, “Well, you like it and you’re a girl, so it’s for girls too.” The same is true for boys, but that’s a whole other post! Yes, I promise I’ll come back to that.
If your daughter is interested in one of these kinds of books that teaches you lots of different things, I suggest The Daring Book for Girls. It has tons of interesting things to teach, such as how to learn Morse code, or how to whistle with your fingers. The things that it focuses on aren’t so gender specific as to put your daughter in a glamorized straight jacket! Check it out.