One cannot understand just how real the struggle is, until invited to a baby shower where the child’s gender is unknown or undisclosed. That struggle, is so incredibly real.
Consider these scenarios and how the knowledge of a child’s gender would dictate gift choice :
1. “Bless, you’re having a precious baby girl” … aka:
Anything pink, dolls, fluffy toys with floppy ears and large innocent eyes, story books about princesses and anything else remotely feminine.
2. “You must be so proud, a little baby boy on the way”… aka:
Anything blue, toy trucks or tool play sets, superhero merchandise, large Lego blocks (disclaimer: choking hazard) story books of dragons, adventures and mighty conquests and anything else remotely masculine.
So why within a day and age where there is a hyper-awareness of gender stereotypes and heightened acceptance of subverting these stereotypes, do we as adults restrict the development of children on the basis of being ‘male’ or ‘female’?. How is it that we preach that children should have the ability to grow and develop into individuals not stunted by gender roles, yet in practice are willing to give unborn babies a ‘welcome to the world’ gift that representative of their gender and subsequent restrictions? Exemplifying how ridiculous and how much of an inconsistency there is between what messages we tell children and adults, BuzzFeed explores gender marketing directed towards young people https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=381belOZreA. The practice of buying for gender affects how children and developing minds pot ray themselves, their future roles and the world that they live in.
Media and marketing are an undeniable force in this equation. Given, they are not the only factor for this practice.
Marketing shapes and perpetuates these ideologies equally and the media disseminates them into the public sphere. Businesses commercial exploitation of children has in turn distorted and reshaped the representation of children and gender roles. This further exemplifies the difficult relationship between children and the media, including the fact that debate of this practice generally occurs within the media, uncovering a plethora of moral and ideological questions.
Watching Saturday Disney as a child, I can distinctly remember commercials pertaining to children toys which were blatantly targeting whatever audience would be engaged with the program at the time. As an adult, this practice can be distinguished as ‘product placement’. This deliberate and manipulative practice shapes a lucrative industry, where children are seen as a commercial entity, irrespective of what message is being sent to them. Although said messages are generally difficult for a child to critically understand and evaluate, Riley the Youtube Sensation, explains the divide perfectly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CU040Hqbas. This market segmentation allows marketers to break a large group into smaller groups, to make it easier to determine what would be appealing to these groups in particular. The ultimate goal in this segmentation is to appeal to various groups with the same or slightly altered product, ensuring commercial gain. An example of this is the Lego company, who historically did not gender their products and advertised both boys and girls playing alongside one another. However, the proliferation of gender stereotypes within market segmentation saw the development of ‘Lego for Girls’, which allows such exciting features as the ability to play with a Lego beauty salon.
When look at the commercials or chain catalogues such as Big W, Target or Kmart, toys are categorised by blues and pinks to try to differentiate what is appropriate for which gender. Generally, advertisements and toys that are directed towards young girls teach and address lessons regarding baking, child rearing, domestic duties and above all the value of a woman or girl being beautiful. Toys that represent these ideals include Bratz Dolls, kitchen play sets, cosmetic adventures such as doll hair which can be beautified, etc. What is particularly worrying, is the prevalence of cosmetic based toys which allow for not only the doll to be beautified, but also for the child. This presents the moral question, are we locking our children into a gender construct and over-sexualising them through marketing and media? Advertisements for boys on the other hand promote competitiveness, aggressiveness, conquests and often allow children to engage building things.This is a representation of the roles we are preparing children for in the future. Gender stereotypes define people’s capabilities. The effects as represented through the following experiment, seems effective; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlWYhAZ77BU.
To further represent that this is a deliberate practice, it can be determined that it is not only the colour pink or blue which represents whether a gift is for a boy or a girl. Differentiation of product through marketing also occurs through the use of texture, lines, shapes, patterns such as asymmetrical images to appeal to a boys ‘analytical mind’ and floral patters to represent a girls delicacy. However, here the issue is not with the use of a certain colour, font, pattern or placement of a product… instead it is about what we as a society associate with this representation and the pressures we place on children to grow into a certain mould.
Now you know – Next time you’re invited to a genderless baby shower. Pick up whatever you think a child would enjoy, irrespective of whether they are a ‘girl’, ‘boy’ or undetermined. Welcome them into the world as a human, not a construct.
Petition to Stop Gender Based Marketing and Toy Distribution :https://www.change.org/p/toy-retailers-in-uk-and-ireland-stop-promoting-toys-as-only-for-boys-or-only-for-girls-2