Becoming aware of gender stereotypes and then dismantling them
Hello and welcome to issue 65, the Challenging Gender Stereotypes issue. It’s only in recent years that the concept of gender stereotyping has entered my consciousness.
I’m of the generation where the Lego I was given to play with wasn’t pink or purple (although I have nothing against either of these colours). My Lego, inherited from my sister, alongside a few items I acquired myself – some trees, some new window and door frames, and some wheels – was old school and retro red, yellow, royal blue, green, black and white. I also had some of those chunky old Lego people with helmet hairdos. I could happily spend hours making things out of Lego – and I probably still could – usually buildings or cars.
Lego Ad 1981. pic.twitter.com/Kwu0UHuS4i
— World’s Best Ads (@BestOfAds) May 8, 2015
I also played with my cuddly toys (mainly dogs) and I loved stringing up an impromptu washing line across the lounge. I also couldn’t get enough of cooking with plastic pots, pans and miniature groceries on my imaginary hob, whilst dangling my legs through our open staircase at home (a throwback to the sixties construction of our house, made of wood and probably very dangerous for a small, inquisitive child). Video games were another passion. My Mario Bros Lemonade Factory Game and Watch was amongst my most prized possessions.
A promising career in science cut short? Maybe…
I’d always wanted a chemistry set, but alas one of my older, male cousins had managed to use his to blow up his bedroom, shattering the window, so my parents subtly scrubbed that from my Christmas list. A promising career in science cut short? Who knows… If things had gone differently and I’d become a Nobel Prize winning scientist, I’d most likely never have come up with the idea for Womanthology, so everything happens for a reason and all that…
However, in more recent years as I’ve been working on Womanthology I’ve been astounded by the shift in our society, led largely by toy retailers and manufacturers who have sneakily deduced that it’s potentially possible to double their sales in households with boys and girls by producing boy’s and girl’s versions, generally of the exact same things. This concept has been expanded in later life where ‘women’s versions’ of identical products of all types are sold at a price premium. More evil genius at work…
Darth Vader in a pink tutu
So girls are supposed to aspire to be princesses and boys are supposed to aspire to be heroes and adventurers, but I love it when the imaginations of children take over and subvert the narratives dreamed up by those in power in the world of toys and film. What is not to love about the Princess Vader meme that’s been doing the rounds on social media for the past few years?
“Every girl should be able to be a princess and Darth Vader at the same time.” pic.twitter.com/vlbIyE85PS
— Catapult (@WeCatapult) August 18, 2013
Cinderella as a wearable tech entrepreneur
Traditional books we read to children aren’t helping either, are they? I loved a bit of Cinderella when I was small. (Hard to believe I was ever small if you meet me now, I know.) Hardworking Cinders makes it along to the social event of the century, only to have her night ruined by poor timekeeping and inappropriate footwear. We’ve all been there, right? But then Cinders is forced to hang around waiting for the handsome prince to seek her out so she can marry her way out of poverty.
In my Cinderella reboot with an alternate ending, I’d have Cinders setting up her own shoe design and manufacturing business, and then securing investment through a crowdfunding campaign. She’d make a fortune selling re-engineered footwear, perhaps incorporating some 3D printing and wearable technology. This Cinders isn’t faffing around to land a prince with a castle. She’s buying her own.
Saluting the renegade mavericks who say an emphatic ‘no’ to gender stereotyping
In this edition you’ll hear from all kinds of amazing contributors, including the fantastic Tessa Trabue, one of a bunch of renegade maverick campaigners who have had enough of unnecessary gendering of toys. You’ll also hear from dynamic Kerrine Bryan who got so fed of stereotyped literature for kids that she gathered a team of comrades together to write and publish their own stories. It’s people like this who epitomise the spirit of Womanthology. What’s even better is when the critics laugh in your face and tell you it can’t be done so you do it anyway just to prove them wrong.
I hope you enjoy the stories we’ve got to share in the rest of the edition. As ever, we’ve got any amazing line up of supporters and champions on board and we salute them all.