Friday, December 03, 2010

Action against gender stereotyped toys for children - the movement is growing

A story in The Guardian today about gendering of toys. Did you know you could buy a pink globe for your daughter?? There is rising awareness and action against gender stereotyping for children. 'Feminist parenting' is taking off! Having just watched some Saturday Disney with my kids (I like 'Sonny with a Chance'), I must say, the message hasn't reached tv advertisers here yet. The ad for a lego game featured only boys playing, and the Bratz ad is a shocker.

Abi Moore, co-founder of Pink Stinks, says her organisation has been inundated with messages from parents all over the world. "Our campaign last year was covered in 43 countries. We are constantly being asked by parents, 'What can we do?'" Parents of girls and boys alike are sick of the marketing messages and, especially, the gender assumptions children are forced to lap up.

So are parents' views finally being heard by the marketing bods? Many,including Pink Stinks, openly or loosely align themselves with "feminist parenting". In the UK there is an online campaigning organisation called CRAP! which stands for Child Rearing Against Patriarchy. In the US there are hundreds of feminist parenting blogs such as "Raising My Boychick" ("parenting a presumably straight white male"), "Feminist Dad" (although he says "my daughter LOVES Disney") and "She Has My Eyes" ("anti-bigotry and anti-bullshit parenting").

The group Mothers for Women's Lib holds an online Carnival of Feminist Parenting. Many of its fans boast of having a "family feminist mission statement", presumably stuck on the fridge door. Must get one of those.

"I have attended a lot of events recently where I've been struck by how much people want to talk about feminist parenting and consumerism," says Natasha Walter, author of Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. "People see that we're at a bad point and they are always asking me, "How can I resist this for my son or my daughter?""

So how can we prevent gender-specific consumerism taking over? Jan Williams, a mother of two teens, a boy and a girl, ran a workshop at October's Feminism in London Conference, attended by more than 1,000 people. "You see it from the way children are pushed at school. 'You do like football, don't you?' 'You come over here and play with the dolls.'" There is a huge reaction from parents against this at the moment, she says, especially from parents who want to learn how to cope with incessant demands from the miniature consumers they live with, especially at Christmas. "It's as simple as the old drugs message. Just. Say. No. I meet a lot of parents who can't. But you have to be able to say no in a calm and peaceful way. Support their choices in the toys they really love. Or if you can't, let them save up their own money for them."

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