Learning Gender

I’ve got another video for you to watch, Feminist Frequency: Toy ads and learning gender.

It’s by Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, a video-blogger I’ve linked to before.

Hoyden about Town and Blue Milk have already linked to this video, but I wanted to share it too because it’s really good and shows so clearly the way children are socialised into limiting gender roles from an early age.

[There’s a transcript of the video available here]

This weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald has a section on Christmas gift ideas for boys and girls (children and teenagers). Annoyingly, they seem to follow a similar logic to the toy advertisements above. You only have to glance at the two pages to notice the differences in colour. The girls’ page is red/pink and the boys’ page is blue. But here are some of the gift suggestions.

Girls: bikini (pink and red), red Nintendo DSi, pink stationery and lip gloss, a red skateboard and a red scooter (at least there are some active things, I suppose), pink rollerblades, a handbag with red cherries, a necklace, sandals with pink ruffles. The only things that are not so stereotypical and worryingly coloured are a black digital camera and a copy of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Boys: star-gazer kit, a game of quoits, a cubby house (blue roof), model aeroplanes (mostly blue), blue and white checked sandshoes, a telescope, a planetarium (also blue).

The gifts for the teenagers are also heavily gendered.

Teen girl: lip-shaped telephone, high heeled shoes, a pink purse, make-up, a necklace (with a pink flamingo pendant), a pink watch, a pink dress, a floral bikini, and Gossip Girl on DVD.

Teen boy: Red sneakers, red skateboard. And the rest of the things are mostly black – electric guitar, an amp, a bicycle, sunglasses, earphones, a skateboarding magazine.



9 Responses to “Learning Gender”

  1. suzysiu Says:

    Another issue with many of these toys if that they are commercial, branded, plastic crap that limits the imagination. There are two great articles in the latest Sydney Child (free newspaper found in baby stores and wherever families are likely to be). One about the challenges of avoiding such toys, and another written by experts recommending toys.

    • doctorpen Says:

      ooh interesting. I’d be keen to see what sort of toys the experts recommend. And yeah, I suppose avoiding those kinds of toys is probably as difficult as avoiding the pink clothes.

  2. suzysiu Says:

    Check out this UK campaign “Pink Stinks”. I think we need an Aussie version!


  3. KYPT Says:

    Have you got any idea how red and blue got designated as female and male colours? From other perspectives… Red ~ stimulating, extroverted, warm, the colour for luck/prosperity in Chinese tradition. Blue ~ soothing, passive, cool, sometimes the colour for grief in Chinese.

    • doctorpen Says:

      Hi KYPT. No, I’m not sure how they got designated as gendered colours in the West. Although, I remember Stephen Fry claiming on “QI” that it used to be the other way around and that little boys were dressed in pink.

      According to the Wikipedia page about pink:
      “In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s[13] or earlier.[14] From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin Mary.[15][16][17] Since the 1940s, the societal norm was inverted; pink became considered appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink)

      But it doesn’t say why it was inverted. Interesting. Are red and blue ever associated with a particular gender in Chinese culture, or are they mainly associated with the traits you mention?

  4. suzysiu Says:

    Pick me! pick me! What happened in 1940s? The men went to war, and the the navy wore blue uniforms. Think it started after WWI actually.

    However there’s been some cross cultural research to suggest that colour pref may be biological…

    • doctorpen Says:

      oh right! Interesting! WWI and II really did a lot in changing gender relations, but even down the colours we associate with each sex – wow.

      thanks for the link, suzy!

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