Is gender marketing influencing your decisions on what children should play with? You know, the typical stereotypes of boys play with trucks and superheroes, while girls play with baby dolls and princesses. They are doing the same thing with birthday party themes.
I am excited to introduce our guest blogger, Kimber Brown who will help open up our eyes on this topic.
I grew up a dirt-loving, fort-building, bug-catching girl. For a few years, I swear, I believed my name was “tomboy.” While I am smart enough to understand the origin of this nomenclature, I could never quite wrap my mind around why the term existed. The application of this nickname irritated me even as a child, and now that I’m older, the irritation simultaneously festers and abides.
As far as I know, there exists no gender-divisive equivalent for young boys who take an interest in baby dolls, fingernail polish, and all-things princess. “Effeminate,” functioning as a noun, is possibly as close as society has come to a socially accepted male-equavlient (vs. “gay” or “nancy” or “sissy” which have traditionally been used derogatively and, when used in this manner, are not socially acceptable).
How cute are these Little Rascals and their tutus?! Boys will be boys…. (Image courtesy of: Hollywood.com)
This lopsided genderfication of children does not end (nor begin) here, but as parents/family/influencers of the impressionable youth of our generation, it is our job to encourage kids to be who they want to be, not who we want them to be. For a more pertinent example, let’s take a look at kids birthday parties.
Does your daughter love all-things WWE? Does she know everything (literally, everything) about John Cena, Mysterio, Sheamus, The Rock, and her favorite Diva Eva Marie? In this case, yes, she (your hypothetical daughter) does. Naturally, when darling daughter asks for a WWE themed birthday party, your response is…YES! YES! YES (Daniel Bryan, anybody? Anybody?)!
John Cena on WWE party supplies categorized under “girls” themes: “You can’t…see…them!”(Image courtesy of: Birthday Express)
To get things rolling, you go online to order all of the party necessities (because, like me, you are un-crafty and impatient—even Pinterest can’t help you here), and imagine your shock when you discover there is nothing WWE related under the “girls” birthday section of multiple websites. A quick visit to the “boys” birthday section (on the same sites) reveals a healthy supply of cups, plates, and napkins, even customizable birthday banners plastered with various WWE superstars.
Or, let’s say that your (hypothetical) son wants nothing more than to have a Frozen birthday bash. If you look diligently under the “boys” section of popular party sites, you can find Olaf-themed party décor and costumes, but nothing involving Anna, Elsa, or Kristoff. If you even think about searching for “Frozen” and “girls” in the same sentence, you’ll be smothered by a landslide of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf costumes, cups, plates, piñatas, and more.
Even Sven is baffled…(Image courtesy of The Movie Network)
Let’s take it one step further. If there was a WWE party theme categorically classified as being “for girls,” would it look anything like the boys? Or would it potentially be pink and/or purple, sparkly, and marginally less sweaty? And if there was a Frozen theme categorically classified as being “for boys,” would it include Kristoff (who appears oddly rarely in general) and Anna and Elsa? Or would it feature Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, and possibly even Hans with a small nod to the princesses?
I wonder if boys also have an option to have their suit come in pink? (Image courtesy of: Costume Express)
So, what’s my point exactly? Some girls want red and black WWE, and some boys want princesses incorporated into their parties. Generalizations will be the death of individuality in future generations, and putting children into socially constructed boxes does everybody an injustice. The next time you are throwing a birthday party for your child, consider making it gender-neutral; neither overtly feminine nor masculine—but with healthy doses of both. Give kids the chance to decide what they like, not what they are expected to like.
About the Author:
Kimber is an outdoor nerd who loves all things hunting and fishing. In her spare time, you can find her running with her puppy, spoiling her nieces and nephews, and hanging out with her husband. Contact her at Kimber.firstname.lastname@example.org
Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago