This blog has been sparked by three recent events; the birth of my niece, a visit to a Disney store, and finishing the book I Am Malala by Malala Yousafazai and Christina Lamb. Already my niece is receiving pink, frilly outfits and balloons that call her a princess. Just over a week old and Molly is being targeted for the pink ghetto, if she was a boy she’d be targeted for the blue ghetto. The Disney store had a large section for “girls” that was princess outfits, pink fluffy garbage and I didn’t stay in the store to see what else was there. The “boys” section also had dress up stuff but it was superheroes, there was also cars, weapons and manual work stuff. After that visit I don’t see our society being more progressive than the one Malala comes from.
Marketing departments are imprinting children with product placement, lifestyle, sexual/gender roles, false expectations, and fake role models. On the surface this looks innocent though, but what else is being taught by these toys, and media? Children are also learning false limitations to their future, class distinctions, stereotypes, and consumerism as the only self worth. Children who are only exposed to this corporate driven, archaic lifestyle are going to end up in jobs they hate, bad relationships and with mountains of crap they don’t really need or want.
Are these gender restrictions creating a well organized society or creating victims? If every boy is supposed to be strong, never show weakness, isn’t that making boys vulnerable to predators? Girls always having to focus on being beautiful makes them nothing more than chattel for their future husbands. We still teach boys to take what they want and not take no for an answer. Girls are still taught to be accommodating and its their fault if they get attacked. Boys aren’t allowed to show weakness, girls aren’t to show strength, we’re just brainwashing kids to never be themselves. Society preaches equality and inclusiveness but still has segregation and in some cases full apartheid, gender or in other ways.
Colours have no meaning other than that which society imposes arbitrarily. Over a century ago it was unthinkable to put a girl in pink, or a boy in blue. back then the colours had the reverse connotations. In the Pink was always a good thing for men to be in, the negative connotations for men seem to have occurred since World War II. The Blues on the other hand is a term for depression or sorrow or oxygen deprivation. It was discovered in World War II that pink was a good colour to hide in the desert with and it is still used that way. Who’s going to suggest the people who use these aren’t tough?
Merit ignores gender, race, ethnicity, social position, and so should we. The Britcom Chef had a line spoken by an old sous-chef about women not belonging in a kitchen, a documentary about Duran Duran awhile ago where front man Simon LeBon’s Supermodel wife jokes about making him load the dishwasher. A commercial kitchen is supposed to be males only and a domestic kitchen supposed to be females only, why? There are plenty of women who should never be allowed in either kitchen, and plenty of men who should be allowed in both. The reverse is true.
When society uses gender to limit an individual’s role in it ultimately limits society’s potential. There are groups trying to get more women in politics, engineering, construction, or science, wouldn’t it be easier for them if they didn’t have to overcome the Disney Princess mentality? There are other groups trying to get men in into teaching, nursing, or stay home with the kids, yet the macho bullshit is interfering with that. By slapping a gender label on careers we’re losing the best people for those careers. Can any society afford to do that?
Government’s primary role is to protect citizens, yet we live in a world where that is becoming rare. Reading Malala’s experiences in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, about the Nigerian students abducted while writing exams, or far to many other examples of children being harmed is proof things need to change. That so many are being attacked for wanting education is most disturbing, as education is the equalizer. Every society needs to level the playing field, whether with gender, social class or any other distinction that chooses who gets to succeed. This isn’t socialism or utopianism but maximizing potential and effective resource allocation. Start with an education system more student driven and flexible to discover every child’s talent.
The reality is we cannot afford to continue allowing toy makers and media moguls to influence our children more than positive role models. I don’t mean male role models for boys and female role models for girls, I mean not getting hung up on gender when so much when offering role models. I know many people who don’t fit the gender restrictions. So let’s stop actually calling attention to people’s gender and focus on abilities, ideas and skills. We should say people not women and men, for when we make distinction with language it conveys distinction in worth.
Gender restrictions are just another means to restrict our freedoms, our choices and our voices. It is conformity and it’s acceptance that is the real threat to civilization, not the discarding of gender roles. Conformity reduces innovation, leads to stagnation and ultimately becomes destructive when the conformists appoint themselves moral and turn on those who don’t fit the narrow standards. Only a diverse society can be functional and successful.
My daughter used to play with Barbies yet she also knows a lot about tanks, she wants to be in animation. Point is let children explore for themselves without arbitrary restrictions. Sadly, Barbie doesn’t have a kung-fu grip, her own main battle tank(camouflaged not pink) or engineering firm. Where’s GI Joe’s field kitchen soldier, male nurse or officer mess stewart? I guess the other Joe’s don’t eat or need medical care. Anyways, to balance out the pink ghetto stuff my niece will be getting a crane, a train set and a rugby ball when she is older. She’ll figure out what to play with.