Girls as young as seven battle anxiety and depression from being inundated with body-focused products

Everywhere you look it seems that children’s toys and clothing are branded and gender based. For girls it is Barbie, Disney princesses and pink. Boys are inundated with Bob the Builder, Ben 10 and Thomas.

Cordelia Fine, PhD Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at the University of Melbourne and author of Delusions of Gender, said “It’s getting worse (at) the very time in history when we’re congratulating ourselves on a person’s sex finally being of no importance in what hopes they have for their lives and what career they might have.”

She continued that this freedom to pursue our dreams is “being thoroughly undermined by the childhood culture that relentlessly segregates the sexes. They’re [now] seated on [gendered goods]; playing with them, carrying them, riding them and eating off them.”

Behind this push to separate and define children are large corporations making millions out of reinventing games and toys that specifically target either boys or girls. This encourages materialism and brand loyalty. Gone are the generic games that would suit either gender.

Games recently reinvented and released specifically for girls include:

  • Scrabble for girls with a pink Designer’s Edition spelling out the word “fashion” on the box.
  • A pink Monopoly set where girls can buy and sell boutiques instead of houses (in order to build shopping malls). This came packaged in a jewellery box, complete with purse, high heel and hairdryer playing pieces.

In the UK, the Pink Stinks campaign challenges the culture of pink which invades every aspect of girls’ lives. It lobbies against a culture of girls’ products that promote narrowly defined aspirations and unhealthy body obsession. They recently won a campaign to remove a neon-pink globe of the world, created by the Early Learning Centre, from the shop’s catalogue.

However in Australia, alarm bells are yet to ring.

Maggie Hamilton author of What’s Happening to Our Girls? and Generation Next speaker said “I think we’re all so busy with [fighting] the pornographers.”

“I give numerous talks to children and teachers and have these things [baby stilettos] for show and tell but there’s only a few of us fighting this stuff, so you tend to go for the most serious, which is of course pornography and violence.”

Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2B Kids, warns of the dangers of gendered goods and the messages they convey “If you’re defining girls as pretty little fluffy princesses … it minimises the imagination and tells them – ‘This is what we do’.”

“We’re imposing stereotypes from the word go and that doesn’t really free us up to choose whatever our self-expression wants to be, whether it’s to muck around in the dirt, climb trees, pretend to be an artist, whatever.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald