Playful children

No Gender December – if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a month dedicated to raising awareness on and taking a stand against gendered marketing in kids’ toys. With the slogan, “stereotypes have no place under my Christmas tree,” you can add your voice to their Hero Wall, host a morning tea to spread awareness, or rally to get Parliament to legislate against the gendered marketing of toys.

If you ask me, it’s all a bit silly. No offence to the No Gender December board.

So I get it. It’s about more open marketing. Kids should be able to choose whatever tickles their fancy, not being limited to either the options in the boys’ aisle or the girls’ aisle. But is this really a cause on par with world poverty, the starvation of children, the abuse of women? I for one, would prefer to tackle these first before putting my money behind neutral toy marketing (#firstworldproblem, anyone?).

I know, I know, it’s not just about toys. It’s about encouraging a child to be their own unique person, without having to conform to the rules of society. But why is gender such a big issue? Doesn’t this teach them in some small way that their masculinity or femininity is wrong? The fact of the matter is that we are born either male or female, and there are certain traits that are more common in one than the other (and vice versa). Nature does play a part, not just nurture, and I really don’t think that this is such a bad thing. We should be proud of the unique things that make us male or female. And sometimes a little direction doesn’t hurt: if I recall, the social experiments where an adult has tried to bring up a completely genderless child have ended in with some messy results.

Sure, marketing is gendered, but I think that it kind of makes sense – because males are more drawn to hands-on and rough-and-tumble play while women have a thing for nurturing, beauty and tea parties. Not always, but often – and it’s not a bad thing! And to be fair, it’s not like there are any rules to say that a boy can’t actually buy a Barbie, or that girl must never have a Lego set. It should be more about educating parents to meet the individual needs of their child.

I think that an article in The Conversation makes a good point: negative gendered stereotypes (like women shouldn’t work outside the house, or that males make bad fulltime parents) are better broken with the examples that a child sees at home. Things like dad doing the dishes and mum fixing things around the house won’t go unnoticed, and neither will open conversations on the topic. 

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.