Blue was the colour that I noticed the most when I found out I was having a boy. Entering a shop, the boy’s section sported a lot of blue while the girls section displayed a lot of pink. Each gender is identified by colors before they are born. Over the decade’s boys have been put in one box and girls into another. Trucks, superhero’s, Mickey Mouse, rugby, football, playing in mud and sayings like ‘he is such a boy’. Pink, pram, dolly, Minnie Mouse, ballet and sayings like ‘she is such a princess’ are some of the distinctions used over the years for boys and girls. Recently, there has been big discussions on old fashion stereotyping surrounding Clarks shoe release; Dolly Babe for girls and Leader for boys. Both shoes are made from black leather with the Dolly Babe having pink heart insoles, while the boys having a football pattern.
Dolly Babes for girls and Leader for boys. Is old fashioned gender stereotyping an ongoing problem?
There are so many things to explore on this topic but this made me think about children’s movies. When I think of Disney it represents good movies, happiness, colour, imagination and a host of positive memories. Watching Disney movies with fresh adult eyes reveals they do gender stereotype. Films that are still being watched to this day and some I have in my cupboard.
In “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs,” men are stereotyped as men living in a pigsty who are unable to take care of themselves. They needed to be saved by Snow White who did all the household chores such as cleaning, dusting, baking and washing the dishes. In the “Little Mermaid,” the evil Sea Witch Ursula gives the main character Ariel human legs in exchange of her voice to be with her Prince Eric on land. Ursula sings her famous song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and says, “You’ll have your looks, your pretty face, and don’t underestimate the importance of body language.” This messages to girls can be portrayed that physical beauty is the only thing that is important. Cinderella catches the prince’s attention once she has been transformed from a poor housemaid into a beautiful princess. Could this be saying beauty is more important than intelligence, character and personality? There is no empowering message to females to demonstrate they are strong and have all the skills to better their own lives.
Children movies have become popular in my life since the first cinema date with my son went well this year. The first movie we watched was Trolls and we both absolutely loved it. Trolls are all singing and all dancing happy individuals that stand by their friends. Bergens are miserable and believe they need to eat trolls to be happy (they learn how to be truly happy by the end). The main message I got from this movie is to be optimistic, you need to overcome obstacles to reach your goals, boys and girls help each other, always be kind and happiness is from within. There appeared to be no gender stereotyping and it give many positive messages that I want to instill into my son.
Movies are just one area to explore on gender stereotyping. I loved all Disney movies growing up, but comparing these to some newer children productions there is a contrast on how they represent both genders. We can also see it in day-to-day life by having female prime ministers, more women working in higher management positions, men having paternity leave, men encouraged to express emotions, more men being hands on in the fathering role, gay marriages being accepted are some of the many ways society have moved forward over the years. In my opinion, gender sterotyping only becomes a problem if it limits a child’s goals, self belief or doesn’t allow them to have their own identity. Last Christmas my son wanted a baby doll with a pink Peppa Pig pram. For his birthday this year he wants a superhero toy. Children change their interests and it is part of them learning about themselves. When children are born they enter the world as an equal and gender shouldn’t define their capabilities. Any child can achieve their dreams if they work hard, commit, be passionate and display dedication.
In reference to the Clarks shoes, defining boys and girl’s shoes with Leader and Dolly Babe doesn’t give off the right message. This represents to me boys being in-charge and girls being pretty and sweet as in the old Disney movies. Some people may think it is harmless, but I believe labels can be quite powerful. I understand Clarks have withdrawn the Dolly Babe shoes following the outrage from the public and many politicians. This gives faith that we are continuing to move in the right direction, because I am unsure this would have raised concern in the not so distance past. Every child can be a leader no matter if they are a boy and girl. The sky is the limit for everyone.
What is your opinion? How do you feel about the names Clarks used on their shoes?
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