Gender conventions need to go

opinion
March 14, 2013
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nichole Fanara / Silhouette Staff

The other day I was minding my own business and staring blindly at the TV when an ad came on that angered me. The Ferrero Company, who makes Kinder Surprises, created a new product, and it is in the form of a Kinder Egg.

I was offended at what I saw. The pictures of a happy little girl and her mom sharing a Kinder Surprise made entirely for girls. What was inside didn’t surprise me at all.

Little toy trinkets of toy shoes and toy dolls.

I got mad. Real mad. What do they think of girls like myself when all they offer us is gendered capital for wealth? Pink wrappers and dolls inside only reinforce stereotypes. And for what?

I wonder how often people question gender norms when they are exposed to products such as this. I was embarrassed for the company who thought this was a good marketing ploy. Not all girls are defined by the colour pink or by shopping or dolls or little toy trinkets. But these ideas are the norms in which we teach our girls in the Western world, and what’s worse is that it cannot be escaped.

Biological arguments aside, what if we stopped acknowledging girls as girls and boys as boys?

This idea has in fact long been discussed and even implemented in some cultures. For example, there is a pre-school in Sweden that does not acknowledge cultural gender norms between boys and girls. Here, they carefully choose books that do not incorporate gender norms but instead focus on themes of love, respect and moral lessons. Disney stories like Cinderella would not be found anywhere near this school because of the gendered language that works to define the woman and the male’s role in society.

So what if we gave a child the opportunity to decide their role in life, not by telling them what they can or cannot be, but instead giving them the opportunity to decide for themselves based on what feels inherently right?

In the elementary school that I volunteer at, my teacher uses the phrase “friends” instead of boys and girls to talk to her students. Although our government does not monitor cultural gender norms, teachers and other educators are aware of gender reinforcement such as language through their schooling. What benefits could society have if we stopped using such biased language? What kind of opportunities could open up to students if there was less emphasis on gender roles and more on the student’s capabilities?

For people entrenched in the Western way of thinking, it is hard to imagine such a possibility. Targeting education as a site for gender neutrality would cause an uprising. Should TV ads like the “girls” Kinder Surprise be taken lightly?

With women’s groups and advocacy working to create equality for all, it is important to remember how far we have come from the subjected female roles in the home. Lives are often based on the rules of the culture, but with the stereotyping of girls in the form of a formerly neutral gendered candy, I can’t help but wonder how far our thinking has really come.

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