Girls & Boys•
Victoria Baynton-Williams lives in Hove with her husband and 2 kids, Audrey & Rex. Here's what she has to say about how she feels stores market their products in a gender specific way....
I write the following in full knowledge that last Christmas, The Wee Store blogged the “Top 10 Gifts for Girls” and “Top 10 Gifts for Boys”!
When it was announced recently that Toys R Us was going into administration in the UK, it was a shame but not a shock. Having visited Toys R Us approximately 3 times in 3 years, I could say, hand on heart, that they were doing it wrong.
A vast warehouse of toys, separated vaguely by age and precisely by gender, the soul-less space selling floor-to-ceiling plastic TV merchandise was staffed by humans who looked like they were in fact working in the seventh circle of hell. We only entered such hell ourselves because we had been sent gift cards.
That’s not what a toy shop should be in this day and age and certainly not in Brighton (well, Hove, actually!) or online. So I salute The Wee Store for its colourful varied selection of cool offerings for kids. For kids. Full stop.
I am a mother of two children, a girl (4) and a boy (2). My husband and I have always felt strongly about raising our children without imposing negative gender stereotypes on them. By this, I don’t mean we wanted to raise them “gender neutral” or do anything particularly extreme, we just didn’t want to push pink and dolls on our daughter or make her feel that her self-worth was tied to her looks. Likewise, we didn’t want to force blue and football on our little boy or make him feel that he has to always be tough and strong.
I am not going to deny that at every playgroup, (my daughter) Audrey makes a beeline for the baby dolls and the kitchen, whilst (my son) Rex attacks the cars and trains… I have had many a chat with other parents about the (seemingly) inherent differences between boys and girls... which is why I forgive The Wee Store for the boys and girls gift lists :). However, I believe we as parents have a fantastic opportunity in this day and age to raise new kinds of humans who understand that neither gender is "better" than the other and that they are free to make their own choices without judgement.
Both of my children are very capable of choosing the toys they enjoy from a mixed bag, they do not need to be lead down the path of “homemaker” or “fireman” through their innocent play. They regularly fight over handbags and have also been known to be particularly possessive over a pair of toilet roll binoculars, toys are toys. I mean, imagine, as a grown-woman, arriving at a party to be told you can’t have a beer, that’s for men. Or a man being told he can't eat a prawn because it's pink and pink is for girls?
I've been collecting moments of gender stereotype enforcement... Because I am that Brighton. And there are too many to list, but some examples are:
-At the dentist, Audrey is automatically given the pink Princess Poppy sticker, Rex is given the choice of any of brightly-coloured ones on offer.
-A dad in the park who told his daughter “boys don’t like Minnie Mouse” (when my son expressed that he did in fact, like Minnie-f$*!ing-Mouse).
-A shop assistant, who said (after Audrey had chosen yellow wellies from the "boys' section" and they didn't have her size), "Doesn't she want to choose from the girls' wellies? We’ve got butterflies and unicorns?".
-How lots of people tell Audrey she is wearing a "Batgirl" top, when she is clearly wearing "Batman".
I'm sure there are people who will think I'm being petty; so what if my daughter wants be a princess and my son wants to be a footballer (which, to be clear, is fine if that is a choice they have come to, uninfluenced)? However, in this climate of exposing gender-pay-gaps and #metoo movements - don't we all want to do our best to work towards equality? Bring the sexes together rather than divide them? Help them realise their potential - we have a chance to break the moulds previously set where girls pursue the arts (drama, dance, english) and boys follow sciences (maths, physics, biology). We have a chance to create a generation of accepting and open human beings and I, for one, definitely want to take that chance.
You can follow Vicky on Instagram here.
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