Gender Discrimination Is Us?

October 9, 2009

photo by Tony Crider on, Girl with TransformerPretty pink princesses or muscle-bound superheroes? Monster trucks or sparkly ponies? Go into just about any toy store, and you’ll notice that half of it is pink with toys for girls and the other half has brightly colored toys meant for boys. Is that really fair? Does our gender really have all that much to do with what kinds of toys we should like? A group of sixth graders in Sweden don’t think so.

The students had been learning about gender roles in school and felt that the 2008 Toys “Я” Us Christmas catalog portrayed outdated gender images by having girls and boys playing with separate kinds of toys. Boys were featured playing with very active toys in busy settings, and girls were usually pictured sitting and playing passively. The sixth graders decided to file a complaint with the Swedish agency that polices marketing and advertising in order to voice their concerns about the gender messages they were seeing in the catalog.

The agency agreed with the students and recently issued a statement, saying that they felt Toys “Я” Us’s advertising materials showed a very narrow-minded view of gender and excluded kids of all genders from enjoying a range of toys. There are no fines or penalties associated with the statement from the Swedish agency, but the students raised their voices and called attention to issues of social and gender inequality in media and advertising. Their actions won’t revolutionize the world, but these Swedish young people are a reminder that there is power in the voices of youth. How are you going to use yours?

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