Why Gender Stereotyping Kids Matters

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I had an argument on Twitter today.  It was over a new advert for Smyth’s toy shop.  In the advert a little boy is shown playing with toys from various scenarios, including one where he’s in a princess dress.

To me, and many others, this was an awesome step.  The little boy wasn’t shown to be a freak or wrong or weird, he simply played with a racing car, a suit of armour, and a princess dress in an advert that made playing with toys of all kinds completely normal.  I approve whole heartedly.

Others disagreed, many quite strongly and with venom (one so full of hatred that he called my children bastards).

I’m going to look at some of those arguments against that advert, and why I am so very much in favour of this advert and others like it, and why exactly gender stereotyping children matters so very much.

Can you believe women in the Middle East think they’re oppressed? Try dealing with stereotypes… That’s real oppression.”

This is an argument I have seen time and time again when any western woman discusses an issue.  Others have it worse.

There is no doubt that in comparison to issues such as FGM and the oppressive patriarchy of places such as Saudi are far more damaging and oppressive than the gender stereotypes in children’s toys.  Nobody denies that.  But one issue being worse doesn’t mean another is suddenly irrelevant.

Gender norms are oppressive to both men and women, teaching us that something is fundamentally “wrong” wish us if we don’t naturally conform.  Little boys who like to wear princess dresses are either forced out of it  and made to feel like they’re doing something wrong, or told they’re like little girls, instead of just being okay with the fact that sometimes they wear princess dresses.  Little girls are taught they should be princesses and girly girls instead of being able to have adventures and do brave things, thus continuing the social structure that keeps women down.


yeah, this is pretty gay.”

Where do I start?  Firstly, using “gay” as an insult is horrible, it implies there is something wrong with being homosexual, but there isn’t.  Secondly, the little boy’s sexuality is irrelevant to the advert and, quite frankly, I’d suggest it is inappropriate to think about.  Thirdly, a child playing with toys across the gender stereotyping spectrum means nothing about their future sexuality.  It is exactly this kind of nonsense that is why making it socially acceptable for children to play with everything is so important.

Stereotypes aren’t oppressing anyone. Cut the victim complex”

Gender stereotyping oppresses anyone who doesn’t naturally conform to the stereotype.  You either have to fit in or fuck off.  Learn to fake your identity because the person you are is wrong, or live as an outsider, isolated from the community you exist in.

Gender stereotypes breed toxic masculinity and oppressive femininity.  And nobody benefits from either of those.  It starts when they’re little.  When girls wear pink and boys wear blue.  When girls play with kitchens and Barbies, and boys play with rockets and cars.  These are the things you like.  Home and clothes for little girls, adventures for little boys.

It’s not a victim complex, it’s a social awareness.  It’s saying that no it’s not the biggest issue in the world but it is an issue.  It leads to self doubt, self loathing and identity confusion.  It leads little boys to think they must really be girls because they like dolls, and little girls to think they must really be boys because they like trains.

Gender stereotyping is toxic.  And we imprint it on our children when they’re too  young to be socially aware enough to fight it, and teach them that if they don’t fit in there’s something wrong with them and they need to be changed some how.

When we accept that toys are toys and clothes are clothes, and we don’t force boys to shop in the girls section and girls to shop in the boys section, thus labelling themselves as different ad weird, and just allow everyone to play with and wear everything they feel happy with then we will put an end to it.

Unless it is controlled by your genitals, it has no need for a gender specific label.  And nothing designed for children should be controlled by your genitals.

When it’s impacting children it’s easy to dismiss it as a serious issue, easy to tell people to focus on something else.  But follow the trail.   Watch the children forced into gender roles, or forced to believe they’re faulty.  See the trail of destruction through into adulthood and then decide whether it’s an issue worth addressing.

We’re making huge progress in equality, huge progress in social acceptance.  Don’t derail it now.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and The Boy (Jonathan McKinney) and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!



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