The other night I was out with a few friends here in NYC and we stopped at a deli to pick up a drink. Inside the deli there was a stand of Kinder chocolate eggs, labelled ‘girls’ and ‘boys’, colored pink and blue accordingly. I can’t believe that this is something you still do.
Why segregate children’s toys based on gender? No toy is inherently more appropriate for either sex. Maybe some toys are more popular with one or the other sex but surely this is a product of conditioning – i.e. what your eggs are doing. I understand that boys may be less likely to like traditionally ‘girl’ toys and girls may be less likely to like traditionally ‘boy’ toys, but there is no biological reason for a toy car to be more appealing to a boy, or a doll to be more appealing to a girl. Just as there is no biological reason for girls to like pink and boys to like blue – it’s entirely a construct of our society.
Adults are asked for their preferences, not arbitrarily given something based on their gender. Can you imagine arriving at an event and being given a beer if you’re a man and a glass of wine if you’re a woman, without anybody even speaking to you? That would be outrageous! So why are we doing it to children? We are telling young boys and girls that it’s more okay to like certain things and less okay to like others. We’re telling them that their preferences are first divided by their gender, and only then do they have a say in the matter. For example, a girl may feel able to like dolls (but not cars), and can then only choose within the category of ‘dolls’ – eg. Bratz or Barbie. If we go back to my previous analogy, imagine being asked “chardonnay or pinot grigio?” without being asked if you even like wine.
Preferences are individual – they have nothing to do with gender. Gender-based trends in preferences do exist, but I believe that society has played a large part in their construction. If we stop with the conditioning, I bet that these trends will either disappear completely or become much less significant. So lets stop labelling things as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ both physically (please change the eggs) and in all other ways in our day-to-day lives.
P.S. When sitting down to write this letter, I also found this ad online. Please see above request to change the eggs.