Why does stereotyping children still happen in today’s society ?

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The Early Learning Centre has been criticised recently in a sexism row over an advertising campaign showing girls dressed as princesses and boys as doctors.

The Early Learning Centre was accused of unfair ‘gender stereotyping’ when showcasing the store’s fancy dress range.

As well as this there is another sexist advertising campaign in the toy section of their website where the girls are modelling with  dolls houses while the boys model with the Bosch tools and cars.

Diane Levin, Ph.D, a Professor of Education at Wheelock College,  said: “Preschoolers pick up gender clues from older siblings, teachers, and, perhaps most insidiously, the media.”

“The action figures for boys advertised on TV and seen in TV shows almost invariably have big muscles and are depicted as powerful and active.

“The dolls marketed to girls are pretty, sweet, and sexy. Preschoolers are drawn to these extremes.”

In addition research by Welsh organisation, Chwarae Teg shows that children already have very clear ideas about the jobs that are suitable for boys and girls.

Girls toys are based around glamour and beauty which put a worrying emphasis on outward appearance.

Stereotyped attitudes about boys are equally harmful.

The constant assumption reinforced in toy advertising and packaging that boys are inevitably rough, dirty, rowdy, interested only in action and violence tells calmer, more sensitive or more creative boys that they’re getting this whole ‘boy’ thing a bit wrong, and feeds low expectations of boys that undermine their performance at school.

This is why it is important for retailers to not advertise a product for a specific gender.

They are subconsciously showing children are supposed to act which is then reinforced by their old siblings and parents.

The Let Toys be Toys website was set up to change attitudes towards gender stereotyping.

A spokesperson for Let Toys be Toys said: “Play is absolutely fundamental to children’s learning and development, and putting limits on what kind of play is permitted is putting limits on children’s development.”

“More than ever, toys and games are marketed as being ‘for’ one gender or the other – dolls and ovens are for girls and trucks and construction toys are for boys.“They’re trying to learn how to be a grown-up, and ‘Boys don’t play with dolls’ will be understood by them in just the same way as ‘Hitting is wrong’ – they can’t understand the difference between those kinds of social rules.

“Even things like colouring books are promoted as being for one gender or the other and feature completely different content.

” We all know that men can cook and women can drive – and yet we seem determined to keep these facts from our children.

“When we give boys the idea that they’re not to play with dolls or dressing up we’re taking away opportunities to develop their abilities to nurture, empathise and be creative.

“Failing to offer girls chances to build and construct means they miss out the chance to hone their spatial skills and build and reinforce the stereotype that girls are weaker in technical subjects.”

Most parents  I spoke to think that boys and girls should play with anything they want with only one person saying that boys should play with cars.

One parent said: “stereotyping happens because of society’s influence and teachings of what’s considered as the “norm” for each gender.”

“Most parents, however, think that gender stereotyping happens because of old traditional values that have been passed through generations.

“In the toy industry, it is boys that are demonised. It is starting to become normal to see girls in male-dominated professions but it is not the same for boys.”

The Let Toys Be Toys spokesperson said: “Why has the label “tomboy” lost its ability to insult but “sissy” hasn’t?”

“Why does the sight of a boy playing with a baby doll bring forth a range of indignant complaints of the “It’s political correctness gone mad!”

The Let Toys Be Toys website has now produced a Let Books Be Books campaign where it asked children’s publishers to take the ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ labels off books and allow children the real free choice in the kinds of stories and activity books that interest them.

The campaign has had success with publishers and retailers like Usborne , Parragon, and Paperchase, and seen support from prominent authors.

They have done this because research showed that 18% of boys and 12% of girls think that reading is more for girls than boys, while 19% of boys said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading.