Sexism, gender neutral…are we going a little too far?

I shared a story on my social media the other day; an article about the possible need for Mothercare to change it’s name because it excludes half of parents based on their gender. Somehow the name may make children believe their mothers are the only ones that care. I expected more people to agree with the article but there were very few that did.

Many believed it was going too far.

It’s a shop title.

It’s a brand.

Do we worry about Daddies Sauce or even Mr Muscle as a cleaning agent. Do these products assume women can’t eat chips or that men are the only ones with muscle?

I have to admit the people of social media had good points.

Another hot story flying around social media is suggesting Clarks shoes are sexist. They produce feminine looking school shoes that are not as hard wearing as the supposed “boys versions”. This one I have to say I can’t really comment on 100% as I haven’t had the experience of my daughter being at school and observing how long her shoes last. Of course I can understand if the more feminine looking shoes don’t last as long and replacements are costing lots of money, this is not acceptable but Clarks do produce a variety of shoes.  Other options were picked out and showcased on social media that were suitable. The article did irritate me as people can shop elsewhere or not choose those styles. I am however glad Clarks did take down the names of the shoes, Dolly Babe for girls vs. Leader for boys?  Not good.

Clarks are not all stupid. They have a marketing team and a design team. They will have done their research and the shoes on offer will be the shoes that sell. I can also tell you now, if I showed my eldest two pairs of shoes; one slightly prettier and another maybe more “boyish” looking, I know which she will pick 10 times over. In fact when hubby took her for trainers her choice was based on the fact one pair had “glitter”!!

There is the argument of course that her decisions are based on the subliminal messages she receives daily. Her peers, television, YouTube, the shops themselves. They will be influencing her choices. Perhaps. I am not an expert. I haven’t studied sociology and I don’t have all the answers to this, so cannot pretend to know.

When my gremlin was born I knew I didn’t particularly want a girly girl if I’m being honest. Why you may ask? I wasn’t into Princesses as a child and I guess I wanted her to be like me. I liked action figures and action cartoons. I enjoyed role play games but not typical Princess toys, Barbies and dollies all the time.

We bought the gremlin a car mat and cars for her first birthday. I dressed her in jeans and leggings, similar to my style. Nope, she was not a girly baby. Did she play with the car mat? Not a chance. When she started to make choices with her clothes, what did she want? Dresses, dresses and more dresses. I couldn’t stop that and I didn’t want to.

She wants to play with her dolls, teddies and role play. Has this come from the subconscious messages she receives or is it simply her biology? Her nature? She’s a girl and why am I slightly bothered that she may act like one? Do I think her wanting to be a princess at 3 years old will affect her future career or journey into possible motherhood. No! Hannah from Budding Smiles wrote a fab post on the problems with the gender debate and it highlights that point perfectly.

A Dad blogger, Nigel from DIY Daddy has slightly different thoughts and written some excellent posts on gender neutrality when shopping. Having twins who are very different in their styles; it comes down to choice. He would prefer if there was less segregation between girls and boys sections and to some extents I do agree. No way do I think that girls should have to feel awkward shopping in the “boys section”. He argues should there even be a boys section? I definitely agree clothes should not have slogans that suggests girls are into beauty and boys into science. That is complete crap. It’s all about children having the freedom and choice to do, play and wear what they want and feel comfortable with it.

I just feel like we are almost scared to let our kids fit into a gender stereotype now. It’s almost going full circle. I hear of parents really pushing the gender neutral toys, as if it is something to ashamed of to want to play with cars as a boy and paint your nails as a girl. There needs to be a balance between giving children the right messages, avoiding the gender stereotyping but still allowing them to be who they are. Fiercely into Princesses, cars, dolls, trains or a bit of everything! That doesn’t matter.

Social media seems to have become this crazy forum for people to slate brands, accuse them of sexism and in a way shame people. I’m not going to lie when I saw the Clarks saga I felt a little bad. I knew my gremlin would want those “pretty, impractical” shoes. Was I a monster for letting her fit that mould and wear them??? How ridiculous is that? Feeling bad for giving my 4 year old a choice?

I’m well aware there is a very strong nature vs nurture debate and kids now are bombarded with messages, some we have zero control over but sometimes we have to let those chromosomes do their work. Let our children be typical and stop worrying.

Biology is a strong force and if my daughter’s Princess urges make her happy as a child, I don’t really care about gender stereotypes.

My daughter is content and comfortable being her and that’s all that matters for now.

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6 Comments

  1. August 16, 2017 / 8:00 am

    I saww the Mothercare thing and thought it was too much. I agree with the Clarks one though as I can imagine it being a nightmare to get sturdy girls shoes.

    I don’t like pink so avoid putting my little girl in that, however she does wear dresses. I will let her choose as she gets older.

  2. August 16, 2017 / 8:04 am

    Yes to all of this. While it is important to be aware of some of the subliminal messages out there, letting our children be the people they are is important too. I would like to see a little less segregation in children’s clothing though – and certainly a lot of girls’ (and women’s) clothing should be made more practical (lack of pockets in particular drives me mad!) I’m not a big fan of pinkifying toys that shouldn’t be gendered but there are times when trying to make everything gender-neutral goes a little too far. The fuss about Mothercare seems a little daft – they stock maternity clothing and nursing products as well as baby clothes and I doubt there is much need for maternity products to be gender-neutral! The outcry over Clarks makes a little more sense though – there is that underlying message that boys are adventurous and girls are not and I don’t agree with that. As for how well they last though – Jessica’s school shoes fit her throughout the whole of her first year at school and were still in very good condition at the end of it. Sorry for the essay! x

  3. August 16, 2017 / 8:05 am

    I’m old fashioned, I don’t see a problem with cars for boys and dolls for girls. If boys wanna play dolls and vice versa then cool but I do think you’re right it’s like parents are trying to be trendy by allowing gender neutral. Just let the kid decide!

    Ollie goes to baby ballet and loves dancing which is stereotypically for girls but he always picks the blue boy bear at ballet over the pink one wearing a tutu. Why? I’ve never said blue is for boys and he’s in a class full of girls but something inside him is more drawn to the blue boys toy. I don’t see that as a problem.

    I don’t mind if I’m not a cool hip mom because of it lol!

  4. August 16, 2017 / 8:09 pm

    Thanks so much for the mention lovely! I agree – why should anyone be ashamed to have a stereotypical girl or boy, any more than having a girl who likes cars or a boy who likes dolls?! It’s about allowing kids to be who and what they want to be, not pigeon holing them based either on stereotypes or on social outrage!xx

  5. August 16, 2017 / 10:32 pm

    Thanks for the mention sarah very kind, I have written about this for while but it still really annoys me when I go to Asda or wherever in fact we got school shoes for the girls on Sunday, yep Ruby picked from the what is supposedly named the boys section and Maisie went to the girls section. Please just put them altogether please. Fantastic read and totally spot on. I have always had a problem with the name mothercare. But accept it’s a brand and impossible to change.

  6. August 17, 2017 / 7:23 am

    I totally agree. People are just going nuts. As long as you let your child know that they’re loved whatever their choices and encouraged in what they love, then they should be fine.

    My son is a typical boy. When he was a toddler he had my childhood toy pushchair and he used to push round his tractors in it. He just liked the fact it was a vehicle. He loves his teddies and didn’t want me to throw out one of my final Barbie dolls when we cleared out my mums house, but he never played with the latter. He refused to play with dolls even at nursery but would happily pay shops. And he’d be found wearing princess dresses at nursery with 2 of the other boys on occasion. But mostly he just likes rough and tumble, tractors and Lego. They’re his choices.

    As for people who bring up their children gender neutral. Well, they’re having a laugh. The kids will likely end up more confused especially once they start school. Just let them be a bit or girl but make their own choices within that.