By Beth Morrison, HAVEN CEO
Much has been said of late about gender stereotyping, especially with the launch of Lego’s new line of products aimed at the girl market, Lego Friends. I am one who doesn’t get it. Why do we need pink Legos? Why do we need preformed beauty shops and pink ovens for baking cupcakes? Can’t a child, male or female, build a beauty shop out of the green, red, or blue blocks? Why do the new female Lego people need to wear pastel colored outfits with flower designs and have slender waist and chests?
For years, my son Colin played with Legos on a nearly daily basis and more often than not, he designed and built city after city in partnership with our two neighbors, Alanna and Michala. I never once saw these two young girls limited in their design and building efforts by a lack of pink blocks. I heard and watched these three pals co-build amazing city buildings, spaceships, cars, trucks, homes – you name it. I’m sure along the way they built a shoe store or two, and maybe even a beauty shop within one of their many cities of the future. Their building projects were based on true partnerships where gender was never an issue.
Gender stereotyping is one of the root causes of violence against women and girls. It is from the deep seeded beliefs that there are and should be limitations placed on what females can do and should do, and that violence is allowed and tolerated. A pink Lego block does not, in and of itself, create violence against women; but think about how pervasive gender stereotyping is in America and how collectively it contributes to the high prevalence of violence against women and girls.
When I bought a new cell phone this winter, the saleswomen steered me toward the pink version of the phone, clearly under the assumption I would want pink. When I asked for what other colors were available, she then pulled out the black, silver and green versions of the phone. I went with black.
When shopping for a Valentine card for my son, I found the perfect silly one that had a big white cat on the front. In fishing out the envelope for the card, I noticed that it was in a slot labeled “for girls”. In addition to the cat, I noticed the card was about 80% pink. Right below my “girl” card was a whole section of cards “for boys.” These cards had fronts with dogs, space ships and sports equipment and were all about 80% red in color.
It is not hard to come up with example after example of products, marketing campaigns, books, lyrics, school curriculum, corporate structure, etc., that promote and endorse gender stereotypes. Are you ready to step up and say no more?
Next time you’re at a store buying a gift or card for someone, choose something you know they’ll love, not something that is necessarily meant for them based on gender. When you see a marketing campaign, such as the Lego Friends campaign, don’t be afraid to question the motives behind the campaign, and allow those questions to steer a conversation you and your friends and/or family might have. Don’t hesitate to let the company or marketing firm know that you’re offended by the gender assumptions in the campaign or product.
By breaking the “rules” of these gender stereotypes, we’re all helping to eliminate violence against women, one step at a time.