Posts Tagged ‘stereotypes’

Recently, I read an article on Huffington Post about how women “have to” pay more for female versions of common products.  Several women left comments pointing out that they circumvent this sexist pricing system by sensibly buying the male versions of the product093c0505b4debbb1224b4a693898ce04.

But none of the comments asked the obvious question of why do we need separate versions of such mundane products for men and women in the first place?

Why do we need gender-bombed products that “match” and call attention to our sex?  Do manufacturers of these mundane products think that people need constant little reminders of what sex they are?  Using the pictured example, did the razor manufacturer think that women might try to shave their faces rather than their legs if they use a blue razor (that they paid less for)?

In a larger sense, why does everything we do, think, say, feel, use, or express have to correlate to or “match” our sex?  Why does society think we need these constant reminders of what sex we are?

For the majority of activities people do in their everyday lives, their sex is no more relevant to those activities than their race or nationality is, so why the need for all the specifically gendered versions of what are neutral items?

One could argue that offering pink-ified versions of many products is simply another choice  that appeals to different tastes and personalities.  To some extent, this is true, but these products are not simply another choice among many others; they are specifically marketed to women only.  Isn’t it funny how ALL women are supposed to just looooooooove pink things?  And that men aren’t?

For adults, who should have the maturity to see stereotyping for what it is and are able to choose whatever products they want, however colored or labeled, without questioning their womanhood or manhood, such marketing is mostly relatively harmless, if redundant.  That is, save for the discriminatory pricing, which women can easily avoid by refusing to buy the “ladies’ auxiliary” versions.

And it would seem that many people do, indeed, get it, if the snarky reviews left on Amazon for the product below are any indication.   As one reviewer said

r-BIC-PEN-FOR-HER-WOMEN-REVIEWS-large570“Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever). I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head.’ But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”

But it becomes less funny or harmless when toys, particularly those previously marketed as sex-neutral, are now offered in special, pink and purple versions just to girls.  Suddenly, the standard, original sex-neutral version has become a “boys’ toy”.

Children, whose cognitive functions are not yet fully developed, cannot see stereotyping for what it is as easily as adults can185c9df6700b9a5d80305cf58430b03e.  They are given the message that boys are regular, standard people and that girls are “other”, “different”, and “auxiliary”.

The picture to the left compares  Lego as marketed in 1981 and in 2014, using the same person in both pictures.  In 1981, the year I become a mother, non-sexist child raising was a current philosophy with progressive parents and some advertisers responded by including girls, as well as boys, in promoting standard, sex-neutral toys.

Indeed, even when I was a little kid in the 60s, before there was even a word for non-sexist child raising, Lego was not specifically marketed to boys and I enjoyed playing with them, giving nary a thought whether this toy “matched” my sex.

But, at some point, instead of simply just adding pink and purple bricks to the standard Legos, Lego introduced a separate girls’ version, ending their previous marketing of the standard version for all kids.  Instead of fostering the creativity which lies within each child, regardless of sex, the current marketing strategy sends a regressive message to children about fitting in to stereotyped gender roles.

As Rachel Giordano, the model for the 1981 ad, said in 2014:

“In 1981, LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package. In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”

She went on to say when asked what is wrong with a separate girls’ version of Lego:

“Because gender segmenting toys interferes with a child’s own creative expression. I know that how I played as a girl shaped who I am today. It contributed to me becoming a physician and inspired me to want to help others achieve health and wellness. I co-own two medical centers in Seattle. Doctor kits used to be for all children, but now they are on the boys’ aisle. I simply believe that they should be marketed to all children again, and the same with LEGOs and other toys.”

As Lori Day concluded in her article:

Let’s give all children a world of play that includes all colors and all possibilities, and let’s market it that way. What do we have to lose, besides stereotypes?

Indeed.  Along with reviving non-sexist child raising, if children are given all sorts of toys, not specifically marketed to one sex or the other, they will be better equipped as adults to see stereotypes for what they are when confronted with them in advertising and in society in general and to make choices according to their own personalities.


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Recently, on Facebook, I saw two posts on different pages that expressed a typical feminist view of women, which I find woefully naive.

Namely, both pages put forth the idea that increased female involvement in two different types of situations would have brought about a totally different and better outcome.

The first page put forth the notion that had there been more female police officers in Ferguson, Missouri during the demonstrations following the shooting of Michael Brown, the situation would have turned out much differently.

The second page posted a quote from Coretta Scott King, which expressed the idea that if just 10 percent more women voted, there would be an end to budget cuts to programs benefiting women and children.


While I sympathize with the benign intentions of those who assert these ideas, such ideas are naive and don’t take human nature (which isn’t sex-specific) into account.

Such notions stem from the strain of feminism known as gender essentialist or “difference feminism”, best represented by the work of feminist Carol Gilligan.

In short, gender essentialist feminism agrees with conservatives that gender roles are innate, but part ways with them in asserting that stereotyped “femininity” is not inferior to stereotyped “masculinity” and is, in some ways, superior and that women should celebrate and value such differences. It also asserts that women, simply for the fact of being female, have something special and different to offer in public life than men do.

But women are not special snowflakes with superior capacity for caring, morals, or ethics. That’s a terribly heavy burden place on an entire group of people who are, at base, just as fallibly human as men are.

We are no more all alike than men are. We run the gamut of personality, character, and political opinions and are just as likely to vote against our own interests, be racist, and have a mix of character flaws and virtues, just like men do. Character and the lack thereof are not sex-linked traits.

I think the feminist Carol Tavris had a much better handle on the matter when she stated that “women are not the better sex, the inferior sex, or the opposite sex” in her 1992 book, “The Mismeasure of Woman”.

In other words, women are just as fallibly human as men are and there is very little you can reliably predict about how any individual woman will act, believe, feel, or say based on just her sex alone.  Like men, we are not generic representatives of our sex.

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