As a mother of two boys, I feel it is my utmost responsibility to raise my sons to be - above all else - respectful toward women! But, it's getting more and more difficult to fight gender stereotypes and prejudices when the television is on (from MTV to, yep, even the Disney channel) or when glancing through print media. What is valued in females is made perfectly clear. Be hot! Okay, you can sing and dance too, but don't forget to BE HOT!
While you may be able to succeed in keeping your young children away from most damaging media, the one arena that we can't seem to escape the stereotypes is that of the toy industry. Gender separation is still being clearly defined by toy manufacturers. Anyone who has stepped foot into a toy store knows what I'm talking about. There are "boy aisles" and "girl aisles" and children will differentiate between them at a very young age.
If we really want to help young girls build confidence and feelings of self-worth, we need to start from birth and give them toys that exemplify intelligent, strong, professional women. We can tell Mattel to make Barbie more realistic until we're blue in the face, but they aren't getting the message loud enough. While they've made minor adjustments to Barbie's shape over the years and have added friends of varying ethnic backgrounds and hair color, they are still falling short of reality. They are all tall, thin, and, shall I say it? HOT!
Toy manufacturers are missing the mark on making "girl toys" that don't depict females living the carefree, party-life. Look at the popular Lego line, Friends. It is filled with cupcakes, pets, and a whole bunch of foofooness! In response to this criticism, Lego launched their Research Institute set featuring three female scientists: a paleontologist, an astronomer, and a chemist. The set, released this past summer, was offered as a limited edition, was only sold by one major retailer, and flew off the shelves. Even Lego stores and the Lego website are sold out, but they say more may be available in the near future. However, these minifigures have also come under fire because, once again, they are wearing make-up and have drawn-in curves. (Reminder to young girls: you can be really intelligent, but don't ever forget to be....HOT!)
Personally, I don't see why a company like Lego has to market gender-specific building sets. If I were a little girl today, I would much rather play with The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and City collections. This influence is no doubt responsible for the answers I typically received from kindergarten students when I asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up. About 90% of the girls would say a ballerina, a model, or a mommy. While those are all lovely ambitions, just once I wanted a girl to say a rocket scientist!
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