Should we be fighting gender inequality in children’s toys? Our prime minister doesn’t think so | Women's Agenda

Should we be fighting gender inequality in children’s toys? Our prime minister doesn’t think so

The prime minister has hit out against a campaign promoting gender equality in children’s toys, saying it is too politically correct for him.

The campaign, called No Gender December and supported by Greens Senator and spokesperson for women Larissa Waters, highlights the dangers of imposing gender stereotypes on children through marketing of toys. It advocates gender-neutral toys and marketing techniques as a way of ensuring children are not pigeon-holed into particular interests, activities or perceptions from a young age based on gender.

Senator Waters said it is important to be aware of how any gender stereotypes – including in Christmas gifts – promote gender inequality and therefore contribute to the social and economic problems gender inequality creates.

“Setting such strong gender stereotypes at early ages can have long-term impacts, including influencing self-perception and career aspirations,” she said.

“Out-dated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women, perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap. While such serious problems seem so far removed from choosing children’s toys, it’s important that we think about this issue, especially when so many children’s toys are being bought.”

The Greens’ campaign has not been well received with some parliamentary colleagues – including the prime minister.

“I certainly don’t believe in that kind of political correctness. Let boys be boys, let girls be girls – that’s always been my philosophy,” Abbott said in an interview with Nine Network this morning.

“Above all else, let parents do what they think is in the best interests of their children.”

He also said Senator Waters makes parliament “difficult”.

Senator Cory Bernardi also does not think gendered marketing of toys is outdated – he said Senator Waters is the one with an old-fashioned view of gender. He said she is “clearly stuck in an outdated 1970s gender war”.

“To say you’re giving a boy a truck or a hammer is somehow leading to domestic violence and gender pay gaps is simply bizarre,” he said.
“I hope that Santa brings Senator Waters some common sense for Christmas.”

The campaign was founded by grassroots organisation Play Unlimited, whose founders Thea Hughes and Julie Huberman believe toy manufactures have not kept pace with changing perceptions of gender.

“It’s 2014 – women mow lawns and men push prams but while we’ve moved on, many toy companies haven’t,” Ms Huberman said.

Senator Waters agreed gendered stereotypes in toys are outdated: “no child’s imagination should be limited by old-fashioned stereotypes,” she said.

Senator Waters, the Greens and Play Unlimited are calling for Australians to sign a pledge to keep gender stereotypes away from their Christmas trees this year, and to put pressure on toy manufactures to better reflect current gender equality standards.

What do you think? Political correctness gone mad?

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox