I’m a Mum to four kids who seem to migrate towards brightly coloured plastic tat, so the Early Learning Centre has been a frequently visited shop for us over the last ten years. I’ve always been relatively impressed by their range of art supplies like air drying clay, paint and suchlike but the range of toys left me cold – primarily because it seemed to be extremely pricey for our salary range but also because the toys stereotyped by gender left me feeling enraged.
I have two sons and two daughters. I spend a significant amount of my parenting time assuring my amazing children that they can be anything they choose to be even though the Fawcett Society has highlighted that women working full-time still face being paid 17% less than their male counterparts on an hourly basis – a figure that rises to 20% if that woman happens to be from an ethnic minority, 36% if she works part-time and 45% if she both works part-time and works in London. Doesn’t that disgust you? It appalls me and I don’t think it matters if you’re a feminist or not, this pay gap affects every single working person out there. It’s revolting that in this day and age where we’re all supposed to be forward-thinking, liberal and equal that it’s acceptable for the pay gap to still be tangible.
With that in mind, it’s not like I expect the toy companies to pick up the slack for the pay gap but – and this is a big but – this kind of gender stereotyping begins at such an early age and the Early Learning Centre’s marketing is just one admittedly major example of this. Let me show you a webpage from the ELC’s retail site (click for embiggenisation):
Just in case you’re a complete thicket, I’ve highlighted the relevant parts and following the ELC’s lead I’ve even used the appropriate colours. Quite simply, if you have a daughter she’s clearly a princess who aspires to be a nurse or a ballerina. If you have a son, he can be a doctor because of course it’s a man’s job. Right from pre-school levels our children are being segregated into traditional gender roles before they really have a concept of gender constructs themselves.
You know what else pisses me off? And these are simply examples from presents our kids have been bought – a pink shopping till and basket because obviously only women do the shopping or work in retail. A blue multistorey garage since only boys like cars. They even have a pink GLOBE just in case our daughters are too female to look at a regular one. Heaven forbid, eh?
In the interests of fairness, I emailed the ELC yesterday saying:
I have to be honest straight off the bat and say that my post is going to be criticising the shift over the last 10 years in the ELC’s product range. I have personally avoided ELC since giving birth to my daughter 3 years ago as I realised how heavily gender stereotyped ELC chooses to be and the final straw for me today was seeing this page which tells me that my daughter can be a nurse but only my son can be a doctor.
The product range reinforces traditional gender roles – pink microwaves, dolls prams and kitchen sets for girls, dinosaurs and train sets for boys which contradicts the UK educational system’s approach to free play and I would greatly appreciate a statement with regards to this concern.
Their spokesperson responded today with this:
‘Come down to Early learning Centre and see for yourself the huge range of toys in an assortment of colours. Customers can choose a red kitchen, a blue kitchen, a blue cash register, a yellow dolls house or a gorgeous farm
Our photography features boys ironing, girls playing with space aliens, boys playing with dolls, boys cooking and pushing buggies, girls building and playing with remote control insects. We offer anyone who wants to buy toys so much to choose from that no one should feel disappointed when they walk into our stores.
which comprehensively answered my query. Or not.
I’m interested to know how other parents feel about it. Do you identify as feminist? Do you agree with what I’m saying or do you think I’m overreacting?
Posted under for the kids
This post was written by Vonnie on July 22, 2010