Rattles and the Beginning of Gender Stereotyping

For people who argue that a t-shirt for girls implying they are not capable of liking or being good at things like math, and who often say, "what's the big deal?" or "it's only a t-shirt" or "get over it," seem to have little or no comprehension of the numerous messages that girls and boys are getting from very young ages. How young? Pretty much from birth. 

Take the Fisher Price baby rattles image at the top of the page --one for a girl and one for a boy. How do we know which one is which? Well, it says it right there on the packaging.

But let's take a look at these closely and note the differences. Immediately, of course, color is gender specified to the accepted pink/purple for girls and primary colors of blue/yellow for boys. The rattle for a baby girl, ages 3 to 19 months (you can't get much younger than that) is called the "Diamond Ring Rattle" Yes, because all baby girls should begin to desire what will eventually become a life long goal--to have a giant rock on their finger! The rattle for an infant boy is called the "Hammerin' Rattle." Of course, boys will be the ones to provide that rock by starting to learn a skill such as hammering. One implies passivity and a life of leisure--the other activity and learning.

For more gender reinforcement, there is the text. The little baby girl is "sweet" and the words are inside a bright pink heart with flowers. Boys, on the other hand, are "busy" in blue on red. Again, "sweet" versus "busy"...girls are described using a word that is a reflection of their disposition (God forbid you have a baby girl who is not sweet) and boys get to be busy (not sweet). Boys do, girls don't. Note, they do have one similarity in that they're both "easy to grasp" although, with that huge diamond ring on their finger, it might be more difficult for girls. Not to worry, though, because boys will always be there to help a girl who can't lift something by herself. After all, he was using a hammer when he was three months old!

So, to those who say, "what's the big deal?" I say, this is just one example of too many to count in which girls and boys are already being stereotyped. It starts at birth. And to know this--all you have to do is look around and open your eyes. You won't have to look far.

(This article also appeared on The Good Men Project: http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/gender-stereotyping-begins-in-infancy/comment-page-1/#comment-49315 )