Tag Archives: Gender Stereotyping

Open Letter of Rejection


Dear PR,

Thank-you for your e-mail and the kind offer of review items.

From looking at the website and video, [Brand] appears to sum up every part of gender stereotyping in products aimed at girls that I support campaigns such as Pink Stinks, The Brave Girls Alliance and Let Toys be Toys to eradicate so although I could review them it’s unlikely that my review will be positive and therefore I will decline the offer.

[Brand] is aimed at young girls aged 4+. The marketing copy clearly states “[Brand] is every little girl’s dream!” No. It isn’t. Every little girl is a unique and fascinating individual with a complex mix of interests and emotions. Every little girl is not a gender stereotype.

I haven’t seen any of your actual products, but let’s look at your marketing video. [Brand character] states that she loves pink and lists the things she likes. This list consists of shoes, dresses, and hair. All these items relate to how girls look.

She introduces her best friend, who loves purple. Yet again girls have been limited to a palette of pink and purple ignoring the rich variety of colours that are actually available in the world.

The video continues, introducing [Brand character]’s little brothers. Two little boys who are playing in mud. [Brand character] says: Urgh, look at all that mess and dirt. Boys are trouble.

The message in this video is very clear. Girls should only be concerned with how they look, with being pretty, and remaining clean and tidy. No messy muddy games for our girls, oh no! Boys on the other hand, are disgusting creatures. What sort of message is this to be sending to young susceptible minds? It’s doing our girls and our boys a huge disservice.

The video ends with a list of activities that the girls like to do: singing and dancing; drawing; playing dress-up; fashion shows; pretend play.

My daughters do like crafts, and dressing up, and imaginative play. They also like climbing trees, digging the garden and playing with mud, construction toys, finding out how things work, combining different games together to create new ones, making a mess, and running around like they’re on fire. They like pink and purple. They also like red, and green, and blue, and yellow, and black, and every other colour in the rainbow or otherwise.

You may think that [Brand] is harmless fun for girls who are attracted to pink, dressing up, animals and crafts in the first place. However, it is impossible to raise a child in a vacuum and our children are being exposed to a media diet of gender stereotyping, which does nothing but harm. Focusing on girls’ looks and promoting boys as trouble does nothing but harm.

If you prime children or adults with messages about gender then gender differences become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, the author describes experiments where participants are primed with information either saying that a particular gender is better at a task, or that there is no gender difference, before taking certain tests; the mere mention of a gender difference affects performance in the tests. Children brought up to see girls portrayed one way and boys portrayed another will grow up with differences. Not because of innate difference, but because of the power of influence.

Part of my job as a parent is to nurture my children and help them grow to be whatever they want to be. In order to choose whatever they want to be, they need to see girls and women (and boys and men) in every type of role possible so that they do not take in the underlying message that girls are only fit for certain careers and interests, and boys for others.

My daughters, or any child, should not be made to feel that girls should only care about their looks, that mess is ‘ugh’ and only for boys. Boys should not be made to feel that they are ‘disgusting’, ‘horrid’, ‘trouble’ and the other characteristics that are piled on them.

Toys and books aimed at children should reflect all genders doing all interests and should be only segregated by interests. You like arts or dressing up or pretend play? Excellent. But that doesn’t make you a girl, or mean that you only get to use pink products.

Perhaps you see my blog logo containing pink as an endorsement that pink is for girls. I don’t. After all, pink is just a colour. The pink and orange pencils portray aspects of my daughters. They are vibrant, bright, creative, imaginative, and messy. They are unique and different; just like every other child.

I cannot endorse or condone a product which promotes such gender stereotyping, and I recommend that you look at the websites of Let Toys be Toys , The Brave Girls Alliance, Pink Stinks, and many others to see the messages from thousands of parents and educators, and most importantly children, who just want to have the option to be themselves, whatever gender they happen to be.

Many thanks again,


I didn’t actually send the bit not in pink; it’s not the PR’s fault that they were given this brand to promote…

Primrose by Alex T. Smith

Primrose: Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children's Books, 2013)

Primrose: Alex T. Smith (Scholastic Children’s Books, 2013)

This is one of those picture books that should be in every library, every nursery, every school and every bookshelf. I’m afraid there may be a large amount of gushing about to follow, but I’ll try to contain it.

Primrose is a pink princess; but she’s also the antithesis to the typical Pink Princess. She lives in a “pretty pink palace” and has “a pretty pink tiara, two prancing pink ponies and a plump little pug named Percy.” In many other hands, I might be running a mile by this point. But… Well, just look at the artwork for a start:

[Apologies for the appalling picture quality. I’ll replace with pictures taken in natural light as soon as possible!]


Primrose is bored, bored, bored! So she tries to have some fun but everything she does is met with cries from her family to do something more princessy.

She’s not allowed to climb trees.

She’s not allowed to dress up in a monkey costume.

She’s not allowed to play board games.

She’s not allowed to to dig vegetables in the garden.

Princesses must dress in pretty pink dresses and sit decoratively. How utterly, wonderfully, subtly subversive this book is. All these activities are things that manufacturers and retailers would want to make you believe are not for girls. Don’t believe me? Look at the examples campaigns like Let Toys Be Toys and Pink Stinks find day after day after day. Science kits are for boys only; dressing up clothes for girls are all pink dresses and fairy wings; lego is for boys; kitchen play is for girls…

The messages that children are receiving daily in their everyday lives is disturbing and must be stopped. I battle constantly against the sexist drivel my six-year old brings home from school every day (and when she was five; and when she was four…) I have got somewhere in that Mighty-Girl now tells me that she’s the only person in her class who doesn’t think there are ‘boy’ colours and ‘girl’ colours.

My four year old used to love being a pirate and her favourite colour was orange. A year in pre-school and she wants to be a pink ballerina. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s peer pressure into pinkness that has forced this change, not her own opinion.

Primrose, a very pink princess book, is perfect. It starts with pink and frilly to lure in the princess-loving brigade, and then adds in all the other elements whilst remaining pink and frilly. Because, as I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with pink, it’s just the all-pervading non-choice that’s the problem.

Returning to the story… The royal family despair at Primrose’s lack of princessliness and decide there is “only one thing for it. Somebody must call Grandmama.” The introduction of Grandmama is perfection again. On one side we see the stern matronly visage of Her Royal Highness (Senior); on the opposite page Primrose and Percy are tiptoeing in mud, brightly clad and not a care in the world. Storm clouds are gathering, but whom are they for?


But we really needn’t worry because Grandmama has the perfect solutions for every issue that the family have with their darling daughter and is soon bounding off again leaving everyone happy. The last double page spread showing Grandmama’s method of travel is, of course, sublime.

There are many other touches that add to this book. The copyright page ties in beautifully (“borrowed from The Royal Library”) and Percy bears an uncanny (intended) resemblance to the awesome Book Sniffer – toot toot! Overall, a sunny slice of perfection from the “royally talented” (hear hear!) Alex T. Smith.

[Apologies for the appalling picture quality. I’ll replace with pictures taken in natural light as soon as possible!]