It’s No Gender December!

 Play Unlimited,a parent-run organization devoted to “eliminating the segregation of toys along gender lines” launched the campaign “to promote the idea that children should be encouraged to learn through the widest possible range of play experiences.”

On its website it explains, “Listing toys as being either for girls or for boys could have the effect of alienating a boy from feeling okay about showing interest in say ‘crafts and arts’ and vice-versa for a girl who may otherwise have gravitated towards a remote control helicopter.

Both labels ‘boys/girls’ and gender stereotyped packaging (pink/blue or darker colours), inform children and others “this toy is/is not for you.

Children recognise the cultural significance of these gender colour codes and it informs their feelings about whether or not it’s socially acceptable for them to show interest in the product.”

In other words, play should not be limited by your gender.

People are invited to sign a pledge that they would not buy Holiday Gifts for children that conformed to gender stereotypes:

Here is the text of the pledge:

“I pledge to support ‘No Gender December’ because there is no place for gender stereotypes under my Christmas tree.

 Gender stereotypes limit children’s imagination and development, also perpetuating inequality. I encourage every child’s freedom to choose, to grow and develop, to be themselves without the damaging influence of gender stereotypes.”

No Gender December has been embraced by Green’s senator, Larissa Waters.  She has declared her support for the campaign.  She says that “setting such strong gender stereotypes at early ages can have long-term impacts, including influencing self-perception and career aspirations.”

More controversially, she says that these sorts of practices ultimately “perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”

Predictably, Tony Abbot mocked the campaign and Larissa Waters on the Today Show, stating that he doesn’t subscribe to these kinds of  “political correctness”.

Usually, when someone describes something as ‘politically correct,’ they are merely dismissing it and refusing to engage with the substance of the ideas that have been put forward.  Abbot did just that.  He didn’t really address the question about the impact gender-based marketing by the toy companies can have a bad impact at all.

What he did say, was that these sorts of decisions should be left up to the parents.  This is consistent with the conservative party line – leave things up to the individual to make their own choices.

This is interesting coming from someone who until recently planned to introduce paid parental leave “for working mothers.”  Though the policy has been shelved due to fiscal concerns, Abbot had hoped to offer “women” generous leave packages after having babies.  No mention has specifically been made of offering the same package to men.