I’ve found that teaching patriarchy and introducing people to the idea of male privilege and gender roles is not always easy. Responses like “it’s not that bad,” or “those messages don’t have a significant effect” are common.
Well, some sixth graders in Sweden get it and have worked hard to call it out when they see it:
Last winter, a sixth grade class at Gustavslund school in Växjö in south central Sweden reported Toys”R”Us to the Reklamombudsmannen (Ro), a self-regulatory agency which polices marketing and advertising communications in Sweden to ensure they are in line with guidelines set out by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
According to the youngsters, the Toys”R”Us Christmas catalogue featured “outdated gender roles because boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive”, according to a statement from Ro.
The group’s teacher explained to the local Smålandsposten newspaper that filing the complaint was the culmination of more than two years of “long-term work” by the students on gender roles.
I love it! And the result of their work?
Upon reviewing the case, the Reklamombudsmannen agreed with the sixth-graders complaint, and on Tuesday issued a public reprimand of the toy retailer.
Now, if this were happening in the United States, conservatives would go mad. They’d accuse the teacher of indoctrinating. They’d accuse the school of promoting values that do not align with Biblical tradition. Right wingers know that maintaining gender roles helps them maintain power as well. But the best part of this story is that the students themselves are able to speak about the issues and respond to them:
Thumbing through the catalogue, 13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys”R”Us publication.
“Small girls in princess stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It’s obvious that you get affected by this,” he told the newspaper.
“When I see that only girls play with certain things then, as a guy, I don’t want it.”
Classmate Moa Averin emphasized the importance of children being able to be who they want even if “guys want to be princesses sometimes”.
They’re totally right, and what a positive message to be passing on to young people. Why would people want to refuse the message you can be who you want to be?
I really hope that American conscientiousness can be as vigilant at holding our companies and corporations to such standards:
According to the Ro’s advisory committee (Opinionsnämnden), the Toys”R”Us catalogue “discriminates based on gender and counteracts positive social behaviour, lifestyles, and attitudes”.
Specifically, the committee found that the catalogue feature boys “playing in action filled environments” while girls “are shown sitting or standing in passive poses”.
“Taken together, the catalogue portrays children’s games and choice of toys in a narrow-minded way, and this exclusion of boys and girls from different types of toys is, in itself, degrading to both genders,” Ro said in a statement.
Maybe if Toys “R” Us considers changing their practices, they can also do more to promote spelling.