The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Pink and blue

Gender stereotypes have been a live issue for the CMF over the last 12 months.  They came under scrutiny again at the CMC. Kids Industries shared very recent research about what parents and children actually think about 'Pink and Blue'. 

Gary Pope, Client Director of Kids Industries, tells us more…

In June 2014, we conducted a research study to find out what children and parents really thought about the gender archetypes that society foists upon us. We spoke to 1,000 parents online, 120 through in depth face to face interviews, and a further 120 children.  We also reviewed 56 academic documents on the subject.

Amongst the many insights gained, we learned some shocking truths. You may want to sit down…

Girls prefer nurturing toys, whilst boys like action.

Boys and girls are different.

Boys like playing with stuff that is generally designed for boys and girls like playing with stuff that is generally designed for girls. But that doesn’t mean that boys stuff has to be all 'blue' and girls stuff all 'pink'. The key is categorisation of products (dolls, construction, dress-up, crafts), instead of gender. Let’s allow the children to decide for themselves, shall we?

And here’s why.

Throughout our qualitative work, dads were always a little more guarded than mums. They got a little uncomfortable by talk of boys wearing dresses and playing with dolls. The statistics showed that dads are far more concerned about their boys exploring dimensions perceived as feminine, than about their girls engaging in “boyish” activities. A sign that we’re not as far forward as we thought we were, perhaps?

Our assumptions are based on millennia of development. But the world we’re living in now is a very different one to the place it was just a few years ago. In 2010 the tablet came of age.

In speaking to the parents and children it became clear that the tablet is gender-neutral. Wonderfully it especially enables boys to try apps, which - if they were real toys - would of course be way out of bounds. All the boys we spoke with said that they had played, and enjoyed playing, 'Toca Boca Hair Salon'. However, when we showed those same boys images of a 'Girls World' mannequin head, they were resoundingly against playing with such a thing. Boys don’t feel exposed by this type of tablet play - whereas playing with the head of an oversize doll was 'just wrong'.

Perhaps one of the most interesting findings from the quantitative research was the fact that parents also see all the major TV Channels as gender-neutral. The perception of Disney XD however – which although it has a well crafted 'boyish' positioning and tone - was 75% gender-neutral from the parents, and 'for boys and girls' from the children.

So, if the digital space is increasingly enabling equality, and kids are migrating to the digital space, what’s all the fuss about?

Toys.

Search 'Girls Toys' on Google images and it’s an ocean of pink. But search 'Girls Apps' and of the 36 images above the fold you’ll see only 4 pink icons. Toy marketers particularly seem to be stuck in their ways – 'it’s ‘for girls’ so it has to be pink'.

With this in mind, the troubling thing is the large toy companies increasingly own more of the creative process and distribution system. Indeed, the toy industry’s Christmas in July this year, as every other year, told the same old story. There are 10 toys on the list. 4 are clear designs for girls, 4 for boys, and 2 are ‘gender-neutral’ – according to the perceptions of them in the minds of the marketers.

That doesn’t mean that the play patterns are just for girls or just for boys. Merely that the plaything has been designed in keeping with what have become the perceived cultural norms.

What we’re hearing from the parents and the children is that maybe this isn’t the best way to go…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)