Sometimes I Really Hate Advertising

Sometimes I Really Hate Advertising January 3, 2013

A friend of mine just sent me an email she got from Ebates.

[Text: Boy’s Shoes. Keep Them Active. Make sure your boys is comfortable for all of his activities, indoors and out.]

[Text: Girl’s Shoes. Show Them Off. From the school yard to the birthday party, find the perfect pair for activities and comfort.]

I am doing my best to raise my children in an egalitarian way, but I often feel like I am swimming upstream. I mean, really? Really? Boys shoes: “Keep Them Active.” Girl’s shoes:  “Show Them Off.” Do advertisers not realize what sort of messages this kind of thing sends? And really? Did they have to mention parties in the ad for girls’ shoes?

Some people insist that boys and girls are really innately completely different. Do you know what I want to say to those people? Let’s try actually raising children in a gender neutral fashion and then we’ll see if that’s so. Because until then, all I see is advertising and popular culture and societal messages yelling at boys and girls “you’re different! you so are! you over there with penises, you like sports and guns! really! and you over there without penises, you like dolls and parties and clothes! we promise!” As long as children are bombarded with this sort of messaging, how are we supposed to have any idea what’s nature and what’s nurture? And beyond that, children’s brains are still developing! These sorts of messages are literally shaping their brains.

I have to say, there are moments I want to go off the grid and raise my children in complete isolation. Those moments generally occur when I’m standing in a box store looking at the children’s toy aisles. Pink, pink, barbies, pink, purple, baby dolls, purple, purple, doll houses, purple, pink. Blue, grey, guns, green, grey, Star Wars, grey, black, legos, grey, green. I struggle to even find gender neutral bike helmets! Bike helmets!

Or maybe I should just move to Sweden, where toy companies are deliberately working to challenge gender stereotyping in their toy catalogs – sometimes even swapping the genders completely.


In case you’re wondering, American conservatives aren’t too happy about this sort of thing. Here’s how Focus on the Family responded to Sweden’s gender swapping catalogs:

Whatever the motivation, Glenn Stanton, director for Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, believes the idea that kids are born into this world genderless is “laughable.”

“Gender is not a cultural construct; it’s hard-wired,” he said. “This is an old, failed experiment rooted in ideology.”

Okay then, Glenn Stanton. If boys are born hardwired to like guns and girls are born hardwired to like dolls, hows about we stop telling them what they’re supposed to like or not like and just let nature take its course? No? I thought not.

But seriously. I am so freaking tired of advertising telling boys they’re supposed to be physically active and telling girls that they’re supposed to like parties and showing off their looks. Enough already.

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