When I first started being interested in gender, I began to question our perception of gender roles just looking at the different ways we are used to think about what is considered to be masculine and what feminine.
socimagination, (2011), Gendered toy ads collection [Online Video]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwysTF0NwvE [Accessed 6 November 2017].
We might notice that gender roles are deeply embedded in the way we perceive colours, toys, tv programmes and clothes from our childhood: for example toys advertising is most likely to promote a gendered model which does not often contemplate non-binary children (children that don’t feel like conforming to the idea of being identified with one gender only, embracing a more fluid identity).
YouTube. 2012. Jeongmee Yoon: An artist explores little girls’ love of pink – YouTube. [Online Video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFXMTUcUi44. [Accessed 6 November 2017].
In an attempt of documenting her daughter’s obsession with pink, South-Korean photographer JeongMee Yoon brings our attention on the oppressive influence of advertising campaigns and pop culture on young people’s minds in a photographic series entitled The Pink and Blu projects (2005-ongoing).
In the Ted Seoul above (2012), JeongMee draws interesting observations about how toys sections in megastores like Walmart are separated by gender: the pink aisle with Barbies and Hello Kitty for girls and the blue with robots and Superman for boys.
Her staged photos, exploring the toys preferences of more than 70 children of different ethnic groups living in South Korea and in the United States, call upon the influences that toys play on children: she asks them to assume a neutral expression in order to put the objects central to the composition.
Nevertheless, only in recent times (around 1940), blue and pink have being perceived as gender signifiers, not unlike the stereotypical ideas on sex, gender and sexuality.
‘Pink was once a color associated with masculinity, considered to be a watered down red and held the power associated with that color. In 1914, The Sunday Sentinel, an American newspaper, advised mothers to use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.The change to pink for girls and blue for boys happened in America and elsewhere only after World War II.’
Furthermore, in her book Pink and Blue: telling the boys from the girls in America (2012) Jo B. Paoletti’s emphasizes how between 1890 and 1920 the clothing of infants started to change from being gender neutral (white) to being categorised on the basis of sex (blue associated with the idea of strength and masculinity, pink with sweetness and femininity).
To come to a conclusion, I decided to carry out an experiment in Bristol and I have explored an Asda megastore in Bedminster to test out if this discourse on gender roles might still be considered valid.
Take a look at what I have found:
Ferranti, F. (2017) Boys and girls toys section. [Unpublished photograph]. Asda megastore, Bristol.
How might parents and schools promote a more inclusive upbringing, turning towards a gender neutral education? As an example of this trend, I might suggest that you watch the brilliant documentary Raised without a Gender (2017), which depicts the reality of gender neutral kindergartens in Sweden, where kids are encouraged to express themselves without fixed roles.
The documentary also captures the experience of intersex activist and photographer Del LaGrace Volcano of being a ‘mapa’ (both mum and dad, opting to be called with neutral pronouns they, them).
- Del LaGrace, V. (2017) Del LaGrace Volcano. [Online] Available from: http://www.dellagracevolcano.com [Accessed 6 November 2017].
- Paoletti, J. (2012) Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys From the Girls in America. Indiana University Press.
- Vice. (2017). Raised Without Gender. [Online Video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sPj8HhbwHs [Accessed 6 November 2017].
- Yoon, JM. (2017) JeongMee Joon [Online] Available from: http://www.jeongmeeyoon.com/aw_pinkblue.htm [Accessed 6 November 2017].
- YouTube. 2012. Jeongmee Yoon: An artist explores little girls’ love of pink – YouTube. [Online Video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFXMTUcUi44. [Accessed 6 November 2017].