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Rattles and the Beginning of Gender Stereotyping

For people who argue that a t-shirt for girls implying they are not capable of liking or being good at things like math, and who often say, "what's the big deal?" or "it's only a t-shirt" or "get over it," seem to have little or no comprehension of the numerous messages that girls and boys are getting from very young ages. How young? Pretty much from birth. 

Take these Fisher Price baby rattles--one for a girl and one for a boy. How do we know which one is which? Well, it says it right there on the packaging:

But let's take a look at these closely and note the differences. Immediately, of course, color is gender specified to the accepted pink/purple for girls and primary colors of blue/yellow for boys. The rattle for a baby girl, ages 3 to 19 months (you can't get much younger than that) is called the "Diamond Ring Rattle" Yes, because all baby girls should begin to desire what will eventually become a life long goal--to have a giant rock on their finger! The rattle for an infant boy is called the "Hammerin' Rattle." Of course, boys will be the ones to provide that rock by starting to learn a skill such as hammering. One implies passivity and a life of leisure--the other activity and learning.

For more gender reinforcement, there is the text. The little baby girl is "sweet" and the words are inside a bright pink heart with flowers. Boys, on the other hand, are "busy" in blue on red. Again, "sweet" versus "busy"...girls are described using a word that is a reflection of their disposition (God forbid you have a baby girl who is not sweet) and boys get to be busy (not sweet). Boys do, girls don't. Note, they do have one similarity in that they're both "easy to grasp" although, with that huge diamond ring on their finger, it might be more difficult for girls. Not to worry, though, because boys will always be there to help a girl who can't lift something by herself. After all, he was using a hammer when he was three months old!

So, to those who say, "what's the big deal?" I say, this is just one example of too many to count in which girls and boys are already being stereotyped. It starts at birth. And to know this--all you have to do is look around and open your eyes. You won't have to look far.


References (2)

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Reader Comments (6)

These toys are DISGUSTING and I fully support your campaign to raise awareness of the pitfalls of gender stereotyping and your attempt to educate people about the issue. I was made aware of this by the Pink Stinks campaign in the UK and I hope that such items NEVER arrive on these shores (but something tells me they will, if they're not already here).

By buying toys such as these we are simply providing our children with a self fulfilling prophesy - "Boys do stuff, girls get given stuff" and this is a disgusting message to pass on to our children. Girls risk growing up EXPECTING to be provided for and sexism (girls can't/shouldn't do anything meaningful) will become endemic amongst boys...

I for one will be sending Fisher Price an email expressing my disgust at these products and I applaud you for singing about these dangerous and ridiculous items from the rooftops. Please continue the fight because eventually, the penny will drop with these companies and they will stop reinforcing sexist profiles in society.


Frank Hampshire

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Hampshire

Yall think too much get over it. It's just a toy.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlex

@lex Um, you did read the first sentence of the article, right?

Thanks for the article! I'm going to share this with some of my students who are practicing analyzing advertisements and examining the strategies used and messages within them.

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergwcaudra

Like Michele and Frank, I'm also frustrated by how gender (stereotype) obsessed many toys/accessories are. The range of colours is, as you say, very limited with most things being in pink or blue. Interestingly, pink used to be considered to be "for boys" and blue "for girls". Where are all the green, yellow and orange baby clothes?

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStuart

The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that the companies are producing products like these because doing so will increase sales. With gender neutral toys, clothes, etc a family need only buy ONE, even if their firstborn daughter is followed by a son.

But if daughters get all girl-girl things, then boy-boy things must be purchased for the sons.

We *could* buy one and be done with it. If only one is bought, how many "boy" rattles will be purchased for girls? Girl rattles for boys? I can bet that the majority of opposite gender purchases will be the busy hammer toy for girls, not the passive ring toy for boys.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGypsy Chaos

Ok, that's just insulting. EVEN BABIES HAVE GENDER STEREOTYPES?!?! GOOD GRIEF!!! It's as if they're saying to LITTLE KIDS "Ok, boys can do stuff. Girls can't. But, if a girl ever needs help, she can ask a boy." Ugh. Just writing that made me want to vomit. Heads up: I am a girl. Girl. Not adult. Not woman. I, looking through my past toys, see nothing like that. I know, even now, that I wouldn't buy a stupid "ring rattle" for my baby daughter. Just to prove it, I'd probably buy the hammer one instead,

May 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

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