New polling by campaigning charity the Fawcett Society has uncovered widespread concern about ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ advertising by manufacturers and retailers. Mothers (63%) and fathers (60%) were equally likely to agree that product marketing reinforces gender stereotypes. But this is not limited to parents, as over half of men and women who do not have children also agreed. The new research comes as Fawcett launches an expert Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood, headed up by Director of the UCL Institute of Education, Professor Becky Francis and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, Rt Hon David Lammy MP.
This issue doesn’t just affect girls. Six in ten (59%) people polled agree that it is more acceptable for a girl to be a ‘tomboy’ than it is for a boy to be ‘feminine’. This finding was consistent across women and men, and across ages. Feeding in to the debate about ‘toxic masculinity’ in the light of the #metoo movement, 69% of men aged under 35 said that stereotypes had a damaging effect on perceptions of what it means to be a man or a woman.
The Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood will run until 2020. It will gather evidence and promote practical solutions to change childhood and change lives, and explore how gender stereotypes interact with other norms including race and class.
The 24 members of the Commission experts in parenting, education, and the commercial sector, as well as campaigners including PACEY's chief executive Liz Bayram are committed to tackling gender stereotypes.
Over the course of the year the Commission will host evidence sessions, and will be seeking input from the public, including the views of parents and teachers on the gender stereotypes they see affecting children. The consultation will be open on the Fawcett website.