Minister for Women Rejects No Gender December

In another stunning example of ill informed commentary, our PM and Minister for Women has said: 

“I certainly don’t believe in that kind of political correctness. Let boys be boys, let girls be girls – that’s always been my philosophy…Above all else, let parents do what they think is in the best interests of their children.” 

This was in response to the No Gender December Campaign, which seeks to highlight the fact that the Toy industry, along with toy retailers, are continuing to promote gender stereotypes that research has shown to be harmful.

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We live in a country where the Gender Pay Gap has increased and where the oft quoted figure of one woman per week dying due to domestic violence has already been well and truly exceeded this year.

Gender stereotypes are harmful to men and to women. The United Nations acknowledges this and even goes so far as to state:

International human rights law places a legal obligation on States to eliminate discrimination against women and men in all areas of their lives. This obligation requires States to take measures to address gender stereotypes both in public and private life as well as to refrain from stereotyping. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provides in its article 5 that, “State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customs and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.” Other human rights treaties also require States Parties to address harmful stereotypes and the practice of stereotyping. For example, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also contains in article 8(1)(b) obligates States to stereotypes and stereotyping, including compounded stereotypes and stereotyping based on gender and disability.

Yet our Minister for Women and illustrious leader misses the point entirely. This doesn’t surprise me, because 2 years in I’m unfortunately used to the Minister for Women and his cronies being a bunch of sexist arses prone to saying things that are not terribly clever.

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The fact that gender neutral toy sections don’t exist in major stores and that gender neutral toys are not readily available appears not to have registered, so while many parents know what is best for their kids, it’s not always easy to put it into practice and this campaign seeks to change that.

This campaign is not about preventing boys from playing with traditionally “boyish” toys, or preventing girls from playing with traditionally “girlish” toys- it’s about removing gender from toys– no girls and boys sections, gender neutral advertising and packaging.

This little guy and his doll featured in a post I wrote some time back on this issue.

The campaign is being supported by Greens MP Larissa Waters, though genius Liberal back-bencher Cory Bernardi has attributed entirely to her, saying:

“Frankly, I think [Waters has] consumed too much Christmas eggnog to come up with an idea like this…To say you’re giving a boy a truck or a hammer is somehow leading to domestic violence and gender pay gaps is simply bizarre.”

Yep, all her idea and one she came up with while drunk. Never mind the fact that he clearly doesn’t understand the concept (let alone who is running the campaign- Play Unlimited, who you can visit here) which is “simply bizarre”. Terminology like this is often used to try to shut down discussion and discredit people airing concerns- something our government seems fond of.

If a boy still wants to play with toy cars, then he should be allowed to do so, of course. If he also wants to play with a doll or a toy vacuum cleaner- that should be fine too. There should be no shame around choice of toy for boys or for girls.

Essentially, let toys be toys and let kids be exposed to a wide variety of things so they can play with whatever the hell they want to, without fear or shaming.

If this means they grow up to be more inclusive adults, if this means there is even the slightest chance that this will lead to a society where people are not limited or actively victimised because of their gender, whats so terrible about that?

Further Reading-

On the relationship between Domestic Violence and Gender Stereotyping:

Systemic Barriers:Gender Socialisation

Avert Family Violence: Dimensions, Dynamics and Impact of Family Violence

Other good reads:

Biology Doesn’t Justify Gender Divide for Toys

Gender Marketing Must Stop

Let Toys Be Toys

Why Violence Against Women and Girls Happens

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