The infamous magnets.
In a post-feminist world, where the victories of the women’s movement have seen progress in equality for women in pay, opportunity and expectation; where a female Prime Minister stands before us and when we’ve finally achieved a federal government paid Maternity Leave scheme, it would be easy to believe the hard yards are behind us.
Under the guise of “National Literacy Words” a UK company has released “Girls and Boys Talk Magnets”. No, they are not talking magnets - which would be vastly more intriguing - they are gender specific words which are “fun and encourage reading through play.” I had to check the calendar when I stumbled across these gems. It is 2011, right?
Take a look if you’re game.
It stands to reason that boys would only need to learn words that enhance their masculinity like “mud” “dirt” “football” and “spiders”, with my personal favourite “money” which was blatantly absent from the girls list. Instead our little pink princesses can aspire to “sparkle” and “glitter” while “skipping” and chasing “bunnies” wearing “tiaras” and “diamonds” only to return home for the all-important tasks of “cooking” and applying “lipstick”.
“Love” was a particularly captivating omission in the boys set. We wouldn’t like them to experience the joy of love, the strong emotion that can often render one weak at the knees, for that may shrink their manhood.
Oh, how this magnet set has embodied everything I wish for my daughter and my sons. Heaven forfend my children would read the same words, extending their vocabulary beyond gender stereotypes.
I’ve thought of some alternatives of my own, which I think give them a much clearer view of this world of gender specific literacy, with plenty of ambitious options for them to aim.
For the Girls
- glass ceiling
- skanky ho
- gold digger
- Size 8
- bad driver
For the Boys
- cry baby
- chick magnet
- Lamborghini (just because it is difficult to spell)
To be honest, I’m fairly nonchalant about political correctness. I think we have paddled so far in the ocean of inoffensive that the sea has lost its waves. As a result, I’m pretty hard to offend.
I’m also not a ditsy, pink-loving, fairy-toting chick who is unable to recognise that boys and girls, men and women are different. Equity is about fairness and representation on equal standards, not about being the same.
But these magnets have me gobsmacked. Aside from the glaring and painful stereotyping, are we so shallow and limited in our vocabulary that of the sheer volume of amazing words available to us, this is the sum of what we can come up with for our children?
More concerning, have we learnt nothing from the masses of literature that illustrate the impact – both positive and negative - of language on growing brains?
I would rather infiltrate my young children’s’ minds with egalitarian gender roles, desires for learning and extending knowledge, for intelligence and a hunger for words.
Limiting choices through discrimination, portraying women as passive observers who use their feminine guiles to manipulate strong, adventuresome, admirable and intelligent men is, apart from so incredibly sexist, just plain boring.
Surely, in 2011, we’re past all this? Tell us what you think of consumer sexism in the EK forums.