In 2020, why are water bottles sending our kids sexist messages about gender roles?

The water bottles in question. Photo: Supplied
The water bottles in question. Photo: Supplied 

Although I am trying to raise my children to believe they can do whatever they want to do in all aspects of their lives, regardless of gender, I'm aware I'm battling myriad messages that bombard them daily.

They hear a range of views from YouTubers, ads, friends, and who knows where else – but I never expected my parenting approach to be undermined by a pair of water bottles.

It all started innocently enough, when my children needed new water bottles for our new home schooling set-up. Where have the other dozen or so water bottles gone that I've bought in the past six months? Your guess is as good as mine.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

My partner picked up a pair of water bottles from the supermarket while he was grocery shopping and brought them home for my son, nine, and my daughter, seven.

One water bottle, which was turquoise with orange, blue and purple bands around it was quickly claimed by my daughter, while the other, which was dark blue, with black, orange and green bands was happily taken by my son.

But it was the messages on the water bottles that made me catch my breath. On my daughter's new water bottle were the messages "dream big" and "good vibes"; and on my son's water bottle were the messages "power" and "winning".

Why did my daughter prefer the softer colours and my son favour the darker colours? That's a whole other article, but it would be naïve to think these water bottles haven't been marketed at girls and boys specifically.

So the messages these water bottles are sending our children are that girls should spend their time dreaming and feeling – that is, being passive and hopeful that things will work out but not speaking up or actively pursuing anything.

Because we all know good girls are quiet and happy and undemanding.


Boys, on the other hand, should be all about action and taking, according to these opinionated water bottles. Take power, they say, and make sure you win.

Because there's nothing worse for boys than being a loser, right?

Yes, I know they're just water bottles, but no, I won't relax about it, and I'll tell you why.

These messages are everywhere. Our children aren't necessarily bombarded with them on a daily basis any more, but they are certainly exposed to them all the time.

Their insidiousness lies in their innocuousness – so that when people like me arc up about them, we sound a bit ranty and a bit mad.

But I don't care about sounding ranty and mad, because I don't subscribe to the feminine drink bottle ethos of politely manifesting what I want and hoping that will be enough.

As a parent who is trying to raise kids who feel free to be themselves, it's my job to speak up.

These little expectations put on our kids are like a death by a thousand cuts. What if my son doesn't win at much? What if my daughter is unhappy about the status quo and wants to change the world? What if my daughter wants to feel powerful, and my son wants to dream big?

No, say the water bottles, that's not how things work. Know your place; understand your gender role and don't rock the boat. Be a square peg for that square hole we've built you. It's easier for everyone that way.

In 2020, this feels like such a tired, lazy marketing approach. So please, just stick to the business of making a bottle my kids can drink their water from, and leave the life lessons to the parents.