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Australian Minister for Women: “Let boys be boys and girls be girls”

We’ve covered Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and his, shall we say, less than feminist ideas, before. Abbott has declared himself a feminist, but this week, the PM made some comments that suggest he should re-read — ok, fine, read – his Judith Butler. 

Right now in Australia, a Green Party Senator, along with a group called Play Unlimited (“Every toy for every body”) has launched a campaign that takes aim at the gendering of children’s toys — just in time for Christmas. The campaign is called No Gender December, and their slogan is “Stereotypes have no place under my Christmas tree.”

No Gender December is a campaign to raise awareness about how marketing that tells kids that some toys are “for them” or “not for them” — and giving or withholding toys that reinforce those cultural rules — “limits our children’s right to determine their own idea of fun.” And they’re calling on gift-giving adults to take a pledge to ignore gendered marketing and to let their kids play with any toy they choose.

It’s 2014. Gender roles are still reinforced by marketing. When children’s interests are channelled to follow outdated gender stereotypes it impacts their future educational and career choices. Women mow lawns, men push prams… we’ve moved on: why haven’t toy companies?

Play Unlimited argues that kids, like adults, absorb gendered marketing and learn early whether they’re allowed to show interest in particular toys. “Some take this ‘knowledge’ into the playground, where they quickly chastise any child who demonstrates an interest in the ‘wrong’ colour or toy for their gender.” And, they argue, kids will mute their own interest in toys so that adults don’t chastise them and kids don’t bully them.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters argues that there’s even more at stake than schooling, career choices, and bullying: the seeds we plant in play can blossom into gender inequality in more serious, and more dangerous ways.

The separate aisles of pink and blue common in many stores might seem harmless, especially to well-meaning relatives and friends, who are buying plenty of children’s gifts at this time of the year… Out-dated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women, perpetuate gender inequality, which can feed into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.

So, what does the Prime Minister, a self-proclaimed feminist, have to say about all this?

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.

Did I mention that he’s also the nation’s Minister for Women?

The guy is actually coming out in favor of withholding toys from children, and he’s doing it in the name of resisting “political correctness.” At Christmas time, he’s going on the record as keeping toys out of the hands of children, because he’s against the radical notion that you should consider how your words and actions impact other people rather than honey badgering your way through life, other people’s needs be damned. Jesus didn’t advocate that kind of soft-sided caring-about-other-people nonsense, so why would practicing Catholic Tony Abbott?

Someone get this guy a Neanderthal Scrooge costume for Christmas. And make it gender neutral.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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