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Beyond Pink and Blue: Gender Roles in Childhood

British toy store Harrods has recently undergone some major changes. Instead of the standard aisles  separated “pink for girls” and “blue for boys,” Harrods has broken the store into 6 “worlds” where toys are separated by categories, not genders. “Who cares?” some might ask. But this is part of a larger shift in marketing that I believe has the power to change our society’s deep-seated feelings about gender roles.

Gender non-conforming children have been a media buzz for the past few months. Willow Smith got a buzz cut, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt “wears boy clothes” – what is the world coming to?!? Parents, educators and anyone with a laptop have weighed in on the color-coding and gender segregation of childhood. Questions have been asked and dissected about gender, gender expectations, gender non-conformity and how it effects children of all ages.

Books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter illustrates how princesses, female sexualization, fashion and beauty expectations have saturated the girl children’s market with toys that are stifling girls creativity, experiences and perceived choices for their future. Along the same lines, boys are trained from birth through the media to be tough, “manly”, physically strong and muscular and are bombarded with violent toys at earlier and earlier ages.

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