Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Early Learning Centre's Ridiculous Sexism

Now then look, I'm not one of those who finds sexism lurking everywhere. I know it still exists big-time but I always found it very tedious when women went round spelling it "wimmin" so it didn't have the word "men" in it oh yawn yawn yawn.

BUT SOMETIMES!!! Arrrgh! And tonight is one of them. Ailbhe put a link on Facebook to the Early Learning Centre's website and their dressing-up clothes and there was this:

"For the little princess in the family we have great feminine outfits like Butterfly Fairy, Sleeping Beauty, Ballerina and Nurse’s uniform. Why not add a medical case for that extra touch of authenticity.

The boys are catered for too, with great Doctor, Policeman & Fireman uniforms, not to mention fantastic Pirate and Knight costumes. All these can be combined with a range of accessories so your child will really look the part."

This is from a shop that isn't any ordinary toyshop, oh no, it's the Early Learning Centre with that self-righteous aura of "make your child more clever than the thicko next door with our thrilling educational toys".

I'm not trying to stop girls dressing up as nurses or boys as firemen - of course not! But, for goodness' sake, why can't dressing-up costumes just be for anyone who wants to wear them, whatever their gender? Why do they have to be quite so gender-specific?

And as for the old, tired idea that the nurse is female and the doctor is male - - well, a glance round any medical school these days will show that a far greater percentage of doctors are female. I'm just pointing out that this sales blurb is the kind of thing that was about when I was a child and how dare an organisation calling itself the Early Learning Centre have this rubbish on their website?

I'd email them to complain - - but I can't find an email address on the site either. Grrrr.

And it's not that I wanted to play with "boys' toys" and wasn't allowed to - - oh no, almost all my play consisted of taking my dolls out to camp in the garden, feeding them and putting them to bed. I would never have become an engineer, oh no.


Anonymous jay said...

I was one of those poor, misunderstood girls who wanted to play with boy's toys and wasn't allowed to. But (though I'm totally against political correctness and 'wimmin' etc) I still think it's ridiculous.

Why couldn't my daughter (supposing I had one) be a pirate's wench if she wanted to? I feel cheated on her non-existent behalf!

10:47 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

I got it via

11:12 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

That is appalling and I am surprised that with today's gender discrimination legislation any organisation is allowed to get away with such blatant sexism. Gender stereotyping starts from the moment a child is born, ELC is reinforcing it. Perhaps they think they are preparing children for the cruelty of adult life.

11:22 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

I think it's the 'serving to increase their long-term confidence' bit that really takes the biscuit! As long as they only want to be a fairy-princess or a nurse when they grow up, of course (coming from a female engineer here...).

11:34 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

Contact them here:

They *promise* to reply within 24 hours!

11:55 pm  
Anonymous Gareth said...

@Jay: How about not a pirate's wench, but a pirate herself? Anne Bonny perhaps?

12:03 am  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

Tsk, Gareth. Boys grow into men, who become doctors. Girls marry doctors. Boys grow into men who become pirates. Girls become pirates' sidekicks (better clothes than doctors' wives, less job security, a bit more syph). Later, girls have babies and become women.

And the mothers of girls spend a deal of time simmering in barely-contained volcanos of rage.

(Spamfilter word: props).

11:48 am  
Anonymous jay said...

@ Gareth - Oh, but there are a lot of little girls of ... oh, I dunno, fifty or so ... who'd love to be a pirate's wench, providing the pirate was Cap'n Jack Sparrow! I'm being slightly facetious here, because I don't believe in the sexualisation of young children and the pirate wench costume would definitely fit into that category.

I guess my point is that some little girls might still want to be the female counterpart, but it doesn't have to be a princess or a ballerina or a nurse instead of a doctor. There should be some female dressing up outfits that reflect this, as well as the more obvious female doctor, female firefighter, female police officer, which some might see as competing for the traditionally male role, just because they can.

At this young age they can use the basic outfit, rather than have one specially designated as 'female' since mostly, women in those roles don't have a skirt or dress alternative which they must wear, but simply a feminine cut version of the masculine one - and it would be simple to sell them as such just by labelling them unisex - which is what they should be doing. But little girls who still want to be girly (and there are plenty of them) may want a step up from the Disney ideal of princess etc.

Perhaps we should also be considering labelling traditionally girly toys as unisex also - or just failing to specify? I know my poor gay cousin had a hideous childhood because of his orientation. Anything that smacked of the slightest whiff of feminity was Banned, with a capital B. :( Life would be so much easier for children like that if it were socially more acceptable for boys to play with dolls and make up?

6:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I can see now where I went 'wrong'. G had a playhouse and a doll when he asked for one, and J's first fancy dress outfit was a pirate - tho she was too young to have a choice!

10:45 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

We should all march on the Early Learning Centres, smash their windows and ransack the shelves... but you go first dear. Joking apart, in this day and age your criticism is most apposite.

12:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly an emotive subject.
I confess I brought my boys up as boys... and would have brought my girls up as boys too. The men of the species seem to have the odds stacked in their favour.

9:06 am  
Anonymous Gareth said...

@Jay:Sorry, it's difficult to tell over the Internet!

@Mum: Aha! I see your point! Clearly it was the wrong thing to do. Boys with playhouses end up marrying men. FACT!

12:11 am  
Blogger Kate said...

I wanted to be Maid Marion, but they gave the dress to my sister and I had to go as Robin Hood. [sob]

12:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my gripe at pre-school, and as Equality & Diversity Named Co-ordinator I'm paid for it to be my gripe - but I'm dragging the established staff into the 21st century kicking and screaming. The boys all dress up as action man/soldiers/firemen, the unisex nurse uniform is never in sight, and a boy who dressed up in a nurse's dress was told by one who shall remain nameless "if you were my son, I'd be seriously worried!"
Which was sooo wrong, for soo many reasons, that for a couple of seconds before I waded in, I was speechless. And THAT takes some doing.

9:46 pm  

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