You can be Barbie! (18 September 2017)

As the late-to-the-game father of twin boys, now five years’ old, I have been re-subjected – after a long interim – to the wonders of children’s TV. I have seen, literally, the boys through In the Night Garden, Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam, My Little Pony, Scooby Doo and, now, Tom & Jerry (they prefer the originals, bless them), Lady Bug and the omnipresent Power Rangers. My own favourite, Masha and the Bear, was never a must-watch for them, but they did tolerate my addiction; alas, no more.

However, I have been interested, amazed – horrified (tut-tut) – by the scale and nature of advertising on children’s TV. I would estimate at least 10 minutes of every 30; probably more, incessantly pushing TV spin-offs which, from viewings in the local toy shop, come with unfeasibly high price tags.

After what seems a life-time working in the context of gender equality, I note also with a sinking heart that (again, an estimate) 80% of adverts are aimed at girls, pushing pink things – always pink – non-stop. I also wonder at the marketing of “life like” baby dolls who pee and poo “realistically”. Do girls really need this conditioning so young – if at all?

But I’m guessing there will be some, maybe many, who disagree with me; some of them stand at the same school gates! Ho-hum…..

What stands out for me, though, is the ads for Barbie, and the slogan: “You can be anything”. Really?

It is, of course, meant to be inspiring, to remove psychological barriers to behaviour for girls exposed to gender stereotyping by toys like, er…..Barbie?

For me, the coaching question would be: what do you want to be? Keep the questions open, challenge, offer examples; but the young person must own the answer, and it must be based – to some extent, at least – on what is possible and what that person wants.

But the Power Rangers are fighting Fury over world domination, so I must leave you now…..

All the best

Graham
 

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