Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Girls are “passive princesses” while boys save the day, according to this kids’ shop

elc-gender-stereotyping.jpg

Unless you’re a parent yourself, you probably haven’t had cause to think about the Early Learning Centre since you were about… ooh, six years old. But the iconic British children’s retailer has suddenly found itself at the centre of a heated debate about gender stereotyping – and it’s not backing down.

The ELC, as it is known, has been slammed for a recent online marketing campaign that presents girls and boys in an acutely gendered light.

In the email advertisement, which was picked up by gender-neutral toy campaign Let Toys Be Toys, three little girls are shown dressed up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and “Brianna the Ballerina”.  

Their male counterparts, meanwhile, are depicted wearing traditionally ‘male’ costumes: Spiderman, a doctor, and a “Wise Wizard”.


Read more: Meet the 11-year-old feminist bloggers fighting sexism online


More troubling that the costumes alone, however, is the fairy tale narrative ascribed to the young characters in the advertisement.

“Once upon a time,” reads the copy, “Belle and Cinderella [were] all ready to go to the ball when Spiderman flew in from out of nowhere!”

The wizard (who, lest we forget, is very very wise) tries to warn the girls that Spiderman is “super fast” – but to no avail. “Brianna the Ballerina had a tumble! Uh-oh!”

Fortunately for the hapless girls, “Danny the Doctor” was on hand to “save the day with his medical case”.

Megan Perryman of Let Toys Be Toys said that the marketing campaign “promotes gender stereotypes that girls need to be rescued by boys.

“It is very binary and we believe there are many ways for girls to play,” she said. “This email does not reflect how children actually play.”


Read more: New research explains why little girls need reminding of their own brilliance


Perryman said that Let Toys Be Toys had had “very pleasant and productive” meetings with some of the ELC’s major rivals, including Toys R Us and The Entertainer, to discuss how they can reduce stereotypes in their products.

The ELC, in contrast, has so far refused to meet with representatives from the campaign group, and has ignored all correspondence from them since 2013.

On Twitter, many people expressed their disappointment and frustration that gender stereotypes were still being promoted by children’s shops.

Perhaps sensing a social media firestorm brewing, the ELC released a statement insisting that the store features “both boys and girls playing with many different toys and dressing-up outfits” in their marketing material.

A spokesperson for the store said: “At Early Learning Centre our aim is to offer a wide enough range to appeal to the many different tastes and play interests of little ones.”

A quick look at the ELC’s website does reveal a photo of a little boy wearing a hairdresser’s belt and a girl photographed carrying a blue “explorer kit”. However, the vast majority of their dressing-up costumes are shown in a distinctly gendered light.

superhero

Children's ideas about what is 'appropriate' for each gender start forming at a very young age, research has shown.

It’s important to push back against stereotypes like those shown in the ELC’s marketing campaign, because research has shown that children of both genders can be influenced by such ideas from a very young age.

Girls as young as six are often convinced that boys are more innately gifted or smart than them, according to one recent study published in the journal Science.

Other research indicates that children have developed very clear ideas about what jobs are ‘suitable’ for boys and girls by the time they reach late primary age – and these beliefs can be very difficult to shake later in life.

So come on, retailers. Let’s start seeing a few more girl doctors and superheroes, as well as some more male ballerinas and princes. It might just make the world a better place for everyone.

Images: ELC, iStock

Related

teens school 3.jpg

Learning to fly: meet the teen girls battling a culture of bias

iStock-482662389.jpg

It's official: we prefer our pets to our siblings

disney princesses.jpg

Disney Princess culture is harmful to young girls, study claims

More

Colin the Caterpillar has been given a cute Christmas makeover

We only just got over Halloween Colin – now Santa Colin is in town

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Sep 2017

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is conjuring up a seriously dark TV reboot

But who will play everyone’s favourite half-witch?

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Sep 2017

Elisabeth Moss isn’t done with powerful dramas about women’s rights

Call Jane is set to be as relevant for Trump's America as its 60s setting

by Amy Swales
20 Sep 2017

Why we all think we’re the least popular one in our group of friends

If you believe everyone’s hanging out without you, you’re not alone

by Moya Crockett
20 Sep 2017

Why that Doctor Foster conversation is so incredibly important

We really need to talk about last night’s episode…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Sep 2017

What is panic disorder – and do you suffer from it?

Nadiya Hussain described it as a 'monster'

by Megan Murray
20 Sep 2017

This is the one thing people would rather have than a pay rise

And it makes us a lot happier

by Susan Devaney
20 Sep 2017

Nutella's newest product sounds like all kinds of deliciousness

Nutella feasting can now happen any time, any place

by Megan Murray
20 Sep 2017

Man recreates Chandler proposal so he can ask Friends fan to marry him

And he did it in the actual Friends apartment, too

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Sep 2017

Bake Off viewers are genuinely furious over THAT ‘shock twist’ ending

“Is there no justice in this world?”

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Sep 2017