In her guest post for the Let Toys Be Toys campaign (linked above), Kirsty Hopley, co-founder of Child’s Eyes, connects the gender-specific toys, books and media which children see and receive, often from birth, and the heavily sexualized media they ingest. Boys and girls are forced into damaging stereotypes – for example, boys are to be strong and girls are to be sweet – and the sex-saturated messages they receive only reinforce these dangerous, short-sighted representations of what it means to be male and female.
Speaking on the media’s influence on a child’s perception of men and women, Kirsty writes (linked above):
…children see women portrayed on the front of magazines, in music videos, on TV being admired or judged for the way they look. They see men in the same media dressed in clothes being admired or judged for what they do.
Children see media in supermarkets and newsagents screaming gender segregation in the same way as toy and book marketing, yet in a sexual way. Scantily-clad women next to clothed men on most widely circulated tabloids. ‘Big Boob special’ in the men’s section but visible to children, rape on all of the prominent women’s mags and body shaming on the rest.
Men’s media and tabloids contain an abundance of women for sexual pleasure and popular women’s media portrays women as items to be fixed or sensationally reports on the myriad of ways in which women are sexually abused by men.
What we end up with if we, as a society, allow commercialism to dictate gender roles so stringently, is a norm where each gender ‘others’ the other. In ‘other’ words, each side does not view each other as the same type of human with the same feelings. Different, not equal.