The hidden messages of gendered-language in children’s learning

July  8, 2013

Why do girls get glitter, hair, and fluff while boys can have money, cars, and trees?
In an article for New Statesman, a weekly publication on cultural, political and current affairs published in Britain, writers Rhiannon Lucy Cosslert and Holly Baxter call attention to a set of refrigerator magnets designed to help young girls and boys learn new words—words children are likely to see frequently at various age levels and can learn to recognize in a way that’s fun.  Although some sets of magnets can be purchased that feature general words that all children are likely to encounter, other sets are packaged and marketed specifically for either boys or girls (just as we saw with gendered toys).  The authors comment: “As an example of how cradle-to-grave marketing works, you couldn’t ask for better.”    Cosslert and Baxter go on to point out that “Perhaps  what’s most depressing about the fridge magnets is how active the boys’ ones are (climbing, running, swinging) and how passive the girls’, whose only doing word is ‘cooking'” The words in the photos of these respective refrigerator magnets say a great deal about the kinds of gender-based messages children receive, conditioning them for stereotyped gender roles.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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