My business partner Susie told me that her two-year-old granddaughter doesn’t like Minnie Mouse but likes Mickey Mouse. But the child’s mother is very frustrated because she can’t find any girls’ clothes with Mickey Mouse. All the girls’ clothes have Minnie Mouse.
Luckily I was already exercising on the treadmill so I didn’t have to take out my anger on anything else. “I’ve been fighting this battle for 27 years,” I said to Susie. “And things don’t change.”
This gender stereotyping is so wrong and so pervasive. Years and years ago I wrote to Lego explaining that, if they only showed pictures of boys on the Lego boxes and on the tv commercials, the company would achieve a self-fulfilling prophecy that only boys wanted to play with the Lego block sets.
Of course my letter didn’t make any impact on Lego. And the marketing gurus of Lego continued to address my younger daughter with a boy’s name when she sent for the free Lego offers.
And then Lego brought out pastel-colored Legos targeted at girls, which as I recall bombed. (Who wants to build interesting structures in pastel-colors?) My daughter bought numerous castle sets (she later fenced saber and majored in Medieval/Renaissance literature at college) along with other sets targeted only at boys.
And, yes, I know that Lego and Disney marketing gurus can probably point to studies that “prove” that there aren’t enough girls interested in Mickey Mouse clothes or Lego building kits to warrant changing their “business as usual” models. But I did learn in my statistics class in Wharton’s MBA program that you can set up a survey in a specific way to get a specific result if you understand the mechanics of survey questions.
So there’s no excuse for these gender-stereotyping products except the prejudices (and I do mean prejudices) of the marketing people making the decisions (aided and abetted by their advertising agencies). I do so hope that in the transparent world of Web 2.0 some of these things will finally begin to change.