No Comment: Brilliant Boy, Beautiful Girl Sexist Cards for Infants

Last Monday, Feminist Law Professors blogged about an Instagram photo posted by The New York Times‘ small business writer Adriana Gardella. The photo (left) shows how far sexist messages have reached—all the way back to infancy.

On top of the clearly stereotyped pink cards for girls and blue cards for boys, is the “insidious” (as Gardella called it) message that girls are meant to be beautiful and boys are meant to be brilliant. It’s not that girls shouldn’t be told they are beautiful, or boys told they’re brilliant, but the messages need to be interchangeable. How hard could it have been for Paper & Cloth to make a “Brilliant Baby Girl” card and a “Beautiful Baby Boy” card as well? (And maybe even use new colors that aren’t so tired out by our incessant stereotyping?) The U.K. design studio sells their products in shops throughout Europe and the U.S.

This “insidious” message is familiar and disturbing: Girls are supposed to value beauty over intelligence. Beauty does not require agency and so girls are subtly stripped of their own through such messaging. In a world where women and girls are consistently sexualized and marginalized, is it really necessary to start so young? Paper & Cloth ought to learn a lesson from Geena Davis and work toward gender equality.

David and Myra Sadker and Karen R. Zittleman said it best in their book Still Failing at Fairness:

The media floods us with restricted gender images of female beauty and male macho. Blatant sexist images inundate movies, television and advertising, but it is the even more subtle sexist messages that can shape how we view our world.

Let’s not give in to these subtle messages that girls are to be looked at and boys engaged with. Tell us what you think of these greeting cards.

Comments

  1. Oh, ew.

  2. I just had a look at Paper and Cloth’s website and their designs are adorable. Shame they ruin the lovely graphics with this dumb gender stereotyping and predictable colour schemes. Sort it out, guys!

    I’m glad my friends haven’t got to the age where they’re having children yet, because with this sort of thing populating the greetings card shop shelves I would really struggle to find something suitable. Guess I’d just have to make my own.

  3. Ugh.

    I saw a similar thing recently with regard to gender reveal parties for pregnant couples (http://www.theprettyblog.com/2011/07/boy-or-girl-gender-reveal-party/). At first, I thought it was a reasonable enough idea, despite the colour stereotyping – then I scrolled down and noticed that the invite in question starts by asking: “Astronaut or ballerina?”

    Seriously? In 2011, we don’t have room for male ballerinas or girl astronauts?

    *facepalm*

  4. All I can say: Sigh

  5. if you are so unorigional that you can’t even make your own card; don’t complain about what other people come up with. how hard is it to make a card?

    • Its not about how hard it is to make ones own card. Its about what is fed to the society! What options most wishful, smart and accomplished parents have to presents to their children. Be beautiful OR Brilliant?

  6. Changing the MARKET (which buys such things) is very difficult.

  7. If these were as labelling based on race as they are gender there would be uproar. How are we ever going to see male stay home parents and home makers as much as female, or the ridding of ridiculous views about women and mens physical beauty whilst we tolerate this?

  8. Seeing how biased the market for infants is, I’m really proud of how well my parents did, trying to decorate my room purple and my brother’s green when we were born, and avoiding these horrible things. Actually, my old balloon in the hospital just says “It’s a Baby!”

    • Would they have considered to decorate your room green and your brothers purple?

      There is not much difference in that. Purple is the closest to pink and green to blue. I think assigning a color to a gender is wrong. Why do we think a color is representing a gender and we choose it for our children?

      Why do you have to have an almost accurate guess of the gender of a child, buy knowing the colors of their room? Arent there enough girls who love and look amazing in blue, brown or green and guys who look fabulous in purple or pink?

      • Anne-Lise says:

        Because if you couldn’t, then you wouldn’t be able to accurately tell if the baby crying was sad and wanted attention and soothing (girls), or angry about sonething and needing whatever it is fixed (boys). Or, which baby wants to play with dolls (girls), and which wants to play with tools and cars (boys).

        Yes. That’s how early we start to train our kids. :-(

  9. And so it begins…the training ground for sexism and patriarchy. I agree with Sarah R’s comment that these seemingly innocuous practices reinforce gender stereotypes. Very troubling.

  10. Have definitely fallen into the ‘pink think’ and ‘blue cues’ of gender marketing over time with very little angst about it up until the last few years where merchandising/packaging has become so pronounced, proliferating and putrid in the offensive stereotypes and misrepresentation/narrowcasting. (do basketballs really need eyelashes, people?)

    Now I can’t NOT see it. It’s flippin’ EVERYwhere. I go out of my way to choose any color OTHER than these now, not because the color has meaning, but that the values assigned to the colors are becoming so stridently stretched and STUPID that I can’t bear to add complicity. Great research paper on the impact academically and psychosocially at TrueChild.org >> http://truechild.org/ReadTheResearch

  11. I guess I should say, you haven’t really come a long way, baby. Patriarchy does not wait.

  12. This post brought to mind a study of parental perceptions involving newborns of different sexes who had similar physical characteristics (weight, height, Apgar scores). Parents described the boys as firmer, stronger, more alert and possessing better co-ordination. Girls – who were the same or similar in height and weight – were described as delicate, weaker, less attentive, softer and possessing finer features.(The study was cited in the book The Courage to Raise Good Men.)

    As this study shows, gender stereotypes are so entrenched that they are reinforced almost unconsciously by parents from the moment their children are born. The cards are a symptom of this problem. They and other stereotyped items from the baby products industry perpetuate biased attitudes and may even legitimize them in the minds of some adults who may think “If cards, clothes, and baby toys refer to girls as pretty and boys as strong, then it’s okay if I do.” Talking about sexist products and refusing to buy them is a good first step toward changing attitudes. It’s an uphill battle, what with the pervasiveness of stereotypes in kids’ products, but one worth waging.

  13. Antoinette says:

    Cards are an insidious display of gender inequality!

  14. Male privilege is so deep and insidious that even enlightened couples practice it. Consider this sentence in the article:

    “David and Myra Sadker and Karen R. Zittleman said it best in their book Still Failing at Fairness . . .”

    Note that David was mentioned before Myra (and of course, Myra took his name).

    I ALWAYS mention the woman’s name first because I expect her to be a respected leader in the relationship. Putting the woman’s name second, especially since she is still expected to take their husband’s name, adds insult to injury.

  15. I agree that these stereotypes are harmful and should not be perpetuated. What I find particularly odd is that anyone would think to use “brilliant” to describe a baby. I would call an idea brilliant, an adult (of any sex) brilliant, or an insightful artwork brilliant. These things are capable of being complex or perceptive or innovative enough to merit the word.

    Babies, whether boy or girl, don’t do anything “brilliant.” A “brilliant baby girl” sounds just as odd to me as a “brilliant baby boy.” Unless, of course, brilliant here means something similar to radiant. Perhaps it was the case that the card authors wanted a male analogue for “beautiful,” couldn’t settle on “handsome” or “cute,” and so went for “brilliant” in the shiny sense.

    If that were the case, the issue would not be not whether we have different personality expectations for male and female infants, but rather why we are squeamish at the thought of a boy being “beautiful.”

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