Saturday, February 15, 2014

Disney Babies: Stereotyped From Birth

It's always interesting to me how prevalent gender stereotypes still remain in our modern day.  Parents easily fall into this trap as the "pink or blue" binary is shoved in their faces throughout pregnancy and their child's early years.  Beginning with the exhilarating gender reveal, family members and outsiders are incredibly quick to label the unborn or just-born and proclaim what their ideals for them are.  "He's such a little troublemaker!" and "she's so precious!" are common themes when talking about babies of opposite genders.  These expectations shape how we treat them and how they see themselves over time.  One significant difference is the idea that boys are active and girls are passive.  You can see one example of this in one of my earlier posts.  Much of the time even baby clothing stores perpetuate these themes as well, and the Disney Store is no different.

I've pulled some images of baby and toddler clothes to illustrate my point.  Here's a bunch of boy's clothing, which all include "active" phrases, reinforcing the fact that these guys are expected to be on-the-move, mischievous, but not known for their looks or gentler qualities.

"Future hero"

"Catch me if you can!"

"Unstoppable (Since 1928)"

"#1 Slugger"

"Rebel Rouser"

"Play all night!"

And for the little girls, the passive traits are just as prevalent.  They're expected to be charming, pretty, and not too ambitious.  Activities are not important, but wearing pink certainly is.

"Sweet Memories"

"I need my beauty sleep!"

"Shining Star"

"Super sweet"

"Bundle of joy"

"Little day dreamer"

"Sweet little bear"

The colors are just as disheartening.  Did you know that until the 1950s, pink was a boy's color and blue was for girls?  The idea was that pink was a softer hue of red, which was the most masculine color at the time.  Funny how we the tables have turned.  These days the pink vs. blue binary is just as hard to avoid as the gender binary.  The message is that you can be one but not the other.  It's almost impossible to find boy onesies with passive phrases or vice versa.

Or so I thought!

Take a look at these honorable mentions.  Little gems among the masses of heteronormativity, Disney managed to come up with a few original concepts with more room for flexibility.

"I'm all ears"

"Rodeo star"

"Let the adventure begin…"

Even so, it still seems easier and more acceptable for girls to fit into more masculine roles than for boys to venture outside the expectations society has set for them.  This double standard follows kids throughout life as well, as it's more acceptable for girls to dress like guys than guys to dress like girls.  Once again I postulate that Disney has plenty of diverse stories and characters that leave room for girls and boys to explore, and I think if they tried to loosen the molds the consumer public would eat it right up.
What about you, lovely readers?  …Err, playful and action-taking readers!  Any-and-all-of-the-above readers!  What characters or themes would you like to see on baby clothes that challenge the social norms?  My idea is Lilo and Stitch together for both boys and girls.  Both characters are lovable AND mischievous, just like many kiddos I know :)

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