Hacking Princess Culture

For any new parent (or at least those with girls) one of the many issues to confront is the issue of gender identity. Even before they can walk, little boys and girls are assailed with ideas of what it means to be a member of either gender. As someone whose first child had a house filled with Disney Princesses, and now can hear the sounds of the second conducting a Transformers battle in the playroom, I know this all too well. With the best of intentions, both parents and children are swayed by centuries-old ideas of what boys and girls are supposed to be.

Against this backdrop, a range of people are trying to disrupt traditional ideas of gender. We were pleased to hear a panel including Lindsey Shepard from Goldieblox, the toy maker whose mission is to inspire the next generation of female engineers; and Sarah Dewitt who has launched and run the highly awarded PBS Interactive for kids.

They revealed an array of frightening statistics:

  • In children’s TV and cinema, female characters are outnumbered 3:1
  • The ‘pink aisle’ in the toy store is worth over $41bn
  • Age 8 is a typical fall-out period from science and math for girls

The solutions to this are not apparent, and one thing the panel generally couldn’t answer was what proportion of the gender divide is due to nature rather than nurture. However, there are certainly green shoots:

  • Goldieblox is becoming a hit, with a message that appeals to a latent desire for parents to empower their girls – their savvy use of viral video racked up 1m sales in 3 days, eventually leading to a Superbowl campaign
  • As Geena Davis famously said “If she can see it, she can be it” – and this has been proven by the ‘CSI Effect’ – since CSI went on to heavy rotation, the proportion of girls graduating in forensics has risen 64%
  • Young girls are equally at home in the online world of Minecraft

Securing an equal start in life for boys and girls has to be an important task for our society, and with the tools at our disposal, we can learn to market our way towards equality.