FWIW, I have another reason/explanation: individualism. That is, the idea that one person can stand against society or circumstance, and if you fail to resist it, it’s your fault.
In this case, you as a parent are (supposedly) able to fend off gender policing. If your kid internalizes sexist and/or gender stereotyping, it’s because you as a parent have failed to do what you should have done (whatever that is.)
Not to be confused with its older brother: “you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, (=> if you’re poor, it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough.) Or its older sister: “you wouldn’t have gotten raped if you’d taken all the right precautions.”
I think that this is what you’ve been labeling “neoliberalism” (but I might be misunderstanding something.)
Yes to this – the notion that it’s on individuals to create change by buying the right things instead of challenging the whole system as communities. It’s related to the reasons we’re encouraged to recycle to “do our part” for the planet, instead of being encouraged to mobilize politically to create and enforce legislation that would lead to real change.
The desire to have our children fit in, at whatever cost, is a huge one that parents don’t often talk about. I wouldn’t buy my daughter a Bratz doll, but if she thinks she’ll get teased for wearing her brother’s hand-me-downs, I am likely to get her a new shirt or two. Maybe even in pink.
I’m not surprised that so many parents still opt in to the whole gendered toy/clothes thing. I’ve just had my first baby and a lot of my friends are also pregnant/new parents. It is astounding how often I encounter crazy gendered explanations (from rational and intelligent people!) for all sorts of behaviour e.g. girls like cuddling more than boys; boys are slower developers; boys love boobs so are voracious breastfeeders. These beliefs are self fulfilling because the parents believe it and make it true. So there is little motivation for parents to try to change buying habits etc. – they are happy to buy two pink and blue versions of the same thing because it reinforces their world view. And corporations are happy to keep it that way.
My child is now a teenager, and I look back and think how in the world did my feminist self buy her Bratz dolls? Even though I have been an advocate of equality my entire life, I still fell for many ultra gendered products.
Your article allows me to forgive myself, thank you. An individual really can only do so much and I got tired of fighting stereotypes. Most children crave fitting in and even if you restrict televison and movies, they want things they in the stores and that other kids have.
One bright note is that her 7 year old brother has played with those Bratz boy and girl dolls with me for years and is just now losing interest.