This proposal, whose photos here linked are only a sample of a larger project, focus on toys as a vehicle for gender stereotypes.
The idea was born in a toy shop: a grandmother, looking for a Christmas gift for her granddaughter, went to the shop assistant asking for informations on what she was holding. “Madam, this is a planetarium”, replied the saleswoman, “it’s more like a boy’s toy, girls do not care about the stars”. And she directed the granny to a huge pink wall full of dolls, make up stuff, cleaning accessories.
Just as the little Gertrude (in “the Betrothed”, Manzoni’s novel) has to play with a nun-doll to prepare herself for her future as “the nun of Monza”, today we give our sons and daughters toys that even more than 30-40 years ago we obsess to characterize as “for males” and “for females”. Toys that should define roles and perceptions of the world.
For example, Lego in the 70s was proud in its advertising to present bricks as unisex, since “fantasy has no gender”; today it divides in “for girls” and “for boys bricks and settings “.
Every stereotype is a simplification: the problem is not that a girl may want a doll and a boy a construction game, but the limit in the exploration of new possibilities, new talents and new adventures.
Accomplice the crisis of values and classic roles, typical of the complex current era, we see a return of a certain conservatism that is rather functional to this kind of toy industry marketing: it rigorously paints the toy boxes in pink or blue, directing purchases for gender. This is how a planetarium becomes a “male” toy, together with the games of construction and intelligence that mainly show images of little boys on the packagings; this is how games of care, domestic affairs and “beauty” remain the prerogative of little girls. And this still happens despite the social changes, where young men, in addition to the traditional roles, also want to be loving fathers and independent men in domestic management, and new women willingly access all that stuff that were once prerogative of men, nor they disdain to make home repairs and car care.
All of this happens without being “less a woman” or “less a man”.
This is the sense given to the exhibited toys.
The will to provoke a sort of “short circuit” in the spectator, who can immediately notice how much our eyes are already educated to the lenses of these stereotypes.
The role reversal is only appearance.
This is not the change that is suggested, as it would remain within a dual system where every gender corresponds to only one opportunity. What it is important, instead, is to bring the reflexion on the opening of various possibilities of being, traditional or not.
The presented toys want to make visible something that is officially kept hidden. They do it with a bit of irony but with a concrete reference to the real life they might want as the adults they will be. It is possible that little girls adore the adventure as much as putting a lipstick, that the girls feel pleasure in feeling capable of repairing a broken faucet or chandelier, that they want to pilot an airplane when they grow up as much as being a show girl.
It is possible that boys like to think of themselves as careful fathers, that can conceive a masculinity not in contradiction with the care of their body and that contemplates being as much independent as possible, even in domestic care.
“To expand” rather than “to contract”. “To open” instead of “to close in a unique model”. Paying attention to the signals that come from the unique personality of our little boys and girls, remembering that this is the greatest gift that we, as educators, can give them: supporting them in being as independent as possible.
Too often we define as “nature” what is only “culture”.
Photos: Angelo Demitri Morandini