My friend, writer Deborah Siegel, recently started a new Pinterest board: Tots in Genderland. The board came about as Deborah researched for her TEDx talk, “Born That Way?” on children and gender. The photos/links over at Tots in Genderland cause us to examine how we view toddlers and young kids through a gender lens – whether it be through presentation (hair, clothes, etc…) or toys/marketing.
Deborah invited me to pin to the board and of course I said yes, as this is right up my alley. I have a ton of pictures/posts from this site alone that challenges our views of gender stereotypes as they relate to children (but will do my best not to overtake the Pinterest board with them!). With my long curly-haired son and his painted toes and sparkly capes and penchant for pink, you know I am never at a loss to discuss these things.
One of my latest pins leads to a new photo essay from photographer Gabriele Galimberti who spent 18 months traveling around the world, snapping pictures of children and their favorite possessions. The pictures provide a glimpse into the lives of these children, and Galimberti’s own observation of his experiences is just as remarkable.
“The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them. In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”
What stood out to me as I looked through the photos was how much more gendered the toys became the more visibly well off the children were. Was this due to how these children were being raised or simply due to economics (which toys were affordable)? We often talk about kids, toys, and gender in absolute terms, but these pictures reminded me that there are many layers to consider when looking at this topic worldwide. Here in the US, we – for the most part – look at this topic through a privileged lens, whereas other areas of the world may not have that opportunity. Due to scarcity and economics, they do not have the same “luxury” to debate these ideas. That doesn’t make our need to discuss them any less valid or necessary, especially living in a culture that is so consumer based. But the reminder to look outside our world every so often doesn’t hurt either.