By Cheryl Rickman
Ever since my daughter was 3 years old and chose to play with cars, footballs and dinosaurs; shops, adverts, the media and other people told her they were “for boys” and, therefore, not for her. We certainly struggled to find that stuff in the girls’ aisle.
Then the comments began:
“Why do you play with boys’ stuff?’
“Spiderman face-paint? You don’t want that, it’s for boys. How about a nice butterfly?!” (?$%&*)
So we decided to do something about it and, when she was six, co-founded a clothing line (www.ClimbingTreesKids.com) to say ‘Heh, girls like dinosaurs, football and pirates too’. Next, I hooked up with Let Clothes Be Clothes, where I met directly with store buyers about gendered clothing (and even managed to persuade Tesco to remove gender labels from their Halloween costumes and make their girls’ cardigans and shorts more robust). A step in the right direction.
But I wanted to do something more.
So, I wrote, YES YOU CAN! a children’s storybook dedicated to challenging gender stereotypes and encouraging children to be proud to be all that they are. And I’ve now launched a Kickstarter campaign to hire an illustrator and editor and publish the book. You can back the campaign here if it resonates: http://kck.st/2pUPIDk
The book is a way to explain the futility of restrictive stereotypes in a child-friendly way. So the characters find themselves in a world where they are told what they should play with, wear and do, based on the colour of their hair. Children see how silly that is and realise that gender rules are equally ridiculous, because kids like a whole range of different stuff.
The story, aimed at 3 to 8 year-olds, features stereotype-busting female characters, “The Climbing Trees Girls”, who prefer building dens and being active than playing with princesses, although they know that all children should be allowed to play with whatever sparks joy in them, be that a doll or a dinosaur, a princess or a car.
Male characters who play with both diggers and dolls, trains and fairies, also feature in the book.
Backers of the project on Kickstarter will also receive a “No Limits – Be Yourself” colouring book, featuring boys and girls playing with a range of toys, to spread the message that all toys, colours and hobbies are for everyone.
Because, when we limit our children’s freedom of expression and tell them they are wrong to cry, wrong to like pink, or wrong to like football, we are muting their expression, which can, in some cases, lead to issues around self-esteem, and cause children to change who they are in order to fit in.
Luckily, stereotypes haven’t stopped my own daughter from being proud to be all that she is, but I’ve heard from many parents that their sons have been teased for liking pink or daughters have been told they can’t play football because they’re a girl, and so they have stopped choosing those colours or hobbies. Nobody should tell a child what they can or cannot play with, wear or do, based on their gender.
This book aims to counter the messages that tell kids they can’t play with certain toys, wear certain colours or do certain hobbies and show them, “YES YOU CAN play with, wear and be whatever you want.”
You can help get this book published here: http://kck.st/2pUPIDk
Thank you x