“Please don’t unduly stereotype. It’s bad for our children. It’s bad for our society. And as more parents, in the absence of choice, turn creators from consumers, it’s imminent that stereotypes will soon be bad for business too.”
When I launched EqualiTee in June 2018, we wanted to start the conversation about how gender stereotyping pervades and starts at a very early age. We were keen to speak with teachers, with parents, and with children to share how pervasive limiting beliefs about what it means to be a boy or a girl are in the world we live in.
But importantly, we also wanted to aim this conversation towards brands and the world of marketing which is a driving force behind this polarisation. We were inspired by stories of change, of retailers such as John Lewis removing gender labels from its children’s clothing and Target from the toy aisles in UK. We hoped that we can lead a similar change in India, where the wave of hyper-consumerism has meant that our children’s role-models, from the media they watch to clothes they wear are all divided across the lines of gender. We are overwhelmed with choices and yet the only choice that most of us find ourselves bound to celebrate our little ones is either host a la Elsa princess or a Transformers heroes style birthday party.
I started EqualiTee because I was convinced that I wasn’t the only parent who found this unacceptable and that there is a growing tribe of similar-minded parents who are challenging the conditioning with which they grew up and are looking at ways to expand opportunities of play, expression and careers in future for their children. I believed that it is this growing tribe that will soon make brands realise the changing aspirations of the new parent and see that stereotypes don’t make economic sense as they have so far.
When I saw Flipkart’s new campaign Generation E, I was delighted to see the belief come alive. To hear one of the biggest retailers in India speak about challenging gender roles and behaviour and expanding choice for our children is a great start point. Personally, in some sense, I found the Flipkart film to be a desi doppelgänger of our film for EqualiTee:
In the last few years, there has been a definite shift in how gender roles are seen and represented in brand advertising, often there is also criticism of brands paying lip service and riding on social waves. My own belief is that in the world of highly sexualised and stereotypical representation, even the change in communication is a good start.
The commitment of a brand to the said cause transpires through their actions over a period of time. In this case, Flipkart has announced that they will be creating India’s first gender-neutral kid’s store and it’s a move to be celebrated and supported.
I do hope to see more retailers take the initiative of removing gender labels and signage from aisles both online and offline. Craft and sports should after all be about interest not gender :).