Thursday, 18 August 2016

Kinder Ploy

Kinder Joy: Everyday Sexism, anyone? 
I recently signed up for a short course on children’s literature. In one of the course modules, the facilitator asked us to ruminate on the constructions of childhood through images in recent times. Interestingly, one of the images I found was this picture of Kinder Joy, a popular chocolate based snack for kids by Ferrero which among other things makes things like Nutella, Tic Tac mouth fresheners etc. The colours in which the egg-shaped chocolate snack appears is part of a larger malaise. The egg-shaped snack appears in two distinct colours: blue and pink and yet, it is one of the most popular chocolate based snacks due to the plastic toys that come along with it. The blue eggs are for boys and have ‘brave’ toys like an aircraft while the pink eggs for girls have ‘domestic’ toys like doll accessories.

With the kind of toys Kinder Joy offers, it baffles me about the exact ways these toys are considered ‘suitable’ for boys and girls. By reducing children to a prop, Kinder Joy promotes unfair competition, sexism and gender discrimination. The selective and targetted campaign is not just unethical but also demeaning since children are being used unfairly and it is unethical to establish a standard which must ensure that children adhere to the targets set by it in order to prove themselves as ‘achievers’. I strongly believe that every girl has the right to be informed that it is not wrong to play with cars, Lego or even trucks. Similarly, a boy must be allowed to dress up a Barbie doll in an atmosphere which does not necessarily resort to labelling or ridicule.

Interestingly, research has shown that until the 1950s, there was no common consensus about colours chosen for baby products. In fact, the June 1918 issue of the ‘Infant’s Department’, a trade magazine for baby clothes manufacturers made an interesting observation: ‘There has been a great diversity of opinion on this subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy; while blue, by being more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.Pink for the boy, blue for the girl, please note! Hence, it is interesting to observe how the paradigms have changed.

Funnily, the concept of gender-based colours was unable to retain its importance and the current paradigm of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ colours assumed importance only after the Second World War and established itself only by the 1980s due to a coordinated effort orchestrated by the mass media and marketing. I strongly believe that colours associated with gender must be cultural and each child deserves the space to evolve their own colour preference based on his/her associations with the colour.  

While we still contemplate on how a ‘masculine’ colour blue indicates bravery, valour and pride and pink is infused with traits that correspond to femininity, one cannot but help recall about how confidently a magazine just a century ago asserted ‘the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl’.