When gender stereotyping costs businesses money

Gender stereotyping. Girls wear pink, boys wear blue. Boys play with trains, girls play with dolls. Women are nurses and men are doctors. Males are strong, females are weak. Females show emotions, a real man never cries. It’s wrong, all of it. And as a society, I hope we are working on it. But it goes further than that and on an everyday level, businesses are losing money because of their attitudes.

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The bike incident

My husband works in a small city and on his lunch break, he sometimes has a look around the shops. I’m not one for buying things unnecessarily, whereas my husband – well, he loves a good spending spree. And at the moment, I’m the focus of his spending attention.

You see, my husband has decided that I need a mountain bike. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I disagree, but I don’t think I need one just yet. My road bike is fine and at the moment, when my husband and the girls ride their bikes, I run alongside Lia who isn’t great with her brakes.

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But soon enough, Lia will get the hang of it and I’ll need a mountain bike to keep up when they’re cycling on the trails. Without much else to spend money on, my husband has made it his mission to find me a mountain bike. Nothing too flash, but something I can ride off road.

So on his lunch break a few weeks ago, he popped into the local cycling shop. As he was browsing, the shop assistant approached and asked if he could help. My husband explained that he was looking for a bike for me, and the shop keeper directed him away from the mountain bikes and towards the shoppers. With baskets on the front.

Now let’s be clear, I don’t have anything against these. But I do have a problem that without taking direction as to what exactly we were looking for, the assistant jumped to conclusions about me. Not only was he completely wrong, but his sexist assumption has totally put my husband off shopping there. I’ll still have a mountain bike soon enough, but not from his shop.

School shoes

To an extent, the bike incident pales into insignificance next to the ridiculous matter of school shoes. Libby is, in my opinion, a fairly typical girl. She loves a pretty dress as much as anyone, but unless she has an occasion to wear a dress and fancy shoes, she’s happier in sports clothes. Trousers, a t-shirt and some shoes to run in.

A little girl sat high up on a wall wearing walking boots, tracksuit trousers and a hoody

And this attitude applies in school as well as outside. At playtime, she wants to run around. They can’t wear trainers, so she always chooses the shoes she thinks she’ll run fastest in. And they never last. In September, we spent £50 on a pair of shoes. By Easter, they’d fallen apart. So, we were back to the shoe shop. And this time, Libby’s choice was a little different.

She went in looking for a shiny pair of shoes, preferably with flowers on. And she searched through all the girls shoes. A few were shiny with flowers on, just what she wanted but she knew they wouldn’t last long. They didn’t look like they were designed for running in. She ran up and down the shop in each pair, they weren’t comfortable when she ran.

Then, she headed off to the boys section. And found a robust, shiny pair of shoes. I checked whether she’d care if people said they were boys shoes. She was adamant that she didn’t care. These were the shoes for her. And the ethos of the shoe companies cost them money then and there. Not hundreds of pounds, but maybe hundreds of purchases. Because this little girl doesn’t care about their gender stereotypes or their archaic attitudes. She wants shiny shoes that she can run fast in. And that’s exactly what she got.

Black boys loafers school shoes on a wooden surface

Time for change

I’m happy with a men’s mountain bike. I don’t care if the man in the shop thinks I should be riding around on something pink and girly. Although he is very lucky my husband didn’t explain precisely where he could shove his shopping basket.

But what I’m not happy about is that my little girl can’t have the shoes she wants. Why can’t she choose a shiny pair of shoes with flowers on that she can also run in? Why does she have to choose between feminine and practical? And while we’re on the subject, why should a boy have to buy girls shoes if he wants them to have flowers on?

We don’t subscribe to the ideal that you have to buy things from the ‘right’ section of the shop. If the girls want a t-shirt with dinosaurs on that happens to be in the boys section, that’s what we’ll buy. But I do get cross that people’s archaic attitudes are so ingrained that they would rather lose money than accept that not everybody conforms to their stereotypes.

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10 Comments

  1. April 24, 2018 / 2:58 pm

    Aaaagh! How very frustrating. I think things are getting worse rather than better. I’ve seen things like a pink Pritt Sticj and a pink globe! Why would anyone ever need those things? And as for a bike with a shopping basket on the front – are we living in the 1950s? I don’t see any women riding those!
    (PS you know you and I are very alike with our reluctance to shop for ourselves? My husband shops for me too – and is in charge of every single house purchase because I just wouldn’t notice that we need a new bath mat!).

    • monsterid April 24, 2018 / 8:41 pm

      Haha I’m so glad it’s not just me that doesn’t do shopping, most women look at me like I’m mad when I say I hate it! Rubbish that things are getting worse with the gender stereotyping isn’t it? A friend of mine saw this on Facebook and mentioned that they now make nerf guns designed for girls. Whatever next??
      Nat.x

  2. April 28, 2018 / 7:40 am

    Fantastic post. I’m already noticing the shoe differences and my little girl is 17 months. I struggled to find shoes she wouldn’t get wet feet with walking through a puddle. As they always do with girly Mary Jane type shoes.

    • monsterid April 28, 2018 / 10:08 pm

      Thank you. Oh gosh that’s so annoying that you’re already seeing that at 17 months! I do hope at least some shoe manufacturers will take some notice.
      Nat.x

  3. April 28, 2018 / 8:08 am

    I completely agree Nat! Holly hates cardigans and has already told me she isn’t wearing a cardigan like Alice to school, she wants a jumper. I’m totally fine with that and not surprised. I casually mentioned this to someone in the playground and they were horrified! Asking me if I was going to force her to wear a cardigan!!! You can imagine my response. Why are school jumpers just for boys??

    • monsterid April 28, 2018 / 10:06 pm

      Ahh it’s so funny that you say that because Libby is happy with cardigans or jumpers but I do buy both, I wouldn’t think for a minute about making her just wear a cardigan. Jumpers are so much warmer! Often she’ll say she wants a jumper because it’s a cold day. I’m so glad Holly is able to wear what she wants, I feel so sorry for the children of those parents telling you that you should force her to wear a cardigan!!
      Nat.x

  4. msedollyp
    April 30, 2018 / 11:56 am

    and i thought we lived in 2018 not 1918….. shoes are a big issue with my, my running jumping girl needs good supportive school shoes that protect her feet and keep her dry so thats what we buy….she is just getting to self conscious age though and takes narrow minded comments to heart despite what i say.

    • monsterid April 30, 2018 / 12:48 pm

      Ahh that’s such a shame. I worried that Libby might take things like that to heart too but at the moment she doesn’t care. I don’t know what we’ll do when she does, spend a fortune on inappropriate shoes I suppose!
      Nat.x

  5. May 1, 2018 / 5:57 pm

    TBH I hate all of it. I hate that boys and girls can’t fit the stereotypes as much as those they don’t. Why is everything categorised – why don’t they just make “stuff” for whoever. I can see why all the scientific products are now being more designed to encourage girls to play with them for example – but why do they HAVE to be pink and glittery for a girl to WANT to play with them – it’s a stereotype in itself and it annoys me.

    • monsterid May 13, 2018 / 9:32 pm

      Yes I totally agree, the fact that something was pink and sparkly definitely wouldn’t make Libby more inclined to play with it!
      Nat.x

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