A pink and blue world of boys and girls

Are we all predestined to be what our parents and the society would like us to be or expect us to be? Or should we choose our own desires and make our own choices?

Nađa Lalović, 15, UNICEF young reporter – volunteer
Nađa Lalović, 15 years of age, UNICEF young reporter – volunteer
UNICEF Montenegro / Duko Miljanić / 2019

20 June 2019

Watching a cartoon recently, I came across the following sentence: “You mustn’t cry, you are a boy!” 

Are we instructing children to hide their feelings in the 21st century? Isn’t that sad?

I remembered some scenes from the cartoons I used to watch – girl characters are often dressed in pink costumes, they are nearly always slim and dressed-up, presenting an “ideal” picture of a young woman, not one of a young girl.

On the other hand, cartoons “intended” for boys feature strong, “fearless” characters.

I am not so sure about the positive effects of 21st century cartoons on the process of growing up.

Look at those driving skills, it must be a woman!” – an irritated taxi driver says in a monologue, leaving me wondering why the clumsy driver of that red car could not be a man.

He dropped me off in front of a store. As I was shopping I forgot about his gender stereotypes for a moment, but could not help overhearing a discussion between children at the cash register: “You take the one with flowers, and I’ll take this one”.

I looked at the shelves with kinder eggs and I saw them – kinder eggs with pink flowers at the top (for girls?!) and the classic ones that I thought were the only ones that existed (for boys?!).

I cannot but wonder – where do all these stereotypes, especially gender ones, come from? They are present in all areas of life. And why do we teach children those stereotypes? Is volleyball still just for girls, and football just for boys?

My experiences on that Saturday complemented the results of a recent survey conducted by Ipsos for UNICEF and the Agency for Electronic Media of Montenegro last year, which showed that 25% of parents in Montenegro believed that media content produced for children often promoted a stereotypical view of the role of women in society and the family (being insecure, dependent on men, lacking initiative, etc.).

Why wouldn’t we use the media to depict a world in which girls like programming, whereas boys are passionate about poetry, or the one in which both girls and boys like programming and poetry?

Are we all predestined to be what our parents and the society would like us to be or expect us to be? Or should we choose our own desires and make our own choices?