I was browsing through London Drugs the other day, and noticed how gendered the toy aisles were. One side of the aisle was laced with pink dolls, while the other side featured Nerf guns and the alike. The perceived gender disparity provoked some thoughts about gender discrepancies, and I found the following image online. The colouring books, titled, “Colouring for Girls, pretty pictures to colour and complete,” and “Colouring for Boys, cool pictures to colour and complete” perpetuate the gender conformity. Targeted at young children, the media automatically tries to conform them to societal norms. The colouring book for girls, for example, focuses on flowers, hearts, and intricate designs and patterns. It furthers the idea that girls must enjoy these things, and only girls should enjoy them. The colouring for boys, on the other hand, showcases sports, robots, monsters, and science. Instead of describing the colouring book as “pretty,” these pictures are “cool” and suggest that these are items that a boy should associate themselves with to be manly. By explicitly segregating the genders, this suggests that it is unusual for a girl to be interested in robots and monsters, instead of flowers and hearts. It forces children to believe that to fit in to society, and act according to your gender, we must enjoy certain things. Why can’t we use the word “pretty” to describe items that boys play with, and “cool” to describe traditionally female items? The message that these colouring book covers portray is that girls should only be interested in flowers, hearts and intricate designs, and boys should only be interested in sports, robots, monsters and science. They should not, for example, be a girl and enjoy learning about science or robots. This causes a prominent issue later in life, where there is a current lack of women in STEM related fields. From a young age, societal norms, as well as advertisements and mass media, tell us what a girl should like and be like. A girl should not enjoy science and robots, but rather, engage themselves into flowers. The lack of confidence in women with regards to STEM related fields and general discouragement from society from a young age perpetuates issues with gender disparity in certain fields. As a result, from a simple colouring book given to us as a child, we are told what we should associate ourselves with to fit into society.
The social message perpetuated from the two colouring books is that boys and girls enjoy different things, and that they should not overlap. My jammed version, subverting the idea of assigning a gender to particular likes and dislikes, focuses on creating a colouring book in general. This no longer focuses on a gender, nor an age category — it is inclusive for all genders and ages. Thus, I have changed the title of the two books to “Colouring Book.” As well, the colours chosen by the original authors suggest that the book is aimed at a certain gender. Pink, a traditionally feminine colour, and blue, a traditionally boy colour, is replaced with a gender-neutral yellow. Yellow, in my opinion, does not overtly suggest that this book is for a certain gender. Without assigning the book to a particular gender, children are free to choose whichever book they reconcile with. No longer is a girl judged for picking the book that says “Colouring for boys.” Instead, we promote the idea of inclusivity, where boys can colour flowers, and hearts, and girls are able to colour robots and monsters. A sense of belonging is created. This new cover page aspires to send a message to children that they should not feel like an outsider if they like things the other gender is more commonly associated with. Instead, they should feel included, and explore their likes and dislikes as they so desire. By promoting a gender-neutral colouring book, I hope that this encourages children to explore the facets of life that they are most interested in. In particular, I hope that gender-neutral colouring books, and toys, will inspire more girls to enter STEM related fields. I hope that by inspiring girls at a young age and letting them know that a STEM-related career can be for them as well will break the gender barriers that exist in the industry. My goal in culture-jamming the cover page of this colouring book is to promote the idea of inclusitivity, and inspire children to do whatever they want, whether it is according to gender norms, or not.