An Open Letter to Scrapbook.com

Dear Scrapbook.com¹,

I absolutely love you guys. Ever since I discovered you about two years ago, I just can’t get enough of your store. If money were not an object, I am pretty sure I’d buy every single thing you sell. So much fun!

However, today I’d like to talk to you about something that is been nagging at me since I got reacquainted with the arts & crafts two or three years ago; the blatant sexism in the papercrafting/scrapbooking community.

Items that are or have some blue in them are tagged as “boy”. Items that are pink or have some pink in them are tagged as “girl”. Any item that is even remotely associated with science is tagged as “boy”. AS BOY!!!!!

Well, I am a woman scientist who is also a published amateur astronomer and I love science, astronomy, science fiction, comics and cosplaying just like any of the “boys”. I have been reading comics, and science & science fiction books since I learned how to read. I excelled in math and science all through school. I went on to become a molecular biologist.

I am also a mother of two. Both of them well-balanced, successful young adults now just in case someone gets the fleeting thought that with such an aberration of a tomboy mother, they would be scarred for life.

I enjoy crafting – and papercrafting – just as much as I enjoy doing science. They are not mutually exclusive. Being a girl/woman and liking science/sci-fi are not mutually exclusive either.

It is 2016. The 21st Century. That you guys are still promoting old sexist ideas such as “science is for boys only” makes me very sad. Or that the colour pink is only for girls. Or the colour blue is only for boys.

Regularly, I do a search with “science” and “space” as keywords to see what’s new. I almost jumped and sent my laptop flying when I saw you have a new Star Wars inspired collection.

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SQUEEEEEEEE… oh, but wait….

Guess what are the tags for it? No need to guess, I’ll tell you: Space and NASA, Movies, Boy, Star Wars, Party.

Apparently girls are not allowed at this party.

This makes me so sad. But it also angers me, for all the little girls out there that are still led to believe that science, space exploration, and sci-fi are for boys. That they better go grab their dolls and tea sets because that’s what they should be playing with, and dreaming of.

I do know you are not the only ones who do this. I am well aware this is a problem within of all the scrapbooking community. I am not holding you personally responsible for the issue. No, I know better than that.

But I also do know I love getting my supplies from you. I do know that I respect you and the way you do business.

As you yourselves have stated on your Facebook page:

scrapbook.com is the #1 scrapbooking site on the Internet with more daily visitors than any other scrapbooking site in the world. It’s friendly, safe, and fun. Shop for all your supplies in the award-winning, #1 ranked Scrapbook.com Superstore.

I wholeheartedly agree that your site is friendly, safe and fun. I love your classes, I love your products, I love everything about you.

This is why I am addressing you in particular. Because you are leaders in your industry.

Here is the thing. Shortly after my incursion into paper crafting, I started following and reading the blogs of influencers in the community. I was so happy to learn that most of the team designers were women. This is great, I thought. I felt empowered. But that feeling came tumbling down fairly quickly when I realized how prevalent sexism is still. I felt that the papercrafting/scrapbooking community was still a number of steps behind the rest of society and that was disheartening. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say it is all good outside this industry. Not at all. But I do feel it is more pronounced in it.

But we are not sexist!, you might say. And many may agree with you. What could possible be wrong about dressing boys in blue and girls in pink? Benevolent Sexism may be just the concept to explain the confusion:

Yes, there’s actually an official name for all of those comments and stereotypes that can somehow feel both nice and wrong at the same time, like the belief that women are “delicate flowers” who need to be protected by men, or the notion that women have the special gift of being “more kind and caring” than their male counterparts. It might sound like a compliment, but it still counts as sexism.²

In short, benevolent sexism is part of the well-known or rather part of the gender stereotypes in which ‘boys wear blue, girls wear pink’ plays a major role in perpetuating.

Furthermore, as with all other stereotypes, there comes the danger of expected behaviours. Here is another, very enlightening bit, this time in an article from the BBC:

You could argue that it doesn’t really matter what colour babies are exposed to the most, but it can even affect the way we, as adults, treat them. There’s one famous study showing that women treated the exact same babies differently depending on whether they were dressed in pink or blue. If the clothes were blue they assumed it was a boy, played more physical games with them and encouraged them to play with a squeaky hammer, whereas they would gently soothe the baby dressed in pink and choose a doll for them to play with.³

The worst part is the pink/blue gender stereotype didn’t even exist until the 20th Century!.

How did we end up with two “teams”—boys in blue and girls in pink?
“It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says. [parents go] shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. “The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” she goes on to add.⁴

And there you have it. if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted. Not only the pink/blue gender stereotype is but yet another marketing strategy to sell more, it plays with parents’ misguided sense of guilt that any mistake they make in rearing their children will result in the ruining of their lives.

That leads to the main dangers of the pink/blue gender stereotype: Gender Identification. Yes, like that, both bold and italic. I would even put it in all caps as well if I weren’t concerned that you’d think I was yelling at you.

As it is with many other aspects of society, Sweden -along with the rest of Scandinavian countries- pioneers the paradigm shift efforts for the the gender stereotype issue. They even have an stereotype regulatory agency that monitors the way stores do their advertising. In 2012, Top Toy – a toy company – got under their radar and were told to stop advertising using gender stereotypes. Needham & Co’s Toy Analyst Sean McGowan weights on the case:

I think what they were worried about was causing gender identification needlessly – to turn off passive learning, passive expression down the road, even passive economic opportunity for girls or boys if they felt they couldn’t do something because of societal norms,” McGowan says.⁵

This brings us back to my concern, nay my worry, that something seemingly as innocent as a tag might be contributing to the very well known issue that girls are discouraged from going into engineering and science because the societal norms say it is a field for boys. The other side of the coin is also true, that boys are discouraged from going into traditionally feminine fields because it is detrimental to their manliness. Gender. Identification.

In other words, Gender Identification is society telling individuals what they can and cannot do based on their gender.

Surely [hopefully?] you now see why something as seemingly innocent as a tag intended to help customers find what they are looking for plays such a big role in the way we as a society shape our thoughts. Moreover, hopefully now you see why it is so important that we -as a society- change the old gender paradigm.

Please, Scrapbook.com Superstore, this is my plea to you: Just as you are leaders in the Arts & Crafts industry, be also leaders in the much needed change for the sake of girls and women everywhere.

Every big change starts with little steps. As Neil Armstrong one said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”.

May rescinding of Gender Identification-leading tags be that small step toward the giant leap that leads to the end of sexism and a better, brighter, kinder future for all the girls and the women of the world, our daughters, their daughters and their daughters after that.

I am counting on you, Scrapbook.com Superstore!

Best regards,

Claudia Petrilli a.k.a. Summer Solstice Girl

Change the World is how I roll

Change the World is how I roll

Footnotes

  1. And by extension, the papercrafting/scrapbooking at large
  2. The Problem When Sexism Just Sounds So Darn Friendly… by Melanie Tannenbaum for Scientific American.
  3. The ‘pink vs blue’ gender myth by Claudia Hammond for the BBC
  4. When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? by Jeanne Maglaty for the Smithsonian. Emphasis is mine.
  5. Girls, Boys And Toys: Rethinking Stereotypes In What Kids Play With by Heidi Glenn for NPR
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