Australia’s Abbott Takes Heat Over Gendered Toys Comment

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With the holidays approaching, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has given his opinion on toys, saying that boys should play with toys designed for boys and girls should play with toys meant for girls.

Abbott spoke out against a new campaign to end gendered toys — ‘No Gender December’ — saying he would like “boys to be boys and girls to be girls.”

The campaign is geared toward ending gender stereotypes that suggest parents should only buy dolls for girls and trucks for boys.  Abbott responded by saying parents should do what is in the best interest of their child.

“Let boys be boys, let girls be girls – that’s always been my philosophy – and above all else, let parents do what they think is in the best interests of their children.”

Abbott is widely known for being against same-sex marriage, despite having a lesbian sister who is in a relationship with another woman.  In 2012, he was openly accused of being a misogynist by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Parliament.

The latest data from Newspoll discovered a drop in the prime minister’s approval rating, which is now reached a five-month low. In addition, a Fairfax Ipsos poll released last month showed a drop in approval among women, with only 37% choosing him as their leader.

The campaign is asking for signatures on their online pledge that says “there is no place for gender stereotypes under my Christmas tree” from everyone who does not believe in gender marketing for children.  They suggest that doing so reinforces the idea that men and women were not made equal.

“Setting such strong gender stereotypes at early ages can have long-term impacts, including influencing self-perception and career aspirations,” said Greens senator Larissa Waters.

She went on to say that the stereotypes only perpetuate other serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.

“Children shouldn’t have to conform to gender stereotypes. Boys might be interested in toys that are marketed as for girls and vice versa. This isn’t about some toys being off limits. It’s about children being free to play with whatever toys interest them without fear of being judged or bullied,” Waters said.

Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi said that it is simply “bizarre” to think that playing with certain toys will lead to things like domestic violence.

Meanwhile, the group backing the initiative, Play Unlimited, said toy companies need this push to move with the times.

“By standing together we can send a strong message to toy companies that there is no place for toys perpetuating outdated gender stereotypes under our Christmas trees or in our homes.”