I'm a great believer that as a young girl, if you don't see pictures or read stories of other girls and women doing cool stuff like playing with test tubes, making rockets, flying in rockets, throwing a curve ball, running a country, balancing a budget, kayaking or sailing, you don't automatically consider yourself able to do so.
Thus consider my angst as I perused the latest West Marine 2008 sourcebook, where on pp80-81, West Marine is promoting youth sailing in general, and the new O'pen BIC sailing dinghy in particular. "Youth sailing." What a marvellous concept. But to me, youth means boys AND girls. There are two "action" photos of six "youth" having a ball in these new boats, and not one of those "youth" is a girl. How on earth are girls supposed to consider themselves eligible to be part of this action if business and advertisers don't consider the negative connotations they create when they don't balance their images and their words?
You may think this is merely a feministic rant. It's not. Many a study has been completed on the consequences of non-gender balanced material - why did it take so long for MBA, law, veterinary and medical schools to now have equal applications (and graduations)? And why are engineering and "hard" science applications from women still so low?
Kudos to one company for taking this step. MacMillian/McGraw Hill, publishers of many an elementary school text book, contracted Sally Ride Science to gender balance every one of its text books. No longer is it just boys peering down a microscope or dissecting a frog.
And another reason why Geena Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The institute works with entertainment creators and companies to help educate the next generation of content-creators, and to help inform the public about the need to increase the number of girls and women in media aimed at kids, and to reduce stereotyping of both males and females.
Ironically, the majority of kayaking equipment advertisements I've seen over the past year or so seem to be fairly well gender balanced. Perhaps this is an industry which does have its act together.
Both images above are from West Marine.