If you aren’t yet familiar with the web platform Candidly, we highly suggest checking them out. They are a platform based out of India created to drive candid conversations on issues of gender, media & culture and their influence on children and young adults. As the website states, “These issues are playing a deep role in defining how our young ones see themselves, the world outside, and how these perspectives reflect in their development, physical and mental wellbeing, and their life choices.”
“The world around us is focused on personal image. This reality has deep implications for kids and young adults who are bombarded with images by a consumption driven world and an expectation of what is positioned as ‘ideal’ and are distracted from the pursuit of discovering the ‘real’ self,” it continues.
Candidly feels a need for urgent change in the way children and young adults understand relationships, society, culture and their place in an increasingly polarized world divided along lines of race, religion, culture, sexuality and gender. They want to challenge the flawed world we have inherited, and they do this in a number of ways – by running workshops, creating digital content, and also creating merchandise for kids.
The latest collection is called EqualiTee which they are calling “gender-cool merchandise” that they hope will build a keen sense of awareness about gender stereotypes among kids. Candidly creators Reema Ahmad and Amita Malhotra wanted to specifically create something that could have the potential to dismantle harmful statements that many of us grew up with, exhibiting how deeply-ingrained gender bias is in everyday life.
Phrases such as “boy’s don’t cry!” and “girls don’t play football!” are exactly the type of sentiment they want to ensure their own children (Amita is mom to a 3 year-old herself) don’t grow up with thinking it is “normal”.
“These established stereotypes tell us behavior expected of girls and boys. Our children’s TV shows, clothes, bags and toys all feed gender stereotypes that tell girls to focus on their beauty and boys to be aggressive for social success. Images enacted in popular culture repeatedly dictate conformity to these labels, limiting their creativity, ambition and individual expression,” said Amita.
The collection of t-shirts come in five different themes (creativity, sensitivity, opportunity, activity, and equality), three vibrant colors (red, grey and blue), unbound energy and lots of love – perfect ingredients that go into making an equal world.
On the website where you can purchase any of these items (they ship worldwide!), there is a breakdown of the messaging behind each theme that parents and caregivers can learn about when clothing their little one in the tees. It’s a great way to start a conversation with kids about the importance of questioning and challenging gender bias:
“Our Activity theme promotes this wholesome idea that together boys and girls win. The pyramid shows how in play, and in problem solving, boys and girls scale new heights through equal participation. By encouraging our children to make friends of the other gender, we help them actively combat biases that stem from segregation.”
“Our Creativity theme showcases a world where boys and girls script their dreams not on the basis of social expectations but their own imagination.”
“Our Sensitivity theme of t-shirts celebrate that boys are as capable of being caring and kind as girls. By teaching our children the value of being sensitive, we can help them build a world of healthy relationships.”
“By age 14, girls drop out of competitive sports at twice the rate of boys in absence of positive role models and due to gender-related social stigma. We need to change that. The Opportunity theme for girls and boys who don’t play for the gallery. Instead, they play their full potential.”
“Our classic Equali-Tee brings alive all the common qualities that bind our entire collection – boys and girls coming together, as friends, and collaborators; as play-mates and problem solvers; as respectful and caring individuals.”
Made for ages 2-8, this platform is a vital ingredient in the global push for gender equality, which must happen across the board in all industries and in every day ways. It cannot be the sole responsibility of one organization or media company to take on this burden. With parents and caregivers playing the most important role in setting up and shaping a kid’s perspective from a young age, conscious choices such as what they wear, what they watch and the conversations they engage in can be the difference in an entire generation growing up knowing they are equal to one another.