UK

Toy Companies Blamed For 'Outdated' Stereotypes When Half of Brits Think Gender Isn't Just Male Or Female

14/01/2016 12:23 GMT | Updated 14/01/2016 12:59 GMT

Almost half of Britons think that someone's gender is more fluid than just male and female, according to new research being hailed as a victory by gender campaigners.

Someone's gender can be expressed in a range of ways and is not confined to binary conception of male and female, the study from leading feminist charity the Fawcett Society found.

It blamed retailers and brands for supporting "outdated" ideas of gender, by advertising children products specifically to either boys or girls, and said these "narrow" ideas needed to stop.

pink toys girls uk

Companies marketing certain toys only to girls need to 'wake up' the charity says

Nearly half (44%) of the people surveyed said gender can be expressed as a range of identities, rather than only male and female.

The research shows Britons don't want to be "boxed in" by "harmful gender norms" that could damage people's lives, said the charity, which polled 8,000 people.

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of The Fawcett Society said: "The Fawcett Society is campaigning against harmful gender norms and stereotypes which close down choices and options for children, young people and throughout our adult lives.

"When almost half of people think that we should not be confined to narrow categories of ‘male’ and ‘female’ then it’s time to stop relying on outdated gender stereotypes.

“Retailers are particularly guilty of needlessly marketing products as being ‘for women’ or ‘for men’ especially children’s products as we’ve seen with the Let Toys Be Toys campaign. This research shows that they need to wake up to the reality of public opinion. People do not want to be ‘boxed in’.

The findings co-incide with a landmark report from by MPs which said Britain is "failing trans people in so many ways" and transgender rights lag far behind gay rights.

The first report on transgender rights ever produced by parliament said trans people still face "routine hostility and discrimination" and claimed the NHS is failing in its commitment to transgender people.

Around 1% of people in the UK could identify with a different gender to the one they were given at birth, according to the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES).

Awareness of people who consider themselves to be non-binary (neither male or female) is growing, helped by figures such as the food writer and Guardian columnist Jack Monroe, who came out as non-binary in October last year.

The profile of transgender issues has also risen significantly thanks to those who have changed gender in the spotlight, such as US star Caitlyn Jenner and boxing promoter Kellie Maloney in the UK.

caitlyn jenner

Caitlyn Jenner announced that she had the 'soul of a female' in 2015

Women were more likely than men to believe that gender is fluid in the Fawcett Society research, with almost half (48%) agreeing, while only 40% of men do. Younger people also believe gender identity can be more varied, with 50% of 18-34 year olds saying this compared to only 39% of those over 55.

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Smethers added that while prominent feminist Germaine Greer spoke out "against the fluidity of gender" when she claimed that transgender women are still men, the report shows this is a "minority view" amongst feminists as 68% of the survey participant who called themselves feminists agreed that gender can be a range of identities.

Ms Smethers continued: "The Fawcett Society’s vision is of a society in which the choices you can make and the control you have over your life are no longer determined by your gender, a vision that is deliberately inclusive of trans women."