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The most important issue of 2020: sexist kids water bottles

21 May 2020

1:46 PM

21 May 2020

1:46 PM

Coronavirus seems to reveal the best and worst of humanity. Most Australians have spent the last two months adjusting to this pandemic with grace, care and compassion; parents homeschooling their kids, essential employees serving the community on the frontline and artists using technology to entertain the masses in lockdown 

Correct me if I’m wrong but pettiness should be beneath us during a pandemic, yes?  

Apparently not if you’re the Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, who managed to turn the crisis into a gender war.  

Or even more recently, freelance writer, Carolyn Tate who thought it would be a good idea to discuss sexism and water bottles. Tate recently penned an article for Essential Kids, titled: In 2020, why are water bottles sending our kids sexist messages about gender roles?  

It wasn’t the fact that Tate’s seven-year-old daughter chose the turquoise water bottle with pink and purple bands around it or that her nine-year-old son joyfully claimed the dark blue and orange one.  

Actually, I just told a fib. Truth be told, Tate took issue with that too. But primarily, Tate’s gripe was the “supposed” sexist messaging on the water bottles.   


In her item Tate asserted: 

It was the messages on the water bottles that made me catch my breath. On my daughter’s new water bottle were the messages “dream big” and “good vibes”; and on my son’s water bottle were the messages “power” and “winning”. Why did my daughter prefer the softer colours and my son favour the darker colours? That’s a whole other article, but it would be naïve to think these water bottles haven’t been marketed at girls and boys specifically. So the messages these water bottles are sending our children are that girls should spend their time dreaming and feeling – that is, being passive and hopeful that things will work out but not speaking up or actively pursuing anything. Because we all know good girls are quiet and happy and undemanding.

Boys, on the other hand, should be all about action and taking, according to these opinionated water bottles. Take power, they say, and make sure you win. Because there’s nothing worse for boys than being a loser, right?

The article continued on in much the same fashion. Blah. Blah. Blah. 

I think by most people’s estimation, “dream big” is a fairly powerful message for any gender. “Dream big” isn’t about being passive Carolyn Tate, it’s about going beyond one’s limitations and achieving one’s dreams. That is a positive message to your daughter. 

I decided to do a bit of research and found the “dream big” message embodied in countless quotes by successful women and men around the world, including: 

  •  Simone Biles – Olympic Champion Gymnast with over 30 medals 
  • Hilary Knight — acclaimed American hockey player 
  • Misty Copeland — first African American ballet dancer to be promoted in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history 
  • Salma Hayek — actress, producer, director 
  • Neil De Grasse Tyson — astrophysicist  
  • Howard Schultz — billionaire 
  • Kailash Satyarthi — Indian children’s rights activist 
  • Marsai Martin — African American actress in ABC comedy series Black-ish 
  • Jason Day — Australian professional golfer 
  • Liam Hemsworth — Australian actor 

I could go on for another 500 pages of successful people from all over the world who have used ‘dream big’ in their messaging, whether it’s the sports, the arts, science or politics.  It’s a great slogan that is used repeatedly to inspire people to achieve their goals.  

And regarding the apparent “sexist” messaging on the boy’s water bottle, (for what it’s’ worth I don’t think the water bottles are gender-specific at all).  What’s wrong with encouraging a child —  of whatever gender to embrace their inner power and focus on winning?   

Nine must have been short for content the day they published this piece. Seriously, we are in the middle of a global crisis.  Use your writing gift for something that actually uplifts others instead of causing division. 

Dream Big, Carolyn!   

Vanessa de Largie is a freelance journalist and sex columnist who divides her time between London and Melbourne. You can find more of her work here.

Illustration: Essential Kids.

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