Sociological Images posted this photograph of two piggy banks.
On the face of it, this is another in the never-ending stream of commercial images which remind us of who we’re supposed to be and what is supposed to be important to us: if you’re a boy, you are saving your money for college; if you’re a girl, you’re saving it for shoes. Sociological Images reports on these messages frequently, and you can see them everywhere you go.
This one struck me, though, because of the ongoing furor and worry among educators and advocates for boys in college. In the U.S. at least, more women than men go to college, and more women than men finish college (roughly 57% to 43%). In an attempt to close the gap, colleges are making choices that may violate women’s rights.
These piggy banks don’t say “Football Fund” and “Shoe Fund,” but instead they contrast a behavior which has been consistently proven to affect income level and some aspects of “quality of life” with a frivolity. (Yes, everyone needs shoes, but not the kind of shoes which are implied by the pink piggy bank.) So the image is that boys or (as Sociological Images points out at the link) “neutral people” who are somehow not girls have a future and a purpose while girls care how they look.
Second, while this is in line with most pressure on girls, it is not in line with most pressure on boys. In these times, the pressure on boys is not to be serious, not to think about anything but fun, while the pressure on girls is to look perfect. While clothes and make-up are marketed mostly to girls and women, the products marketed to men are usually not books or classes but things like beer, video games, and spectator sports gear. So, the piggy banks are in fact not reinforcing the most popular social pressures on boys; instead, they are bringing a different pressure to bear. Was someone worrying about the gender gap in colleges when they designed these?