A British TV Show Tried To Undo Gender Stereotypes In Kids—And People Went Nuts

"#nomoregirlsandboys is f*cking child abuse."

Some viewers were incensed over a new BBC2 documentary series that aired recently in the U.K.: Dr. Javid Abelmoneim’s televised experiment No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? took a group of young English schoolchildren and stripped away subtle and obvious gender stereotypes to see if it would help promote true equality.

The two-hour program followed Abelmoneim as he went inside a third-grade classroom on the Isle of Wight and quizzed students about their opinions on girls and boys. “I would describe a girl as pretty, lipstick, dresses, love hearts,” said one lass.

Said another: “Boys can do only do football because they’re fitter and stronger”

“Boys [are stronger],” declared one lad, “because they can protect girls more.”

 

 

It became clear that the boys had less empathy and language to express emotions than their female peers, and tended to overestimate their intelligence. Girls, meanwhile, demonstrated lower self-esteem and lower perception of their perceived intelligence.

In a BBC Radio 4 Podcast, producer Helen Veale explained that 7-year-olds were chosen because research shows that by that age, children have a fairly secure idea of gender but are still open to expanding definitions. Abelmoneim’s methods included doing away with any gendered colors in the classroom, asking the male teacher to stop referring to girl students as “love” and boy students as “mate,” and randomly selecting students to answer questions or perform tasks that had nothing to do with their gender.

He also brought in special guests—a female car mechanic, male ballet dancers and make-up artists—and curated the classroom bookshelves so that at least half of the titles were about female protagonists. A chance for the kids to test their strength resulted in a temper tantrum from one of the boys who rated much lower than one of his female classmates.

The whole experiment didn’t sit well with some viewers. Others didn’t even bother seeing what the show was actually about before going off on sexist and transphobic rants.

Some people got the point, though.

Next week, No More Boys and Girls will visit the students’ families to delve into how parents feed into gender roles.

Trish Bendix is a Los Angeles-based writer.
@trishbendix