Getting kids back to in-person school safely in the middle of a pandemic is a big ask. It's a big ask that, honestly, hasn't been going well. Multiple institutions that have tried it have had to close almost immediately due to virus infections.
Institutions that are opening successfully for now are ones that mandate masks and distance. Some districts have installed barriers between desks. Handing out masks is another great idea and many communities who have the resources to do it have gone that route.
One Canadian district decided to get a little extra with it, though. Rather than handing out plain masks, or masks with fun kid-friendly patterns, they decided to enforce some stereotypes and hand out "boy" masks and "girl" masks.
Students assigned male at birth were given blue masks. Those assigned female were given pink masks with hearts and lipstick prints. Students were not given the option of choosing their own masks, though they are allowed to wear their own if they bring one from home.
Catherine Lebel's daughter attends school in this district and the 8-year old came home "annoyed" by the masks.
The radiology professor's daughter wasn't the only one bothered by it. The middle of a pandemic seemed like an odd time for an institution to go out of its way to enforce harmful and outdated gender stereotypes. Why did they spend time and energy on this?
Lebel tweeted about it along with a picture of the masks the kids were given.
8 yo daughter came home irritated today about the “girl masks” and “boy masks” that were distributed to her class. https://t.co/AwgXCrFeMA— Catherine Lebel (@Catherine Lebel) 1599083806.0
Lebel explained to the Mirror that she's not outraged or hoping to boycott anything.
There are far higher priorities in the world right now and she knows some areas don't have resources to hand out any masks at all. She, and a lot of other parents and students, are just outright irritated.
Masks are protective gear and should be worn by whoever they fit.
There wasn't a need to take the extra step of gendering them. If the district was going to take the extra step of patterned masks, why not let the kids choose for themselves or hand them out at random?
Lebel's tweet proved that her local community wasn't the only group annoyed by the move.
@CatherineALebel How did colours become associated with gender, anyway? My two year old loves pink and purple and p… https://t.co/2xsBCj9K25— Jason McNaught (@Jason McNaught) 1599158717.0
@CatherineALebel This just REINFORCES GENDER BIASES . Really @UCPCaucus ???? As a little girl I would be VERY ADVER… https://t.co/6FowwtoU5s— Colleen Norris🇨🇦 (@Colleen Norris🇨🇦) 1599154624.0
@CatherineALebel Well done to your daughter for speaking up about this 👏🏽 We think this is pretty silly - how can t… https://t.co/wGkVjOXSub— Let Toys Be Toys (@Let Toys Be Toys) 1599217357.0
@CatherineALebel I understand the frustration. My daughters choice of magazines and stickers above, not all girls l… https://t.co/GbjyM1bIDj— Amy Jones (@Amy Jones) 1599222836.0
@CatherineALebel Hells yeah! Why don’t we just give the girls a pink bough too? Ridiculous stereotyping.— Jeff Hacker (@Jeff Hacker) 1599184726.0
@JadedHalifax @CatherineALebel Agreed. I wonder how the school would feel if it said the words "kiss me" on them.— Shades Of Meaning (@Shades Of Meaning) 1599215281.0
@CatherineALebel I'm so sorry your daughter has to go to school in 1973, I hope her school relocate to the 21st century soon.— WinterTroubles (@WinterTroubles) 1599220130.0
The school explained it had no control over what it was given for designs, but did not address who decided gender stereotypes would be enforced when they were distributed.