15 Dec 2018

Think of the children!

Among many absurd tactics of campaigners against the Istanbul Convention, one manages to stand out. It’s a series of claims that the document designed to combat violence against women is - bad for children.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Think of the children!  - NewsMavens
Lego, PixaBay

A Croatian website titled "The truth about the Istanbul’s (convention)" [sic] was the hub of a religious right campaign against the ratification of Istanbul Convention in Croatia. The website’s main “fact sheet”, titled Gender Ideology Worldwide, makes several claims about the supposed devastating effects of “gender ideology” on families and, most notably, children.


One such claim describes the supposed widespread efforts to enforce “gender role reversal” in preschool children, forcing girls to play with “boys’ toys” and denying them their “natural girls’ toys” (and vice versa). The example given is:

One kindergarten in Washington has teachers banning boys from playing with “Lego”.


The claim was lifted from various news reports of US-based media, taking place at Blakely Elementary School in Bainbridge Island, Washington. In October 2015, a local newspaper published reports that a teacher named Karen Keller had decided to withdraw “Lego” blocks from boys and offer them to girls only, as an effort to encourage girls to “fine-tune spatial and math skills”.

After a public backlash, the school published a statement explaining that it was the short- term isolated practice of a single teacher:

In keeping with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education grant, Ms. Keller gave girls a designated time to play with the building toys during a 30-minute 'free-choice' time block in September 2015. This isolated, short-term practice ended in October. All students in all classrooms have and will continue to have access to all instructional and noninstructional materials.

So, while one teacher did report a similar practice, there was never a school-imposed ban on “Legos” for boys.


We rate this claim as disinformation and manipulation of facts, falling into the category of antifeminist backlash.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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