Toronto

Richmond Hill summer camp touting 'girl-friendly fun' draws ire of parents

The City of Richmond Hill, Ont., has changed the names of two of its summer camp programs after the activities outlined in its guides — including "extreme sports" for boys and "mini-manicures and mini-pedicures" for girls — sparked criticism for being sexist.

Complaints lead to rebranding to avoid sexist stereotyping

Camp program called 'Boyz Rule' offered activities like roller-blading, dodgeball and lacrosse. 'Girlz Rock' program had cooking, baking and 'a ton of girl-friendly fun' 1:56

The City of Richmond Hill, Ont., has changed the names of two of its summer camp programs after the activities outlined in its guides — including "extreme sports" for boys and "mini-manicures and mini-pedicures" for girls — sparked criticism for being sexist.  

The summer camp guide offered activities like roller-blading, dodgeball and lacrosse in the "Boyz Rule" program and options like cooking, baking and "a ton of girl-friendly fun" for the "Girlz Rock" program, which is also described as "every girl's dream camp."

The program initially catered to boys has been rebranded as "Extreme Sports" and the program geared toward girls is now named "Kidz Rock," according to Meeta Gandhi, the city's spokesperson.

Parents criticized the summer camps for splitting up activities using gender stereotypes. 

"We've heard the concerns that were voiced and we recognize them," Mehta said. "Registration has always been open to girls and boys, but now the names have been changed to be more gender-neutral."

Tamara Breukelman, a Mississauga, Ont., parent whose daughter plays hockey, said she was outraged when she saw the summer program online. 

Tamara Breukelman says her daughter (right) is a hockey player and wouldn't be interested in the activities listed under the summer camp's guide as 'every girl's dream.' (Tamara Breukelman)

"They think only girls are interested in the activities that they have listed …which I'll tell you my daughter has no interest in," Breukelman said. "I know she is much more interested in what's categorized under 'boys.'"

"It angers me someone is saying something is only 'boy behaviour' or only 'girl behaviour,'" she added. "Who is to say a boy doesn't want to create a scrap book?" 

Gandhi said the recreational and culture division of the city designs the programs. The city will be updating its guide online and are informing parents who have already registered their kids of the change.

"The programs have been in place since 2008 and have always been very popular within the community," Gandhi said, adding that the city also hosts 80 other programs. 

An Ottawa community centre also drew criticism recently from parents and one city councillor for splitting activities by gender. Boys were being offered paintball, video games and car maintenance, while girls were offered self-esteem workshops, fitness boot camp and lessons on "making healthy snacks."

That program has also been rebranded.

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