Alright Tired Feminists, maybe you can help this mom out. I had a somewhat difficult conversation with my three-year-old last night. We were playing with some My Little Ponies and my kid told me that the ponies were all girls and that ponies were only for girls to play with. (Sigh) Are we really already at this conversation in my kid’s young life?
I’ve been sick for about 10 days straight (with a toddler who has also been sick for about 10 days straight), so my brain was not full-strength but it clicked into gear enough to think, “Oh, this is a teachable moment about gender.” I told my kiddo that ponies are for all people and that all people like to play with ponies. Dad chimed in, too, “I like ponies.”
The kid was adamant that I was absolutely wrong. “Ponies are for girls, mommy.” No matter how I tried to dice it, the kid was convinced that ponies were for girls only. I started to feel angry. Who has been telling my kid that some toys are for boys and some are for girls because that shit don’t fly in this Tired Feminist’s house? (Answer: Society, that’s who.) Finally, I remembered the “Brony” trend of men who love the My Little Pony show and ponies. I showed her the trailer for the documentary about said fan-culture. This seemed to (temporarily?) convince my kid that ponies can be for boys as well as girls.
This feels like winning the battle, not the war. After all, there will be other kinds of toys that will, unfortunately, elicit this sad conversation. And we didn’t even broach the idea that there are more than just (cisgender) “boys” and “girls.” Indeed, we go to church with several people who live their lives outside the gender binary and who are trusted adults in my kid’s life. Whether or not the kid has internalized this flexibility of gender identity is hard to tell but tonight’s conversation doesn’t fill me with confidence.
So, tell me what you’d do Tired Feminists? How do you approach the gender-binary conversation with your little ones? If we want to end the implicit misogyny of gender rules as well as issues like transphobia, we have to start by dismantling the harmful messages our kids get. It takes a village here, people, and I need some help from the village.
A while back I included Goldie Blox — a building toy created by a female engineer who was fed up with such things only being marketed to boys — on the Feminist Parent’s Gift Guide. This toy and the story behind it make my feminist parent heart go all aflutter!
I immediately ordered three — one each for all the little girls in my life. That was back in November, and it was back-ordered until MAY! Now, having just received my box full of Blox, the company has announced that they are infiltrating Toys R Us! But the store is skeptical of the appeal of engineering toys for girls. They have launched a viral video campaign and are urging parents and anyone who loves kids to support Goldie Blox and, more importantly, send a message to corporate America to STOP BOXING IN GIRLS! (And boxing in boys, for that matter.)
Please enjoy this amazing video that inspires even this 30-something kid-at-heart:
Here’s a great example of Tired Marketing Fail being called out. We are not alone! This comes via Facebook from I Fucking Love Science:
So after all our hopes and dreams for a holiday season without gender traps disguised as gifts, my daughter got this:
It is her first princess-themed item and I was equally dismayed that someone gave it to her as I was by her enthusiastic response to it. Clock it: At two-and-a-half years old, my daughter is indoctrinated in the princess culture of girlhood.
What to do? What to do?
I knew this day would come. And my plan is to not give it increased cache by banning it. I may lose pieces like this in then laundry from time to time, but I will only give it power if I villainize it.
In short: Bring on the age-appropriate talks about good female role models and that girls can do and be anything.
Distracting them with other entertainment helps. My daughter got two trains this Christmas and has already forgotten about this nightgown.
How about you? Get any lumps of coal in disguise?
Buckets of Lego blocks sold in "convenient" gender-coded pink and yellow boxes.
I admit, I’m running a bit late on a Tired Marketing FAIL post on sexist holiday ads/toys, but perhaps this post is like a Christmas present — the thought that counts?
- So, let’s talk about Legos: There’s a call from folks on the other side of the pond (kudos PinkStinks for always being on top of sexism in toys/marketing) for the company to stop promoting sexist stereotypes by marketing different Legos to boys than girls. This has been a problem for years. Pink blocks? But here’s the deal, I didn’t realize that they haven’t always done that. So the pink blocks are a choice? Lame.
- Next up, Toys R Us: Let’s face it, they do an excellent job reinforcing the gender status quo. In fact, Pigtail Pals has a really comprehensive take-down of their holiday ads. Is there a reason why there’s a little girl playing with the kitchen set (and a reason why it’s pink?) on the facing page of a boy playing with a Batman set? Lame.
- And then there’s this round-up of sexist, racist and down-right terrible (real) toys for girls. It’s funny, because it’s true.
But there may be some good news on the fight to take the gender-coding out of the toy aisle. Check out this pic that my friend Kris texted me while she was shopping for her daughter:
Looks like this manufacturer got the memo: Girls can be doctors!
What about you? Have you spotted a really sexist or racist toy? Or received a truly sexist piece of marketing in your mailbox this holiday season? I want to know! Tell me all about it in the comments section!