Tuesday, October 21, 2008

He gets hero worship, she gets laundry

Today on feministing, Jessica Valenti blogs that PlaySkool is still pushing their Rose Petal Cottage on American girls.

The pink, pastel wonder comes complete with a washer/dryer, oven, baby cradle and stuffed chair. Now there's nothing wrong with children wanting to play house or play with domestic toys. I had a tea set when I was little and I adored princess clothes and baby dolls. But sometimes my "baby" and I would be mother and daughter taking a safari through the backyard. Sometimes I'd be wearing a tiara while climbing trees and splashing in mud puddles.

I don't understand why we haven't advanced beyond this notion that kids today play a certain way based on what's between their legs.

The Rose Petal Cottage is a classic example -- it's just one female stereotype after another. A line from the sing-songie advertisement goes, "I love when my clothes get so clean, taking care of my home is a dream dream dream."

Now Playskool has put out the Sweet Lily Castle -- for $200 your daughter can be a princess complete with frog to kiss (cause every princess needs a prince). Just once I want the princess outfit to come with a throne and palm pilot to plan all your diplomatic meetings and charity events!

Again, I see nothing wrong with selling stuff like this. But when you step back (like way back) to look at the big picture. It starts to get frustrating.

Last night, I was watching TV and a ridiculous commercial came on. Sexy boyfriend and I were laughing hysterically at it, but I immediately noticed the language

It's not just that only boys are featured in the video, from the voice over, it's clear this is a boys-only toy.

"He’s steering the action"
"Everything your little hero needs" -- hero apparently meaning MALE
"His imagination is racing"

Keep in mind this is also a PlaySkool toy, the same folks that make Rose Petal Cottage and Sweet Lily Castle.

When toys mature, it's the same problem. Take a look at this image (I lifted it from Feministing who got it from Elle phd

Via Elle:

And while the "boy's" kit promises to boost your brain... the "girl's" kit promise to relax you and let you experiment with different fragrances. The boy's box is also covered with words like "go wild" and "erupt" and "blow your mind,"while the only thing that promises to be exciting about the girl's is the foaming and frothing of bubbles.

When you stop at feministing, check out even MORE examples of sexist packaging for young girls/boys products. And it starts at Playskool and just continues... actually, it probably starts the minute the doctor says, "It's a girl."

As soon as the "Helmet Heroes" commercial was done (and we were finished giggling at the dad "behind bars") I said to Sexy Boyfriend, "Why can't HER imagination be racing?"

He sort of snorted at me, "You WOULD notice that."

Yeah I would. And I'm kinda pissed that he doesn't. I get really sick of people brushing it off as 'no big deal' when we just went through an election that had some of the worst open displays of sexism and misogyny our country has seen in YEARS. Don't tell me that all these antiquated ideas about sex and gender and the so-called limitations thereof (what girls can't do etc) doesn't have REAL ramifications.

Luckily, I saw this video on CNN today about two high school girls who play football on their school team. Yes, they wear heels and like to shop but they are assets to the team and even wish they could tackle. That representation is much more truthful. Girls can still be girls (whatever that means) even while playing football in the mud, experimenting with chemistry and running for President!


Staylor said...

This is something I didn't pay that much attention to until I had a kid of my own. But I had to argue with your thought that there isn't anything wrong with selling these things in theory: actually, I think the whole way these are sold is also wrong. The companies will argue that girls want to play princess and boys want to play fireman; I would argue that kids are TOLD they want to play these specific gender roles from the color and package design to the aggressive marketing like this.
You are right that it probably starts from the moment of birth, and the sexism never lets up no matter the older they get--it's just as adults we've become conditioned to accept it. I'm so glad there are blogs like this to give us a voice to shout THIS IS BULLSHIT!

Adrienne said...

I think that that is true of a lot of guys, staylor. My fiance and I had a HUGE argument about this post, and at the end of it even he had to concede that when he has his own daughter, he will probably feel differently (of course, he then reminded me that HE is not HAVING any DAUGHTERS) ;)

I think that this issue can be even worse for boys, though. I know that in my experience, it is seen (at best) as awesome when a girl breaks the social norms, and (at worst) cute when they do. But when a boy in my class wants to play with a doll/play dress up/put his hair in a pony tail (it happens) their parents are much more likely to freak out than if a little girl comes home talking about dinosaurs and being a fire fighter.

I once had a little guy who dressed up in a pink dress we had in our home center, and his dad picked him up and yelled at him. The little boy was totally crushed and said, "But Dad, this is my cape!" People are so freaked out about social norms and gender identity that they project their insecurities onto their two year olds. It's pathetic.

Tobes said...

Adrienne, I didn't know "fiancé" read the blog too sometimes! Very cool.

I absolutely agree with you that in many cases the consequences for stepping 'out of bounds' is harsher for young boys. While it is seen as brave or cool for girls to take up masculine things - sports, "helmet heroes" etc -- the idea of a boy playing in Sweet Lily Castle would make lots of parents panic.

I think that is just further proof that the patriarchy needs squishing! First of all, why are traditional “girl” activities devalues as “gross” while anyone participating in “manly/boyish” stuff is thought of as good? And why is it a parent’s worst nightmare if a son starts to exhibit feminine type behavior? Why do guys have no freedom at all to step one toe over the “masculine ideal” line?

It’s stifling and unhealthy and it leads to boys feeling the need to prove their ultimate ‘boy-ness’ by beating up on guys who they deem to sensitive or queer and writing off all things traditional female as stupid.

Yet another point in the ‘Feminism would HELP men’ category.

PS: I think you and M would do well with daughters!