Maybe it’s because Santa is an old, white guy, but Christmas season has a special way of bringing out the inner sexist in grown-ups. In fact, I started my blog, Reel Girl, 2 days after Christmas, 4 years ago, because I was blown away by the gender stereotyped presents my three daughters, then ages 10 months, 3 and 6 years, received. It was Polly Pocket who drove me to blog.
I call her Polly Prostitute, partly due to her fashion choices which include boots, heels, and minis that barely cover her ass. Before you get mad at me for “slut-shaming,” this is a doll marketed to little girls. Why do kids, ages 4 – 7 (the group Polly is supposedly for) need to be choosing belly-baring outfits for Polly? But, really, the bigger question is: Why do girls need to be choosing any kind of outfit for Polly at all?
This tiny plastic doll has about 50 million even tinier plastic articles of clothing, all impossible to keep track of, like fluorescent stilettos or a hairband with kitty ears smaller than my pinky nail. I have a hard enough time not losing the tiny clothing that the three real humans in my house wear, why in Santa’s name would I want this shit lying around around to sort and organize, all so my daughters can get trained to focus on clothing, shopping, fashion, and appearance?
All three of my daughters received multiple “age appropriate” gifts back in 2009, and have every year since, that involved dressing: paper dolls with paper clothes, magnetic dolls with magnetic clothes, soft dolls with clothes you can button and tie, and of course, Barbies, and American Girl dolls at $100 a pop. The list goes on.
I’m here to tell you that these toys are not cute, nor are they a phase girls are ever allowed to “grow out” of. This focus on appearance never disappears from a girl’s life; it simply mutates. That, my friends, is dangerous. We wonder how and why girls get so obsessed with their bodies. Mystified, we conclude this preoccupation is “natural.” Kids keep getting sexualized and sexually abused. Eating disorders are epidemic, and still, we, authority figures and role models, keep giving girls toys that teach them and train them that how they look is the most important thing. Can you imagine doing this to boys? Giving them endless toys to dress, providing them with very few other male images, from the moment they exit the womb? Would we label that abusive?
If female characters don’t look like Polly Pocket, they pretty much go missing from kidworld all together. Part of that is due to Hollywood. Female protagonists go missing from most of the narratives made into mainstream movies and marketed to kids. Every year, on Reel Girl, I post all the children’s movies coming out that year, and female protagonists are few and far between. If you look at the posters, you can see how females, literally, get marginalized. Check out this recent Christmas movie, as a typical example.
Do you think if parents saw a poster with this many female characters for a mainstream movie in theaters across America, they might do a double take? But this gender ratio is so normal, hardly any one notices. It’s in the Hobbit, Tinitin, Star Wars. And then the toys come out based on those films. This year, my seven year old daughter wanted a more adventurous LEGO set than Friends, where the girls sit at cafes and bakeries. We looked in stores for Leia. This is what we found.
Yep, there’s our girl, in a metal bikini, chained to a giant, green beast. I bet Polly would love that outfit, too. And what’s crazy is that we got this set in the hope that it would be empowering for her, because it included Leia. I know if I search on the internet, I can find a few female minifigs that aren’t quite as awful, but why can’t I see them in a toy store? Why can’t kids experience powerful females as they go about their day, on cereal boxes and embossed on diapers, the way we see powerful and varied male characters everywhere we look? Why are powerful females presented as if they were some kind of special interest group if they exist at all? Why are girls, anywhere outside of the Pink Ghetto, shown as in they are a minority when they are, in fact, one half of the kid population?
Here’s a brief history lesson on racist propaganda and children’s media.
Images/ narratives of Jews 1938
Be on the right side of history. Please, say no to sexist toys for your kids this Holiday season.