Trade in your tiara for a light saber this Halloween

Susan Prasher wanted to dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween. Her 7 year old son told her that the costume was not appropriate for “a girl.” Here’s her story.
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Guest blog for Reel Girl by Susan Prasher

 

Growing up, I never had a doll, a Barbie or a princess dress. As a mother and a former teacher, I have seen children verbalizing, practicing and sharing experiences of social interactions with the use of dolls, which is really wonderful and joyful. One can definitely learn a lot by observing and listening to children at play with these types of toys. One thing that throws me off guard are the sheer number of princesses. With each princess, there is a new dress, a story line, and possibly a tiara. I get confused with which princess represents which movie. I’ve had the good fortune of having a best friend’s daughter explain why she felt sad that I didn’t know about the princesses and proceeded to break it all down for me. Perhaps all the role playing actually encouraged her to be an empathic person that understood and heard me.

 

One of my boys is obsessed with Star Wars. When searching for a new sitter, I lucked out by meeting a computer science engineering student who loves Star Wars just as much as my son does. Together, they have the most engaging conversations. The sitter is a young woman. While she did have some dolls growing up, her room is filled with Lego and items from Star Wars.

 

Back in August my son asked for me to please consider being one of three characters for Halloween: Princess Leia, Queen Amidala and Ashoka. I had trouble being a princess or a queen. To encourage me to consider one of these three roles, he began calling me Queen Momidala. I would banter back various lines including “Shaan, I am your mother” using a Darth Vader voice. He’d have this funny expression on his face, laugh and at some point tell me all the parts I was doing wrong. Since this was rather fun, I ordered a female version of the Darth Vader costume. And when it arrived, my son was thrilled and proud. Of course, the costume is a skin tight costume, but it’s a power suit nonetheless. The red light saber was placed on me like the finishing touch of a tiara. And that’s when it all clicked.

 

In the United States and in Canada, light saber sales are up. They sell like hot cakes. With the new movie coming out, you know it’s going to remain a hot toy. They are fun to play with, my kids mimic the exact movement patterns in battles and beg to attend Light Saber School. From what I’ve seen, light sabers are a source of tremendous power. There are even adult versions of these things that can do some serious damage. But is it really a toy? The science behind making one is pretty interesting. And Star Wars has inspired all kinds of advances in science as well as inspire people all around the world. In the case of our incredibly bright female sitter, she grew up loving Star Wars and is now creating a program designed to teach the art of coding.

 

As a teacher, I used to swap the names of characters as we read from a picture book for names of children in the class. Their eyes would light up with joy and excitement because suddenly, they were IN the story. There are females in Star Wars but what if we encouraged children to take on a role that appealed to them personally, regardless of gender? What if we reversed the gender roles in Star Wars by having all the males fill the females roles and visa versa? What if Leia became the great Jedi master and not Luke? When I suggested this reversal to my son all kinds of drama unfolded. He was upset with the mere thought of such a thing and thought that it was being disrespectful to the story. When I told him that George Lucas is an incredible writer and that it would be great to have a different version of the story, my son laughed and blew me off. He pointed out that there are some females in key roles and insists this is the story, like it or not. What I was really aiming for is a demonstration in a growth mindset and that as a female, my version of the story would be different.

 

We all have power, whether we hold a light saber or not. There are different kinds of power and each medium channels its own type. If I walked around with a tiara on my head, I’d be channeling a certain mindset. But the outcome is vastly different. With the use of Star Wars, little girls can be exposed to Science, which is huge, but they need to know the storyline. And yes, it involves a queen and a princess but they are welcome to take on any role of their choosing and rewrite the story.

 

Our friends’ daughters are like my own. It’s time to swap a bit of princess dresses, tiaras and dolls for at least one or two light sabers, even if they choose pink or purple ones, because it helps them channel a different type of power.

 

May the force be with you!

 

Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 yr old in orange jumpsuit than dressed as slave Leia

Susan Schrivjer, the Florida mom who started the petition against Toys R Us for selling “Breaking Bad” toys to adults, tells CNN, “Kids mimic their action figures, if you will. Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?”

Toys R Us banned the toy almost immediately after Schrivjer started her protest, so I want to know: Do we all finally agree that kids imitate their toys? And if we do, why are toy stores selling half-dressed, belly-baring, high heel wearing sexualized figures to little kids?

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If Monster High were atypical that would be one thing, but these outfits worn by female dolls are standard. Polly Pocket is marketed to girls age 4 and up. All that kids are encouraged to do with Polly is to dress her, change her from one short skirt to the next. It was Polly and her endless tiny plastic outfits who inspired me to start this blog about the sexism marketed to kids.

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The Winx girls are also marketed to little kids.

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When Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals saw this backpack on a first grader, she  blogged:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

 

Wardy, myself, organizations like Let Toys Be Toys for Girls and Boys, and parents have created and signed petition after petition about sexism, only to be ignored in the USA. After shopping at Toys R Us, one mom wanted to know why Slave Leia was the only available Leia. Jezebel reports:

Over the weekend we received a tip from a concerned mother who had come across something very disconcerting while perusing the aisles of Toys R Us. Apparently the only available toy or figurine of the Star Wars character Princess Leia is of her in the “Slave Outfit” from Return of the Jedi. Bikini? Check. Loin cloth? Check. Chain around the neck? Check. And in case you were wondering if it was actually geared towards children, it’s listed for kids ages 4+….This is a perfect and heart-breaking example of how ingrained sexism is in geek culture. It’s not like there’s a Chewbacca toy in a banana hammock.

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Yesterday I wrote a blog thanking “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul for calling out Toys R us hypocrisy with his Tweet:

 Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm…I wonder what is more damaging

The more we all rail against “Breaking Bad” toys, the more we ignore the sexism and affirm it as normal. It is shocking to me, as a mom of 3 young daughters, that sexism in kidworld is accepted so completely. And this acceptance goes beyond toys to media, which of course loops back to inpsire more toys. In Disney’s movie “Planes,” the fast plane, the hero of the movie, mocks the slower planes for being girly.

Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?

Plane Two: No, better.

Plane One: Whoa! Who was that?

Plane Three: (Descending fast on top of the other two) Well, hello ladies. Ready to lose?

Plane Three goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust.

As with the toys, this kind of sexism in movies for children is typical. In “Madagascar 3″ a scene features a male penguin mocking other male penguins, “You pillow fight like a bunch of little girls.”

As with “Planes” this sexist scene is so hysterical, it’s the one chosen for the preview.

Training a new generation of kids to learn this kind of sexism is dangerous. In the New York Times, Frank Bruni writes about his discussion with Chris Kilmartin, author of “The Masculine Self.”

 “When the worst thing we say to a boy in sports is that he throws ‘like a girl,’ we teach boys to disrespect the feminine and disrespect women. That’s the cultural undercurrent of rape…It’s not DNA we’re up against; it’s movies, manners and a set of mores, magnified in the worlds of the military and sports, that assign different roles and different worth to men and women. Fix that culture and we can keep women a whole lot safer.

 

I want Toys R Us– and parents– to know that it is far more damaging to sell sexist toys to kids than to sell Jesse to adults. The Florida mom asked CNN if we’d prefer our kids in orange jumpsuits. I’d like to reply with this story. A while back my 4 year old daughter was looking through a magazine, and she saw an ad for “Orange is the New Black.” She cried out, grinning, “Look Mama, so many girls!” It’s that rare for her to see an image of a group of women together in the media, no belly buttons, no cleavage, and also, by the way, not all white. She was so excited, she wanted to be in a picture with them, so I took this.

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Does my daughter know these women are playing convicts? Nope. Would I allow her to watch the show? Of course not. If I saw “Orange is the New Black” action figures sold at “Toys R Us” would I buy them for her? Absolutely, because Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 year old in an orange jumpsuit than thigh high boots.

Aaron Paul of ‘Breaking Bad’ calls out toy store hypocrisy

While I’ve always loved Aaron Paul, I got giddy when I read his angry Tweet after Toys R Us got rid of its “Breaking Bad” action figures.

Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences' Performers Peer Group Cocktail Reception To Celebrate The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards

Paul Tweets:

Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm…I wonder what is more damaging

 

Do I think meth dealers should be sold in a toy store? No. But there are so many things I think shouldn’t be in toy stores like Monster High dolls and gender segregated LEGO sets where girls are sold dumbed down structures. I find it kind of amusing when people who never cared about the horribly sexist and racist stuff we market to little kids every single day, suddenly freak out, calling one item in the store dangerous. Their indignation reminds me of when Eminem got popular and middle aged men were so offended by his misogynistic lyrics. Had these newfound feminists ever listened to the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin?

Shopping in Walgreens the other day, I saw the action figure Michonne from “Walking Dead” in the toy aisle. I’m always on the lookout for female action figures and my husband is a huge fan of the show, so I bought Michonne for him and blogged about my purchase:

You probably know how rare it is to find a female action figure, not to mention a non-white female action figure, without her breasts popping out of her shirt, wearing pants even, just sitting there on a shelf in a store and not hiding out on some obscure internet site. Let’s just say she’s far rarer than the unicorn in fantasy figure world…Though, in theory, I’d rather my kids play with Michonne than Barbie, I wasn’t sure if I planned on letting them near her, when she comes with exotic weapons and also a couple severed heads. But when my daughter heard my husband’s joyful cry after he saw the package, I thought all was lost. My concern turned out to be unfounded. Not only did he tell her he’s not sharing, but he’s not even taking her out of the package. He’s worse than the evil dad in “The Lego Movie,” pre-epiphany.

 

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Back again in Walgreens last week, I spotted the action figure of Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” in the toy aisle, another show my husband watches.

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Though I liked GoT in many ways, it has so much rape, I couldn’t stick with it. When I saw Daenerys at Walgreens, I thought: Who are they marketing to? Surely kids don’t watch GoT? Do other women buy for these their husbands besides me? For themselves? (please, let me know) I have a feeling this “Game of Thrones” heroine will be in my house soon. I’ll buy her for my husband. If he releases her from the package, and the kids come across her, I will let them play with her, in spite of the rape fest of a show. I love the dragon on perched on her arm, and I think my children would use Daenerys to make up some incredible stories. Fingers crossed my husband buys me Jesse (I watched every episode of “Breaking Bad” cringing and biting my nails.) That is, if he can find a store that will sell the toy.

 

I’m a fan FCKH8’s ‘F-Bomb Princess’ viral video

From the first time I saw FCKH8’s video, I really liked it. Perhaps, I’m a fan because of bias. When I started my blog, Reel Girl, I wrote on my “About” page:

One more reason I started Reel Girl– our movie rating system, and the values associated with that rating system, is totally messed up. So many G movies perpetuate the absolute worst kinds of gender stereotypes, yet they are supposedly “for kids.” In my opinion, this kind of repetitive imagery is way more dangerous for children than hearing the word “shit.”

 

“Cinderella” and all of its endless, infinite adaptations and reincarnations, in my opinion is bad for kids. “Whale Rider” in spite of swearing and drug use is good for kids. Simple concept, yet so hard to convince people of it, that I write and write and write. When I watched the FCKH8 video, I felt like: YES, this is the point I’ve been trying to make: Pay inequity is way more offensive than the word fuck. The video shows what I’ve been trying to tell. It is art. And unlike many writers out there, I am THRILLED when I see my idea coming from someone else as well because it makes me feel like I’m not crazy, like people ‘get it.’ Furthermore, I realize that in order for the world to change, people other than me have to ‘get it.’ If it’s just me with my ‘original’ idea that I’m going for, all I have is my ego, and that is a lonely, static, boring place to be plus nothing much changes at all.

So perhaps, I thought, when I read comments against the FCKH8 video by my brilliant colleagues including founder of Pigtail Pals Melissa Wardy, author of The Princess Problem Rebecca Hains, and author of Her Next Chapter Lori Day, I’m just being selfish here. I’m not thinking about the kids having no idea what they’re saying (and I do believe these girls are too young to understand what they’re talking about.) Perhaps I’m so happy not be so isolated with my vision, I’m blind to the exploitation, hypocritically exploitation I’m trying to prevent.

But after thinking this through, I still like the video. As I wrote, I agree the kids don’t understand what they are saying, this is a job for them. I never thought the kids in the ad were not acting or not reciting lines, and I don’t think the video’s intention is to make viewers assume that. So the question is: Does the ignorance of the kids make the video exploitative? My answer is still no, unless all child actors from the ones in sitcoms who speak in language far beyond their years to any commercial, all who often don’t understand what they are saying, are exploited.

The next question I asked myself: Is the FCKH8 ad exploiting girls because it’s using them to sell a product?

During the World Series last night and the night before, my family and I saw teen baseball star Mo’ne Davis in a Chevy ad. I thought the ad was beautiful. In the ad, Mo’ne says, “I throw 70 miles an hour. That’s throwing like a girl.” Millions of families saw her throw in a mini-movie and heard that line while watching the World Series. We also saw a Mazda ad with Mia Hamm, and my 11 year old, who is a fan of Hamm, said, “Why is she selling cars?” To which I responded, “It’s either her or a male athlete. I’d rather see Mia.” I want to see the images of powerful girls used to sell things, from toys to movies to clothing. These kids are not being exploited because they are being used to sell a product.

Rebecca Hains makes powerful points in her blog about the history of FCKH8:

The slogans found on the FCKH8 t-shirts were appropriated from other feminist nonprofits. For example, the Feminist Majority Foundation has been selling “This is what a feminist looks like” tees since at least the mid-1990s. So despite their promises to support charities with their t-shirt sales, FCKH8 is actually siphoning money away from feminist charities by stealing their ideas.

Furthermore, quality charities have refused to take FCKH8’s money in the past, because FCKH8 is incredibly problematic. They’ve been accused widely of being transphobic (as a quick google search will show), and their anti-racist work is of dubious merit. For example, their response to Ferguson raised so much ire in the anti-racist community that Race Forward—one of the charities originally listed on FCKH8’s page—announced publicly that they were refusing donations from the company.

So to those who are saying that FCKH8 is a company that’s doing it’s best to promote social justice, and we should cut them some slack? No FCKHing way.

I agree stealing a slogan from non-profits is not ethical. I also didn’t know about using the Ferguson tragedy to sell T shirts. FCKH8 sounds like a company with a bad history. But learning this history doesn’t change how I feel about the video. I still like the video. I still like that the video is going viral and, just like the Mo’ne ad, spreading important slogans out into the world:

* Pay inequality. Women are paid 23% less than men for the exact same fucking work.

*Women who graduate university with straight A’s get paid only as much as men who graduated with C’s.

* 1 out of every 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped by a man

* Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys not to fucking rape

*We’re glad a women’s right to vote is here, but equality is messed up. It’s walking to the car without fear.

* Pretty is a compliment but here’s how the focus works to girls detriment. Society teaching girls that our body, boobs, and butt are more important than our brains leads us to thinking our worth comes from our waistline. My aspirations in life should not be worrying about the shape of my ass so fuck focusing on how I look and give me a book.

*Instead of cleaning these girls mouths out with soap, maybe society should clean up its act.

*Near the end of the ad, there is a boy in a dress. “When you tell a boy it’s bad to act like a girl it’s because you think its bad to be a girl.”

These are messages I work hard every day to promote, and I believe the ideas are presented in this video in a simple, convincing way, easy for adults– yes, adults– to understand.

Rebecca posts comments on her blog from people who are offended that these young girls spoke of rape and assault. I agree that part is disconcerting, and it is for this reason, I chose not to show the video to my 11 year old daughter who I have yet to tell about rape. That said,  I’ve blogged about books for kids that deal with rape, incest, and assault wondering what age is appropriate for these stories. The answer I always get is that it depends on the kid. I want to be the first one to tell my kid about rape, sexual assault, pornography, incest, drugs etc. I don’t want her learning about these issues for the first time from books or movies or other kids. When I’ve written about these kinds of books on my blog, kids and parents have written back that their young kid does know about porn or rape based on experiences that they’ve had– talking to other kids, what they’ve seen, or instances in their own life. Now that they do know, it is important and beneficial for the kid to be able to read literature about it. Here’s one comment that I got when I wrote about Graceling:

Based on the brief snippets of content she saw, I had to not only have “the talk”, but also explain a LOT of things I never thought I’d have to address at that age. Because of this, conversely, she is now very educated on both sex, misogyny, and rape/assault/child abuse.  Therefore, I think these books that are written about very serious issues — but in the comprehension style of a young person who can find the characters identifiable — is a great source of information…I have not read these books to endorse them, but now I am interested and will be checking them out at the library. Thank you.

My point is that I don’t think it’s fair to make a blanket statement that little kids should not refer to rape or assault in a video when in the real world, kids see and experience these things every day.

One more thing: As far as the video not having a trigger warning, I don’t post trigger warnings on my blog ever. My whole blog is a trigger. Everyone is unique, and I think it’s impossible to make some kind of assumption about what will trigger readers.

If for some reason you haven’t come across the video, you can watch it here.

 

Michonne of ‘Walking Dead’ joins our female action figure collection!

I made a few attempts to watch ‘Walking Dead’ with my husband but I couldn’t take the violence. (I had the same reaction to ‘Game of Thrones’ along with the rape scenes. ‘Mad Men,’ I had to give up as well,  because while I understand the show is about sexism, not sexist, I couldn’t handle Don Draper’s serial cheating. All those shows, I liked– the acting and the storylines– they’re just not for me at this time in my life.) But my husband held strong with ‘Walking Dead’ and became a true fan. He loves that show. So today, while picking up a prescription at Walgreens when I spotted Michonne grimacing at me from the toy aisle, I couldn’t resist buying her as a present.

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You probably know how rare it is to find a female action figure, not to mention a non-white female action figure, without her breasts popping out of her shirt, wearing pants even, just sitting there on a shelf in a store and not hiding out on some obscure internet site. Let’s just say she’s far rarer than the unicorn in fantasy figure world.

Here are some figures I’ve found for my kids to play with. This is my youngest daughter with Catwoman, Serafina Pekkala, Buffy, and Coraline. Coraline is my absolute favorite. I love her blue hair and droll expression. My kids are all fans of the book and movie, though I know some kids get scared of the movie.

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Here are Batgirl, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman in her invisible plane, another Catwoman on a motorcycle, and team of soccer players.

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Here’s Katniss, Merida, Rue, and Coraline again.

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Though, in theory, I’d rather my kids play with Michonne than Barbie, I wasn’t sure if I planned on letting them near her, when she comes with exotic weapons and also a couple severed heads. But when my daughter heard my husband’s joyful cry after he saw the package, I thought all was lost.

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My concern turned out to be unfounded. Not only did he tell her he’s not sharing, but he’s not even taking her out of the package. He’s worse than the evil dad in “The Lego Movie,” pre-epiphany.

(If you’re looking for any of these toys, I found quite a few on the website Toward the Stars.)

Fuck you, Lego

After a petition signed by thousands of customers asking LEGO to build a female scientist series, after LEGO’s own contest winner was a female scientist toy, and after that toy was actually created and then sold out, news breaks that LEGO’s Research Institute is, in fact, a limited edition. That’s right, after just two weeks on the market, the female scientists will no longer be sold by major retailers at a competitive price.

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The female scientists are banished to become collector’s items.

The New York Times reports:

Within days of its appearance early this month, the Research Institute — a paleontologist, an astronomer and a chemist — sold out on Lego’s website and will not be available at major retailers, including Target and Walmart.

 

Toys “R” Us did carry the line, but according to associates reached by telephone at two of its New York stores, it sold out at those locations as well.

A Toys “R” Us spokeswoman, Kathleen Waugh, said in an email that it would be available in about a week at the company’s Times Square and F.A.O. Schwarz stores.

Lego said the set was manufactured as a limited edition, meaning it was not mass-produced. The true enthusiast can still buy the Research Institute at Amazon.com, however, but for about three times its $19.99 retail price.

So instead of launching a major marketing campaign for the scientists, the way they did for Friends, for example, showing non-stop ads on TV and creating mini-movies featuring the figs all over the internet, these scientists will be hidden from kidworld. The figs won’t be seen on T-shirts, shoes sold at Stride Rite, lunchboxes or cereal boxes. There is no upcoming blockbuster movie where a chemist, astronomer, and paleontologist are a team of brilliant, brave heroes fighting evil. No, instead, LEGO’s female scientists are destined to a similar fate as female superheroes, possible to find if parents scour the internet, but missing from your children’s daily life, not present in stores that sell kids’ clothing, books, and toys, a venue where our children will mostly likely have to settle for slave Leia

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or girls who hang out at the cafe or beauty salon.

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Almost since I started this blog, I’ve been writing about the ridiculously sexist stereotypes marketed to kids by LEGO. The problem for me is I see so much potential in this toy. It’s a great toy, but it’s so limited in what it creates. I’ve blogged about LEGO’s great gender inclusive ad from the early 80s,

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about how it’s challenging for LEGO to make sets with females when movies like “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” don’t feature females, the Minority Feisty in LEGO’s own movie, I posted a letter sent to me by 14 year old girl complaining to the company that got 10,000 hits in hours on my site; I’ve written about sexism for Jezebel, I’ve been on Fox News and Huffington Post Live, and I’ve spent countless hours advocating through social media to put powerful and diverse female heroes in toys. I have three daughters who I’d love to buy these kinds of LEGO toys for, and I keep thinking the company is going to get it and change. It’s such an obvious win-win: LEGO makes money, kids get toys that don’t teach them gender stereotypes. But this latest move retracting a sold out toy, a toy that won a popular contest and was also driven by a petition with so many signatures is too much for me. I’m sick of LEGO opting to let social media gender equality advocates do their marketing for them. I’m not getting anything out of this relationship. Yes, you met with us once, but now I feel teased, manipulated, lied to, and dumped. I have nothing left to write but fuck you, LEGO, or, better said in the words of my eleven year old daughter’s idol, the great poet of break ups, Taylor Swift, we are never, ever getting back together.

Swift’s lyrics:

I remember when we broke up the first time
Saying, “This is it, I’ve had enough,” ’cause like
We hadn’t seen each other in a month
When you said you needed space. (What?)
Then you come around again and say
“Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change, trust me.”
Remember how that lasted for a day?
I say, “I hate you,” we break up, you call me, “I love you.”Ooh, we called it off again last night
But ooh, this time I’m telling you, I’m telling youWe are never ever ever getting back together,
We are never ever ever getting back together,
You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me
But we are never ever ever ever getting back togetherLike, ever…I’m really gonna miss you picking fights
And me falling for it screaming that I’m right
And you would hide away and find your peace of mind
With some indie record that’s much cooler than mineOoh, you called me up again tonight
But ooh, this time I’m telling you, I’m telling youWe are never, ever, ever getting back together
We are never, ever, ever getting back together
You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me (talk to me)
But we are never ever ever ever getting back togetherOoh, yeah, ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Oh oh ohI used to think that we were forever ever
And I used to say, “Never say never…”
Uggg… so he calls me up and he’s like, “I still love you,”
And I’m like… “I just… I mean this is exhausting, you know, like,
We are never getting back together. Like, ever”No!We are never ever ever getting back together
We are never ever ever getting back together
You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me
But we are never ever ever ever getting back togetherWe, ooh, getting back together, ohhh,
We, ooh, getting back togetherYou go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me (talk to me)
But we are never ever ever ever getting back together

Pepperidge Farm introduces Princess Goldfish, gendering kids’ food reaches new low

They’re new, they’re pink, and they’re perfect for your daughters! Princess Goldfish are finally here. Just got this Tweet from Josy Daras:

did you know they’ve gendered GOLDFISH? My son wanted them, so here they are.

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I love that her son wanted them. Can you fucking deal with this– gendered goldfish? We have sunk to a new low. Barely. Here’s what I blogged in March 2012:

Hey Goldfish Snack Crackers, girls aren’t a minority

My daughter is home sick today. She’s lying on the couch, watching TV, and eating Parmesan Goldfish. An ad for Goldfish crackers came on. She thought that coincidence was pretty hilarious. She held up one of her crackers and said, “Hi!” to the Goldfish on TV. Then she looked at down at the package. “Who are mine?” she wanted to know.

 

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They are: Xtreme, Gilbert, Brooke, and Finn.

I know what you’re thinking: Xtreme must be female, right? Or maybe Finn? Pepperidge Farm would never put 3 males and 1 female on a package. So, I went to Wikipedia. Check out these character descriptions:

  • Finn- A cheddar flavored goldfish that wears sunglasses (though not in the commercials).
  • Gilbert- A pretzel goldfish that tends to be a worrier.
  • Brooke- The beautiful and intelligent parmesan flavored goldfish and the only female member of the goldfish club until both Candace and Coral showed up.
  • Xtreme- A flavor-blasted fish who enjoys doing crazy stunts. His real (and embarrassing) name is Fumbleton.
  • Swimmington Von Stuffington III Esquire- Xtreme’s snobby older brother.
  • IQ- A honey graham fish who wears eyeglasses lives in the vacuum and befriends Gilbert and helps him escape out of the vacuum.
  • Candace- A pink fish who wears a red bow on her head and has a small blue star on her tail fin. She has a crush on Gilbert. Candace is also the winner of the “Finn’s New Friend” contest.
  • Coral- A chocolate graham and fun-spirited fish with a Southern accent who currently befriends the club. She is possibly somewhat of a tomboy.

When I created this blog, I wrote that I was going to rate kids media and toys. I never considered blogging about sexism in food. Reese’s Puffs, Special K, M & Ms, and Goldfish have, unfortunately, changed my mind.

My daughter and I made up different names and stories for the Goldfish, of course. But don’t start telling me it’s a free country, and we can just make up anything we like. I’m a creative person, and I struggle with this. Give me something to work with here, Pepperidge Farm! I’m also, like most moms, busy. Can’t I just read the damn names off the bag?

It would be so much easier to foster creativity in kids (and the adults that they will become) if we weren’t mired with the same old, same old ridiculous, gender-stereotyped narratives at every turn.

 

A year later, I posted this:

M &Ms, Goldfish, cereal boxes, and the Minority Feisty

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I know you probably think I’ve gone over the deep end with all the vitriol I’ve expressed towards M & Ms for presenting its female characters as a high heeled, kissy-lipped minority.

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But the problem here is that this same old image and narrative is everywhere in kidworld. Whose kids eat Goldfish? Here’s our package:

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There it is again: Brooke, the Minority Feisty.

And kids cereal? Even Raj of “Big Bang Theory.” Raj said he’d done the research and there are no female cereal box characters at all.

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What happens to kids when they grow up saturated in a world where everywhere they look, girls go missing?

Slut-shaming Princess Leia or protecting childhood from adult sexuality?

As news spreads that Disney will be adding Leia themed toys to its merchandise, I’m seeing more instances where others have noted how often Leia is shown as a slave in kidworld. Last week, Jezebel posted this:

Why Is Slave Leia the Only Princess Leia Toy Available at Toys”R”Us?

Over the weekend we received a tip from a concerned mother who had come across something very disconcerting while perusing the aisles of Toys R Us. Apparently the only available toy or figurine of the Star Wars character Princess Leia is of her in the “Slave Outfit” from Return of the Jedi. Bikini? Check. Loin cloth? Check. Chain around the neck? Check. And in case you were wondering if it was actually geared towards children, it’s listed for kids ages 4+….This is a perfect and heart-breaking example of how ingrained sexism is in geek culture. It’s not like there’s a Chewbacca toy in a banana hammock

 

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This makes me so mad. It’s so twisted. Taking the heroic Leia, one of the few females in the Star Wars franchise at all, certainly the most famous one, then showing her chained and in a bikini again and again and again.

Yesterday, I posted this picture of a LEGO set I bought for my daughter. I chose it because the salesperson told me it was the only one in the store that includes Leia. I regretted the purchase as soon as I saw this mini-fig. Now, I know to check more carefully.

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I also posted yet another picture of an illustration from Vader’s Little Princess, where the distorted narrative depicts the slave outfit as Leia’s independent, rebellious choice:

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The book has another illustration with the same message:

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I haven’t yet been accused (that I know of) for slut-shaming Princess Leia yesterday, though whenever I complain about toys and media created for little kids where the females are consistently half dressed, commenters often put me in the role of Vader in these illustrations: I’m the one curtailing the independence, rebellion, and freedom of girls.

I’ve written about Polly- Pocket where the whole point of the toy is to dress Polly is various belly baring shirts, mini skirts, hot pants, and bathing suits. Polly is marketed to 4 – 7 year olds.

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Desperate for female superheroes to show my kids, I purchased the DVD set of the Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter. My 5 year old daughter wanted to know: “Why is she in her underwear?”  Here’s Wonder Woman as a LEGO minifig (not easy to find at a toy store or Target, even half dressed.)

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When Pigtail Pals founder Melissa Wardy dropped her kids off at school, they were walking behind a first grader with a Winx backpack:

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On her blog, Wardy writes:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

I’m not saying that 4 year old kids know what being half naked has to do with adult sexuality, but these repeated images teach all children that it’s normal to sexualize girls. Sexualization is very different from sexuality. In her best-selling book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein quotes Stephen Hinshaw from his book The Triple Bind:

“Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.

In short: sexualization is performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. Sexuality is understanding and connecting to your own desire.

At the reading, Orenstein shared this passage from Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

Let me be clear here: I object– strenuously– to the sexualization of girls but not necessarily to girls having sex. I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage. I do, however, want her to understand why she’s doing it: not for someone else’s enjoyment, not to keep a boyfriend from leaving, not because everyone else is. I want her to explore and understand her body’s responses, her own pleasure, her own desire. I want her to be able to express her needs in a relationship, to say no when she needs to, to value reciprocity, and to experience true intimacy. The virgin/ whore cycle of the pop princesses, like so much of the girlie girl culture, pushes in the opposite direction, encouraging girls to view self-objectification as a feminist rite of passage.

 

That last sentence is again, exactly how Leia is presented in Vader’s Little Princess.

Older girls and women can choose to wear a bikini, or a even chain around their necks if they want, but girls and women should not feel like they have to be “attractive” to men all the time, 24 hours a day. Or even 12 hours a day. Or 6. Or any hours at all. Nor should they feel like they have to be attractive to all men. It’s this kind of fucked up mentality– be attractive to all men, all the time, that leads to men feeling entitled to women’s bodies. I could go on here about the legal ramifications of this as far reproductive rights, coverage for contraception etc, but that’s another post. The point of this one is that 4 year old girls should not be trained that it’s completely normal to be half naked most of the time. The females in kidworld  should not be constantly baring their bellies. Please stop selling kids toys and media where females are half dressed. Parents, please stop buying these kinds of toys for your children. They set a dangerous precedent. That’s no slut-shaming but protecting childhood from adult sexuality.

I’d like to collect some images of Princess Leia here that you all think would be good for Disney to base its merchandise on. Here’s a couple to start:

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More great posts on this issue from around the web:

Why Representations of Women and Girls Can’t Be Slut-Shamed

‘Slut-Shaming’ Has Been Tossed Around So Much, It’s Lost All Meaning

When Do We Allow Our Girls To Partake in Commercialized Sexualization?

 

 

 

 

 

Responding to #WeWantLeia campaign, Disney will stock stores with Leia toys

Breaking news!

After the public complained far and loud about the annihilation and degradation of Princess Leia in kidworld, Disney announced its rectifying the omission of this warrior-freedom-fighter princess, telling Time Magazine:

The current assortment of Star Wars products at the Disney Store launched earlier this year, and is just the beginning of what is to come,” Disney spokeswoman Margita Thompson told TIME. “We’re excited to be rolling out new products in the coming months, including several items that will feature Princess Leia, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars galaxy.

 

I am so excited, both about the product and that we are making a difference! Good job everybody.

Note to Disney, we do not want to see Leia in her slave girl-S & M-metal bikini chained to Jabba the Hut, as she is in this LEGO set that I regretted purchasing for my 7 year old daughter.

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Nor do we want to see narratives where Leia is again in said bikini arguing with her father that she actually wants to wear it– when it was Jabba that forced her into the outfit in the first place– as in Vader’s Little Princess which I regretted reading to my 5 year old daughter.

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We’re over the metal bikini. Leia has been hard enough to find in toy sets, on T-shirts or sippy cups. We want to see a strong and powerful action figure saving the galaxy.

 

Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women

Just saw this from Buzzfeed on Miss Representation’s Facebook page:

Plus-size swimwear company Swimsuits for All set out to prove that “sexy curves go beyond a size four” by shooting its own swimwear calendar, including a picture reenacting this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

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Are you kidding me? Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw that picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of this one?

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All right, maybe I’d be a smidgen happier that my kids wouldn’t have to see more starving women defined as beautiful, but my goals and expectations are so much higher than what this image from Swimsuits for All represents. I want to see images of women where they are not defined by their sexuality, by whether whomever is looking at them finds them sexy or not, where what they look like in bathing suits is not the be-all end-all, where who thinks they are attractive only matters in a very particular context, like when they are with someone who they love or want to have sex with.

Swimsuits for All is in the business of selling swimsuits. The company has got to sell its product, so posing women in the merchandise that it’s marketing makes sense. I’m not indicting the company, but pretending as if seeing this image all over the internet is liberating is ridiculous. Also, it might be nice to see the women swimming in their suits. What about playing volleyball on the beach? Building awesome sandcastles? Doing something? There could be a shot of a woman or two sunbathing, as long as the “aren’t I sexy” poses were not the dominant, ubiquitous ones.

I’ve written this for a long time, but “fat” women beauty contests don’t represent progress. Women no longer paraded as meat is progress.

 

Still confused or want to see more images to make this point? Please take a look at Reel Girl’s recent post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. You’ll see this famous painting by Manet along with contemporary images of dressed men paired with naked women.

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