Play ‘Find the Girls on the Cereal Box’ featuring…Captain Crunch!

Today, we had Captain Crunch with crunch berries for breakfast. (Not the healthiest choice, I know, blaming my husband who loved the “food” as a kid.) There are no female mascots on children’s cereal. That’s right, zero. You may not think that’s a big deal but it’s one more space in kidworld where girls go missing. Children spend hours studying these cereal boxes and playing the games on them. They’re like newspapers for children, and just like newspapers for adults, males dominate the stories. What if there were no male mascots on children’s cereal? Do you think anyone would notice that?

A while back, in an effort to help my kids learn not to take missing females for granted, as something expected and normal, we invented a new game: Find the Girls on the Cereal Box. It’s actually fun because it’s challenging, and you can have some great discussions about what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl, according to cereal box creators.

Try it yourself. Here’s my 5 year old daughter with the back of a box of Captain Crunch.


The answer is: 4 girls and 9 boys including Captain Crunch on this box. The photo is not great, and details are key so don’t be too hard on yourself if you got it wrong.

Here’s a close up of the girls we found.

Girl #1 is a girl because her hair is pink, has long curls, and she has eyelashes.


Girl #2 also has…. pony tails and eyelashes! She’s our favorite because she’s winning the race. That’s pretty cool and almost makes it forgivable that there are more than twice as many boys than girls on this box. Almost. But see, that’s the thing: girls are allowed to win sometimes in kidworld as long as they are shown in the minority and their power is sufficiently circumscribed.girl2

Girl #3 is the smallest and hardest to find, discovered by my keen-eyed 8 year old daughter. We know this girl is a girl because… you guessed it: eyelashes and ponytails.


Girl #4: pony tail and eyelashes.


Play with your kids. Please, share your photos here or on Reel Girl’s Facebook page.

Gender stereotyping leads to bullying

When Grayson Bruce, age 9, brought his My Little Pony lunch sack to school, the principal advised his mother to tell her son that in order to avoid bullying, he should leave his lunch sack at home.

Wow. That is the advice of the school principal? To conform? That’s the best the leader of the school can do?

My 4 yr old daughter was bullied at her preschool for wearing “boy” shoes (translation “Star Wars” sneakers.) How did we deal with it? We talked about it and made a video.

I spoke with my daughter’s teachers who then spoke to the kids about how shoes are for everyone. I make an effort to call out gender stereotyping when I am with my daughter. I ask her questions about what she thinks when we see girls or boys portrayed in stereotypical ways.

After my daughter’s experience, I did a Google search: “bullied for boy shoes.” On Coupon Cilpinista I saw this:

Yesterday my 4 year old wore her waterproof slip-on shoes for boy or girl to school (they are black Timberland moccasins) and she told me this morning, “The girls would not play with me yesterdays because they said I was wearing boys shoes, can you please put sparkly shoes on me ???”

I was in shock. Are you serious? Is this something I should address with the school??? BULLYING starting THIS YOUNG??? I don’t know what to think– my daughter loves those shoes and her sparkly shoes are not comfortable or for winter weather but she wants to wear them to appease the bullies in her classroom.

What would you do?????


Almost worse than the bullying, here’s some advice she got from fans of hers, without irony, each one confirmed with multiple likes:

Cover them in glitter. Change the shoelaces to a girlie style.


Bedazzle her moccasins


Add something to moccasins to make it more “girly”


This is so sad – I’d talk to the teacher for sure. I also like the ideas of “girling up” her boots with shoe laces, etc. Good luck CouponClipinista


put sparkles on the shoes…that should do it.


Yep. I would bedazzel the crap out of em. I can tell you from experience, the school wont do anything!!


I agree. Bedazzle them. glue on a few rhinestones or a bow.


Bedazzle her shoes :o )


Note to parents: Gender stereotyping CAUSES bullying. Bedazzling shoes? Not a solution here. What is that teaching your kid? To do whatever the bullies say to do. And what is it teaching the other kids? Keep bullying. Is that really the lesson we want children to be learning? I honestly don’t even think these 4 year olds know they’re bullying, because not enough parents and teachers are telling them that. I think these kids believe that they are stating a fact. It’s up to grown-ups to teach them differently. Don’t know how? Tell your children colors are for everybody, as are games, books, TV shows, and movies. Seek out narratives with strong female protagonists for your sons and daughters. Still confused? Here’s some great advice from Chicago Now.


Cartoon Network’s history of sexism: cancelling shows for featuring too many girls

Since my post Sexed up Power Puff Girls point to Cartoon Network’s girl problem, I’ve learned more about Cartoon Network’s history of sexism.

Last year, “Tower Prep” was cancelled because it had too many females in the cast.

From Women and Hollywood:

In a fascinating discussion with director Kevin Smith, Dini relates that higher-ups at the cable network urged him to focus his storylines on his male characters and make his female characters one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys.” When Dini proceeded to create fully realized girl characters anyway, the Cartoon Network axed the show.


Here’s the relevant excerpt (emphases added):


DINI: They’re all for boys. “We do not want the girls,” I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, “We do not want girls watching this show.” 


SMITH: WHY? That’s 51% of the population.
DINI: They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show –
SMITH: So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t — A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as fucking boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them fucking umbrella with the fucking character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi — that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, “Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.” It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, “I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?”
DINI: That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, “We need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys” — this is the network talking — “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.” And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]‘s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘Fuck, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t — and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down — “Yeah, but the — so many — we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.”
SMITH: That’s heart-breaking.
DINI: And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, “We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.” We had a whole merchandise line for Tower Prep that they shitcanned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, “Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.”
I heard about this story because a commenter responded on my “Powerpuff Girls” post that CN said it doesn’t want shows focused on girls because girls don’t buy toys. My response was: WTF? I thought girls were shoppers? This explanation is so typical of how actions get gendered based on power and status, for example: girls are the ones who like to cook, unless we’re talking about great chefs, then, cooking is a guy thing; girls are artsy, unless we’re talking about great artists, top selling paintings, or museum shows, then art, once again, becomes a guy thing; girls are verbal unless we’re talking about great literature in which case female writers are designated chicklit and guys are the masters. Boys buy more stuff? Wow. So I went to the link, did some research, and some of what I found I pasted above. There was also a petition based on that interview created on that has about 16,500 signatures.
Since my post about “Powerpuff Girls,” I’ve gotten lots of comments like this one:
The girls wear skin tight clothing in the show as well. They are not sexualizing them just because they wear latex. Everyone has their own style, and the artist portrayed it that way. Couldn’t the male characters being all muscular be considered sexualizing, they wear tight clothing too. you try to teach equality for all yet you claim everything needs fairly regulated so it’s 50/50, screwing over peoples free choices. People come up with their own ideas, and if theyre male heroes so be it, there is nothing wrong with that. The powerpuff girls were my favorite cartoon growing up, it didnt matter to me if they were male or female, all that mattered was that it was fun watching. Girls and guys alike loved it. And now we have this “movement” where all the ‘equal rights’ activists wanna dissect absolutely everything to feel better about themselves and bitch at the world for making women inferior, when the ONLY times I’ve heard of people refering to women as inferior are pages like this.
Pull your heads out of your asses and move on with your lives.
To which I responded:
Exaggerating muscles not the same as breasts, ass etc. Muscles signify strength, what you can do. See Kevin bolks ‘if male avengers posed like the female one’ on Reel Girl or Theamats Wonder Woman– if I don’t get pants no one gets pants. That you don’t notice is the problem. Do you think you might notice if 41 out of 47 shows had female protagonists? I wish I had my head up my ass, that would be a lot less depressing

Here is a link to my post: What if male Avengers posed like the female one? Please take a look at the art.

The same commenter wrote this:

I wouldnt care if 47 out if 47 had female protagonists, its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea. God you people are fucking annoying.

To which I wrote:

That’s great that you wouldn’t care if the shows featured female protags, would you feel the same way about the movies for adults and the male/ female ratios? As far as ‘its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea’ That’s not how kids experience it. They buy the toys, wear the clothes, act out the stories, dress up as the characters on Halloween

He responds:

And whos to say a girl cant dress like a male superhero? Or a male as a femal superhero? It’s the same thing. Yes, i would feel the same EXACT way of the adult movie industry.
You’re claiming that males should be different than females, are you not? By saying that characters are male/female for a reason? Instead if them just being characters? As part of a show to entertain kids and feed their imagination?
Now what about BET. black entertainment television? That must be some bad stuff, all those poor white kids wanting to be black because tv told them too hmm? That’s just outrageous, is it not??? I can only imagone how pissed activists would be if there was a mens television channel.
OWN, oprah winfreys channel, is pretty much about her and things she believes in and likes, so why isn’t everyone complaining about that!!
Or Christian channels that show services. That is horrendous to those whom aren’t christian! Imagine all the other kids who aren’t, those poor souls must be so deprived.
I guess it’s a blessing that my neice, whom I love dearly is raised by parents who dont shelter her and fill her mind with radical myths and dramatic stories of all this inequality. She can watch Dora, and she can watch Spongebob, and she loves sesame street. She loves playing with cars and barbies. She is gonna grow up to be a wonderful successful and proud individual. No thanks to you so called “equalists” making everything so equal and wonderful.
I am all for equality and I will stand up for anything and anyone who against my bias deserves it. But this is too much. You have taken someones art and therapy, in regards to the artists rendition of PPG, and absolutely blew it out of proportion.
THAT is the problem with this world.

Here’s me:

Cartoon Network is a channel FOR KIDS. The channels you list are for adults. Kids deserve and need a protected space where girls don’t get marginalized and sexualized.Do you get it would be messed up if there were channels with shows just for African- American kids, Christians kids etc? Yet, it’s perfectly acceptable in 2014 to segregate girls and boys and create narratives based on gender stereotypes

I reposted all of this because its typical of comments I always get. It confuses me because I thought we all understood that “separate but equal” doesn’t work. I don’t know why when it comes to gender and kids, we throw everything we’ve supposedly learned out the window. These stereotypes are ridiculous. They are not “natural” but based on power.
When kids are radically and repeatedly separated, based on gender, all kinds of stereotypes must result.
All kids to see stories where girls are powerful.

‘We are human beings first’

Great quote from Gloria Steinem (via Ms. Magazine)

We are human beings first, with minor differences from men that apply largely to the act of reproduction. We share the dreams, capabilities, and weaknesses of all human beings, but our occasional pregnancies and other visible differences have been used — even more pervasively, if less brutally, than radical differences have been — to mark us for an elaborate division of labor that may once have been practical but has since become cruel and false.


And Steinem wasn’t even talking about toys. Well, specifically about toys. Target, are you listening? Can we all please stop training a new generation to accept gender stereotypes as “natural?”

Alameda County DA reports child sex trade epidemic in Oakland

I live in San Francisco and right across the bay, Oakland is the epicenter of human trafficking in the Bay Area. At this moment, 13 year old girls are being sold as sex slaves and practically everyone chooses to look the other way.

That’s right, in 2014 slavery exists in America and the victims are young girls. Of course, this slavery isn’t legal, but when no one does much to stop it, it may as well be.

Starting today,  Nancy O’Malley, the DA of Alameda county is putting up 27 billboards to educate the public about human trafficking, because for some reason, a lot of people seem to know nothing about it.

In an op-ed for the Contra Costa Times explaining her PR move, O’Malley writes:

The FBI has identified Oakland as an epicenter of trafficking in the Bay Area counties. The majority of exploited children are 13 to 16 years old, some as young as 11…Even more shocking, the number of commercially sexually exploited children is increasing, while the average age of those exploited is decreasing…There are two sides — supply and demand — that make sex trafficking of our children possible. Human trafficking exists because there is an endless and disgraceful demand for children for sex and traffickers fill that demand daily.


What can you do? O’Malley is clear on steps she’d like you to take. Below are quotes from her op-ed:

(1) If you see something, say something. Keep the human trafficking hotline in your cellphone, 888-373-7888 or text Be Free (233733), and report anything suspicious. Through this hotline, more than 75,000 calls have come in to identify nearly 9,000 survivors.

(2) You can also sign up for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Human Exploitation and Trafficking Watch mailing list at to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do to join the fight. Download a free toolkit so you can build your capacity to hold traffickers accountable and keep victims safe.

(3) Donate your time and money to organizations that are making a difference, such as Misssey, Bay Area Women Against Rape, West Coast Children’s Clinic and HEAT Watch.

(4) Speak out: Let policymakers know we need the toughest penalties for traffickers and the predators who buy children for sex and resources for victims of human trafficking. Together, we will we put an end to modern-day slavery.

I have another suggestion for you. Please, do what you can to stop contributing to the sexualizing of young girls. Read my post here and don’t help to spread propaganda, in the form of media and toys, that sexualizes young girls. These products are not innocuous but dangerous. Sexualizing girls happens everywhere, so ubiquitous it’s paradoxically invisible.

Here are just a few examples of how we sexualize kids. Take a look at the popular Polly Pocket toy. This toy is marketed to girls ages 4 – 7 and the toy is all about dressing the doll in “sexy” outfits. Why would a parent buy her little daughter a toy like this?


Here are the Bratz dolls.


Melissa Wardy of Pigtails Pals recently wrote:

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 blogged that after she and her young daughter walked to school behind a first grade girl wearing this backpack.


Wardy writes:

Given what we know about how early sexualization harms young girls,  I cannot understand how parents allow this kind of imagery and media in their homes.

This year, France outlawed child beauty pageants because they are so dangerous for children. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Jouanno, a former junior minister for environment and a senator representing Paris from the center-right party U.D.I., wrote a report on the “hypersexualization” of children in 2011. The report was commissioned by the health minister in response to public outrage over a photo display in Paris Vogue that featured under-age girls in sexy clothes and postures, with high heels, makeup and painted fingernails.

But in the USA, we have hit TV shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Toddlers and Tiaras” that glorify the exploitation of girls. Here, in the home of the free and the brave, sexualizing kids is accepted and normal. We allow it and condone it.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That is my interpretation of O’Malley’s billboards. I am so grateful she is taking a leadership position to end child trafficking. Please follow her example and act to end the sexual abuse of children.



Rainbow Loom defies gender stereotypes, shows kids colors (and jewelry) for everyone

Before I even understood what it was, I had a bias against the Rainbow Loom. As the mother of three young daughters who is continually trying to protect my kids from the gender stereotyping that dominates their world, I tend to steer clear of anything with the word “rainbow.”

Even though I tried my best to block out this toy, I managed to pick up that it involved jewelry. That was the nail in its coffin. With two strikes, the loom had little chance of ever making it into my home. (Generally, how I deal with gendered toys is not to ban them– that only makes my kids want the stuff more– but ignore them, while I give a lot of attention to the toys I like. I play those with my kids.)

A few days ago, we went to my sister’s house, and her kids were making the bracelets. I, as usual, ignored the activity, but then I noticed my seven year old daughter wasn’t part of the group. She was sitting by herself, reading a book, and she looked sad. I asked her why she wasn’t making a bracelet, and she said she didn’t know how, that she couldn’t do it. This information and her expression just about killed me, so I said I’d teach her. She said, “No, other people have tried. I can’t do it.” So at that point, I knew there was no way we were leaving that house until she made a goddam bracelet. I may not like another rainbow/ jewelry toy, but I won’t resist an opportunity to help my kid practice resilience, power through frustration, and keep at something until she masters it.

I got some rubber bands, we started to work, and she was right. She really didn’t know how. For a while, I couldn’t even figure out why she kept messing up– it was just the basic pattern we were doing, nothing complicated. Finally, I realized she wasn’t stretching the hole big enough (mind you, this isn’t my forte either.) We sat there for a fucking hour but something clicked. Here she is after she figured it out.


She was so proud of herself, and I was so proud of her. So what did I do to reinforce that behavior? I went out and bought her a loom. And, because I have three kids– and my ten year old is a whiz at this shit, and I didn’t want her taking over my seven year old’s stuff– I bought three looms.

So there we were, sitting down last night in our living room making bracelets and necklaces, and it was so much fun. We had a blast. Notice the “we.” I got into it, too. You might even say, obsessed. You know how I wrote I can’t help teaching my kid to deal with frustration and power through something until she gets it? These toy is perfect for that, because you can keep challenging yourself– even if you’re a grown-up, maybe especially if you’re a grown-up– making your pattern and stitching more complicated. I’m telling you, this shit is addictive.

While my daughters and I were creating these beautiful things, we talked. At some point, I asked them “Do the boys make these too?” They looked at me like I was crazy, and not for the reason I thought. “Of course, they do. They love it,” my kids told me. I hadn’t even asked if the boys wear them, so I did. All the boys wear them. You probably know this because you have sons or haven’t been blocking out this trend. The kids make this stuff together, put it on, give it away, and, I kid you not, sell it.

I now believe the Rainbow Loom is nothing less than revolutionary. It’s called The Rainbow Loom for goodness sake, and it’s for everyone. Do you realize what this toy is saying to kids? Colors are for everyone. Look at these colors, please. This is what comes with your loom.


Rainbow Loom also teaches that jewelry, the epitome of a “girl” toy, is for everyone. And finally, that girls and boys can play together. Is there another toy, another trendy, top-selling toy at that, which shows kids all this?

Now, I am new to this trend, so please tell me if I’m wrong here, but as far as I can tell, there is no “girl” version with pink and purple and a “boy” version with blue, red, and black. I’m going to be checking out what the kids are wearing, but mine use all the colors and they tell me the boys do to. Just before I wrote this post, I did a Google search, and I couldn’t find anything to indicate gendered marketing (though I’m supposed to be doing 100 other things right now, on Christmas Eve Day, besides blog, so I could’ve looked longer.) I did see this post from

Tricia Ross’s eight-year-old son avoids playing with any of his older sisters’ toys. But he and many of his male classmates in Charlottesville, Va., have seized on loom bands.


“There’s a sense of accomplishment” that comes with finishing a bracelet, Tricia Ross says, and it’s enough to inspire her son to “sit there until it’s complete.” He’s begun taking orders for bracelets from his younger sister, cranking them out in the styles and colour schemes she requests.


Ross and Volkman both find that while many craft products are packaged in pink boxes emblazoned with pictures of smiling girls, the gender-neutral packaging of loom band products make them more boy-friendly. It also helps, Volkman thinks, that they use rubber bands rather than fluffy yarn or delicate materials.

I remember reading in People a couple weeks ago that the founder of Rainbow Loom, Cheong Choon Ng, is the father of two daughters. He watched his kids make bracelets and that inspired him to create the loom which he first did with pins. Here’s his daughter, Julia, age 12, making a complicated design (pic from NYT.)


How cool is that?  A toy inspired by 2 girls, teaches boys and girls to play together, and that colors and jewelry are for everyone. The only downside so far is the price. It’s $30 for the one my kids wanted. Because I opted to get three, I bought the travel model at $14 each. The founder has got to be a millionaire– I mean, it’s rubber bands and plastic. But if this guy and his toy are defying gender stereotypes, getting kids to play together, and boys to take orders from girls, IMO he deserves every penny. If you’re doing any last minute shopping today, get this for your kids (and yourself!) That is, if you can find any left in a store.

Reel Girl rates Rainbow Loom ****HHH****

If you won’t buy your kids racist presents, don’t buy them sexist ones

Maybe it’s because Santa is an old, white guy, but the 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


Africans 1931


Females 2013


Be on the right side of history. Please, say no to sexist toys for your kids this Holiday season.





Again, Goldie Blox’s problem of its actual product: ‘make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product’

An open letter from the Beastie Boys to Goldie Blox:

“Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad.

We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads.

When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”


I am no expert on this situation to say the least. From what I gather, and I could be wrong– it’s happened– you are allowed to parody songs if you are not selling a product and making money off of the song. If you are making money, you can’t use someone else’s song to do it, even if you’ve created a parody. On top of that, in his will, founding member Adam Yauch left specific instructions that his music or image could not be used to sell products.

Goldie Blox is selling a product here, and, as I’ve written, though I love the ad, I don’t like what’s being sold, especially when the company claims to be ‘disrupting the pink aisle’ and then turns around and sells a princess-pageant themed toy.

And why didn’t Goldie Blox ask permission before making the parody? I know it’s easy to look back and see mistakes, but you would’ve thought the GB lawyers, who have already taken steps to file a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys now, would have advised them earlier: ask first.

If this ad were a public service message, it would be extraordinary. But instead, it looks like a song has been “borrowed” to make money by selling a product which IMO contradicts the ad’s message. This is all feeling more and more unethical to me.

Reel Girl’s earlier posts on the Goldie Blox ad:

Did you know the viral Goldie Blox ad is selling a princess themed toy?

Do Reel Girl’s posts on Goldie Blox ‘degrade femininity?’

Do Reel Girl’s posts on Goldie Blox ‘denigrate femininity?’

I’ve gotten all kinds of negative comments in response to my post that the viral Goldie Blox ad is selling a message that’s different than its product. Here’s one that a commenter writes is from Goldie Blox. I don’t know if the Goldie Blox comment quoted is in response to my blog or another one.

“And here is GoldieBlox’s response to the backlash: “Yes, we’ve seen this blog post, and the author raises a lot of great points. We’re sorry she feels that Goldie’s a waste of money, but totally understand where she’s coming from.We don’t have a problem with princesses being AN option, as long as they aren’t the ONLY option. Many girls really enjoy princesses, ballet, and pink, and there’s nothing wrong with that! STEM fields denigrate femininity enough as is; girls who enjoy girly stuff are just as capable of building a catapult and launching their younger siblings into the next yard as girls who don’t enjoy girly stuff.As for the toy itself, sure, it’s a “princess toy” in that there is a princess in it. In Goldieblox and the Parade Float, Ruby, Goldie’s best friend, teaches her friends that creativity and friendship matter more than any pageant. We think that’s a pretty good lesson for any kid.”


First of all, who says pink and princess is feminine? Do you realize how many assumptions you have to buy into to even make that argument? Pink wasn’t even a “girl” color until the last century. It was a boy color, a version of red. Blue, in honor of the Virgin Mary, was considered a girl color. Children weren’t even color-coded before the early twentieth century. Before that, babies wore white, because to get clothing clean, it had to be boiled. Take a look at President Roosevelt.


The fact that we all think, including our poor kids, that pink is coded in female genes and a “girl” color shows the incredible influence of marketing in 2013.

Anita Sarkeesian highlights our 2013 gender assumptions in her “Ms. Male” video. Here’s how Ms. Pac-Man looks in games our children play. Nice and feminine,” right?


Sarkeesian writes:

 Because we live in a strongly male-identified society the idea of a Pac-Woman as the “unmarked” default and a Mr. Pac-Woman as the deviation “marked” with masculinizing gender signifiers feels strange and downright absurd. Meanwhile Pac-man and the deviation Ms. Pac-Man seems completely normal in our current cultural context.


Here’s how the game might look if male characters were always on the periphery.


As far as a princess friend being “an option,” I did think when I saw and supported the Kickstarter campaign, and again, maybe I was wrong in my assumption, but I believed that Goldie Blox, itself, was providing the other options. I thought Goldie Blox was the other option! Goldie Blox sells itself as “disrupting the pink aisle,” not to mention the message in the viral ad. The market is completely saturated with princesses who wear puffy dresses and compete in pageants, to the point that toys who were not princesses, like Dora or Strawberry Shortcake, get princessy makeovers.

Here’s another comment on Reel Girl’s Facebook page from the same person as the one above.

It’s a real pity that it has come to this, but I can’t stand for this aggression that you are exhibiting to Goldieblox and anyone who dare to utter “princess”. Princesses are Queens in training – getting ready to one day rule the world.

It is sad that you are using your influence to attack people and products who are technically on your side of the girl empowerment movement. The only way change can be made is through co-operation and support. You are not an example of that. I would wish you “good luck”, but really I don’t. Divisive people are not good people to have in the Feminist movement. I hope one day you will learn the tolerance you so vehemently demand.

The issue is not that I condemn anyone “who dare utter princess.” I recommend princess narratives on Reel Girl including “Brave” and “A Little Princess.” The Middle Grade book I am writing has a princess protagonist in that she is heir to the throne. Here’s a princess narrative, “Child of Light” by Ubisoft, a role playing game due for release in 2014, that gives me chills,.

The Goldie Blox princess, her image and story, leave me cold.

Other commenters write Goldie, herself, is not the princess, she’s just friends with the princess who she is trying to help to win the pageant. Again, that narrative doesn’t excite my imagination or appeal to me. If it appeals to you, go ahead and buy the toy.

If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?

This morning, my three daughters had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast. Today, I’m not going to blog about the male Honey Nut bee or how there are no female mascots at all on children’s cereal boxes– that’s right ZERO– because I’ve done that before. I won’t get into how my husband said, as the girls fought over who got to place the brave adventures of Honey Bee in front of her bowl, that cereal boxes are a kid’s first newspaper. Today, I’m blogging about the coveted prize inside the box. What did my kids get? A stormtrooper pen.


So here’s my question for you: If there were no “Star Wars” double trilogy (is there a better word for the length of this epic?) would a kid covet a stormtrooper? If toy makers filled the shelves of Target with these white, faceless figures, would kids want them without Hollywood blockbusters providing a context?

The answer is no. To sell a toy, having a story helps a lot. It’s all about the narrative. Next question: Where are the narratives where girls get to be heroes? Where are the narratives, the epic trilogies, the Hollywood blockbusters, where girls get to star? If you think of a female character who is shown, front and center, again and again, who is she? What image comes to mind? Is she, perhaps, a princess?

The gendered toys marketed to children are a symptom. The disease is that girls have gone missing from narratives, sidelined and marginalized, in literature, religion, art, and politics, for thousands of years. In 2013, the consistent narrative where girls get to exist is, still, as the princess.

Yesterday, when I wrote about Goldie Blox selling stereotypes, people told me, if I don’t want pink and princess I should just go to the “boy” aisle. But the problem with the “boy” aisle is that there no female protagonists to be found there. Whether it’s LEGO or a coloring book, whether the product is from the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or the Justice League, female characters are in the minority if they exist at all.

My seven year old daughter wanted a LEGO set. We went to three stores, and found no LEGO where girl figures or girls’ stories were the basis of the game except for LEGO Friends, which we found in the “girl” aisle. What epic, magical adventure were these girl figures engaged in? They were at a cafe. My daughter also completed a set where they were at a bakery. I just bought her a third set where the girls are at a high school.


My older daughter, after getting frustrated with the LEGO choices, opted for The Hobbit set which includes a male Hobbit, a male wizard, and 5 male dwarfs. No females at all.


Toymakers claim when they put “alternative” toys on the shelf, they just don’t sell. This is why I ask: If a stormtrooper had no “Star Wars,” would he exist? Where are the narratives where girls are seen having epic adventures? Until we fix that problem, we’re going to keep seeing gendered aisles at Target.