‘Minions’ most sexist kids’ movie of the year, rated Triple S for gender stereotyping

Yesterday, when my three daughters and I went to see “Minions,” two lingering questions I’ve had– are they really all male and if so, how did they come into being– were answered.


So, yes, now I know: the minions are all boys. When I’ve complained in the past about the utter lack of female minions, commenters responded that they’re “genderless.” In kidworld, where everything from robots to cars to planes are assigned a gender, I doubted this was the case, but I watched the new movie carefully just in case I was mistaken, that the minions were an exception to this rule. Guess what? Not only does every minion mentioned have a male name, but they are also repeatedly referred to as boys with lines delivered like: “Growing boy creatures need their strength” or “Good luck in there, boys!” or “Buckle up, boys!” So, please don’t waste your time emailing me that a 6 year old kid won’t notice what gender these creatures are.

Now, for question #2. The movie opens with a scene where the minions seem to evolve from amoeba like creatures that come out of the sea. Clearly, no female is involved in their reproduction. A male narrator describes their creation story and also how and why minions came to be: to serve an evil master. As evolution continues on the screen, we hear the narrator introduce “man.” We then see a caveman, followed by a series of other male leaders including a pharaoh and Napoleon. Around this point in the movie one of the minions, I think it was Bob, emerges from the sea wearing a pair of starfish on his chest in the first of several breast/ female jokes. Another minion sees Bob and quips: “He’s an idiot.”

Right after the narrator assures us this is going to be the same old, same old narrative we always see where one male saves the world, announcing: “One minion had a plan and his name was Kevin” I turned to my oldest daughter, who is 11. I told her I had to take a bathroom break and to watch for any female character who speaks, as none had come into the movie yet at all. My daughter responded, “Mama, the villain is a girl.” She was referring to Scarlet Overkill who she was familiar with from the many, many previews we saw of the movie. I, too, had high hopes for Scarlett even though as the only main female character in the movie, I was pretty sure she would be limited by the narrative to a Minority Feisty role.

For those who aren’t familiar with Reel Girl, Minority Feisty is the term I’ve assigned female characters in children’s movies. These females are “strong” and therefore often referred to as “feisty” by reviewers. “Feisty” is a sexist adjective. A reviewer would not label a male character, such as Superman “feisty.” “Feisty” refers to someone who isn’t really strong but plays at being strong. “Feisty” isn’t a real threat to any power structure. The Minority Feisty can refer to one or more female characters in a movie, the point being that though there can be more than one, females are shown as a minority population. The Minority Feisty represents our slow, slow, slow progress from the Smurfette Principle, a term coined by feminist writer Katha Pollitt. The Minority Feisty serves to pacify parents, so we can sigh in relief and say to ourselves: “There’s a strong female or two, this movie is feminist!” And thus, we’re all supposed to ignore and forget that girls– half of the kid population– are reduced to a tiny minority in the movie and almost never represent the protagonist.

Scarlet Overkill is one of the WORST EVER representations of the Minority Feisty. The male narrator introduces her at Villain Con: “There’s a new bad man in town and that man is a woman.” Then Scarlet is on the stage in her red dress and stilettos, saying: “Hey, a girl’s got to make a living.” She is the keynote speaker at the conference, defined as “the world’s first female supervillain.” Before Overkill came to town, she tells us, it was believed that “a woman could never rob a bank as well as a man.” Overkill proves them wrong, so YAY feminism, right? Let me remind you that the minions represent a fantasy world where little, yellow pill shaped creatures have sprouted from the sea. Why, why, why in “Minions,” and most other children’s movies, do we recycle sexism into so many stories that are otherwise imaginative and creative, because “that’s just the way it is in the real world?” Why does Scarlett Overkill have to be represented as an exception to her gender? Why can’t we show children a fantasy world where gender equality exists?  “Minions” does the opposite, reproducing and in fact, managing to exaggerate sexism so that females have hardly any place or representation in the world at all.

You wouldn’t think it possible, but things get even worse for sexism and Overkill’s character. She wants the minions to steal the crown for her because she wants to be a princess– not a queen!– “because everyone loves princesses.” Is any kid watching this movie going to get a message of female empowerment from this single, sexist character? If you still have doubt, at the end of the movie, this first female greatest villain of all time, cedes her status to Gru who you know from the “Despicable Me” movies. It is he who is the real greatest villain of all time, Overkill’s 15 minutes are up.

I’m appalled and disgusted that movies like “Minions” are allowed to be made in 2015 and shown to little kids, teaching a new generation to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. If you think I’m overreacting, imagine the reverse: A movie about three female characters– Kara, Stella, and Becky, who lead an all female tribe. They defeat the first male super villain ever, while pursued in a world populated by hundreds of female villains, groups of all female police officers, troops of all female guards, and visit English pubs where almost everyone– except for the pink suited king– is also female. Would you notice the sexism? Would your kids? The fact that the lack of females in children’s movies– from protagonists to crowd scenes, from heroes to villains– isn’t glaringly obvious to us and our children shows how sexist the world is. In the fantasy world, anything is possible, even gender equality. If we can’t even imagine it, we can’t create it. Unfortunately, “Minions” teaches kids, one more time, that females don’t matter much at all.

Reel Girl rates “Minions” ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping


(Photo features 2 of my daughters, ages 6 and 8)

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

In the 5 years since I started Reel Girl, I’ve never done this before but comments on this post are now closed. Generally, I let most commenters post because the imbeciles inadvertently prove all of my points. But I’ve reached a point where there are too many trolls who repeat the same comments over and over and over, the same arguments (if they can be called that) which I’ve already rebutted numerous times. My energy needs to be focused on writing and creating, not reacting and responding.

‘We are all more free’

Living in San Francisco and witnessing gay people fight for a right I’d always taken for granted made me rethink everything I’d ever assumed about marriage. For the first time in my life, I started to believe that maybe marriage didn’t have to be a sexist, antiquated institution.


In 2000, Prop 22 was on the ballot in San Francisco, and I watched my first reality TV show ‘Who Wants to Marry a Mutlimillionaire.’ I wrote about America’s hypocrisy regarding marriage for the San Francisco Chronicle. Not long after my op-ed, I met the man who would become my husband. I fall more in love with him every day.

Thank you to the gay community for vivifying marriage for us all, and thank you to Barack Obama for being the first U.S. president to have the courage to support marriage equality, it’s his quote in the title of this post.

Here’s the post I wrote in 2000:

Recognizing the sanctity – and a travesty – of marriage

Published 4:00 am, Tuesday, February 22, 2000

I DIDN’T think TV could shock me anymore. But then, during sweeps week last week, I watched Fox’s new hit, “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” and realized modern television had sunk to a new low.

The show began with the introduction of 50 women, all competing for the grand prize of marriage to a multimillionaire, their union to be sealed with a $34,000 engagement ring.

The women stepped into the klieg lights wearing everything from bathing suits to wedding gowns, exposing their bodies to be rated and judged. Meanwhile, Mr. Multimillionaire was safely shrouded in a darkened booth. The whole scene brought to mind the voyeuristic ambiance of a peep show.

During one of the show’s worst sequences, each finalist had 30 seconds to convince Mr. Multimillionaire that she was the one he should choose. While guitar porn rock played in the background, the women said things like, “I know just how to please a man.”

At the end of the show, Mr. Multimillionaire finally appeared in a tux and chose his bride, the blondest and thinnest of them all.

I was stunned by this degradation and mockery of the marriage ceremony. How can there be any presumption of honesty or integrity in marriage vows when the groom takes them – as Mr. Multimillionaire did – just moments after meeting his wife to be, promising to love her until death?

Are those elements that I thought were key to marriage – vows and love and commitment – without real meaning?

A wedding ceremony should be a sacred celebration, inspired by devotion so powerful that those in love want to make a lifelong commitment to each other publicly.

Yet on the Fox Network, marriage became a modern-day flesh auction with women transformed into a commodity to be purchased by a wealthy man.

I’m not completely naive. I know that marriage was initially created as a financial contract. I know that in Biblical times the purpose of marriage was to control the means of reproduction – that is, women.

I know that when women had no social, political or financial power, when they were not allowed to own property and were only valued for how many children they could bear, marriage existed just to ritualize the transfer of ownership of women from fathers to husbands.

I know that remnants of these ancient roles of womanhood are still prevalent in marriage ceremonies, but I had thought they no longer had significance.

Though brides still traditionally wear white, the color has lost its relevance as a symbol of virginal innocence, once so prized in a woman. Few recall now, when the priest asks if anyone has just cause why the marriage should not take place, that the question was originally meant to determine if anyone had evidence that the bride was, in fact, not a virgin.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the debut of Fox’s top-rated show. After watching these women on TV, whose worth was measured by how well they conformed to limited ideals of beauty, while male worth was measured by wallet size, I was feeling pretty cynical about gender roles and matrimony.

Then something happened to restore my faith. The debate on Proposition 22, the ballot initiative on gay marriage, caught my attention.

As supporters of the initiative condemned gay marriage for defiling a holy institution, I thought of the irony. An elegantly packaged prostitution ring on prime time television is perfectly legal, yet two people in love who want to make a public and legal, lifetime commitment to each other, with sincere vows, are forbidden legal recognition of their marriage because they are of the same sex.

While “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” illustrates the worst of marriage, defeating Prop. 22 would bring out the best of it. Allowing gay people to marry shatters all of the antiquated sex stereotypes that still threaten to be resurrected in popular culture.

If marriage is to survive and thrive in this millennium, it needs to evolve. The marriage contract is a living document. We need to keep the best of it – the love, the romance, the vows – and leave behind those elements that reduce human beings to property.

If Californians really are concerned with family values, they should be fighting for the right of people who truly love each other to legalize their commitment.

‘Inside Out’ and the brilliance of our emotions

Proceed immediately to the theater and go see “Inside Out” even if you have no children. Pixar’s latest may be my favorite animated movie EVER. Powerful female protagonist CHECK. Complex female characters in supporting roles CHECK meaning “Inside Out” does NOT feature Minority Feisty!!!! Spectacular animation and compelling story telling CHECK and CHECK.

Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

I am not alone in loving “Inside Out.” I don’t think I’ve read a negative review. My daughters and I had fascinating conversations after the movie: My six year old said she was Joy and my eight year old picked Disgust to describe herself. They talked about which emotions their friends are and different members of their family. But then they also had a talk about how they are– and all people are– all of the emotions. Other emotions personified in the movie are Sadness, Anger, and Fear. My kids talked about what emotions they didn’t see in the story– Embarrassment and Meditation which I interpreted as Serenity or Calm. We talked about which emotions branch off of others, and that all emotions need to be valued and felt which happens to be the point of the movie. That conversation began in the  backseat of the car going home and is still going on today.

Riley, the star and the setting for the movie (most of it takes place in her head) is an 11 year ice hockey star from Minnesota who moves to San Francisco. I appreciated the depiction of the city, where I happen to live, as foggy-gloomy and infested with broccoli covered pizza. While I have grown to love my home, I understood Riley’s experience of it as gray and depressing. I totally had those moments as a kid and still do. Riley longs for seasons that included snow. Depicting Riley as an ice hockey fan not only highlighted her aggression, joy, and skill but cleverly showed how alienated she feels in California. There is another (another!) cool female character in the movie, Riley’s BFF from home.


The two emotions with the biggest parts in the film– Joy and Sadness– are also female. Disgust is female too. Riley’s mom is also an ice hockey fan and player, though they do make the move for the busy dad’s job.

Amy Poehler who plays Joy said she was proud to be in this movie and that it makes the world a better place. I agree.

Reel Girl rates “Inside Out” ***HHH***

Why could I critique Angelina Jolie’s cover but I’m ‘out of my lane’ for posting about Caitlyn?

When I post my reaction to representations of Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox in the media, most of the comments I receive fall into two camps, often hateful, both reductive of them, the issue, and me: I’m either a TERF and should stay in my lane or Caitlyn and Laverne are not women but part of a dangerous conspiracy to invade women’s spaces.

I believe Caitlyn, Laverne, and I have the same goal: to celebrate and honor diversity. I also believe that it’s not my right or my place to tell Caitlyn or Laverne what to do and how to do it. They are on their own paths, making their own choices.

That said, I’m allowed to have a reaction to the images and stories that they put out into the world. I started my blog, Reel Girl, because I have three daughters and since I becoming a mother, I’ve been shocked by how gender segregated kidworld has become. Reel Girl critiques images and narratives around gender in the the hope of showing people, and ultimately transforming, the limited representations of gender that surround us, especially in the area of children’s media and toys.

I often critique magazine covers on gender representation. I’ve posted multiple times about Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated etc. Just a couple weeks ago, I posted a congratulations to Taylor Swift for appearing on a cover of Maxim that showed only her head, a picture that wasn’t all legs and breasts, a rare feat for that publication. (Not to mention In the article, Swift spoke about feminism.) Here’s a post from Reel Girl that I wrote in November about Angelina Jolie’s Vanity Fair cover:

Angelina Jolie on cover of Vanity Fair, not naked, in a hot tub or in a wet T

Wow, I could even see a man in this shirt and pose. If you don’t know how rare that gender flip is for a female celebrity on a magazine cover, check out Reel Girl’s post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. Can’t wait to buy this issue!


So why when I post about Caitlyn Jenner am I told to shut up? All over the internet I read posts like this one:

Caitlyn Jenner is High Femme, Get Over it

This is a form of femmephobia and transmisogyny and it needs to stop. It’s time for the gender police to retire. Jenner is being herself and this binary expression is just as legitimate as any other non-binary gender presentation.

The attacks on Jenner’s femininity represent transmisogyny and femmephobia because there is a glaring double standard here. You won’t hear a famous cisgender female movie actress accused of being too feminine or a stereotype for wearing a dress.

But that’s not true. Images of women in the media, especially famous women, are deconstructed, and when they’re not, I often wish they would be. I’ve been known to do it myself. I’m used to people disagreeing with me and not liking what i have to say, but the vitriol that has been directed at me and on my page recently, mostly from people who call themselves feminists, is some of the worst I’ve ever received. We all need education. An honest, respectful dialogue on the complex issue of gender will be better for everyone. I hope that’s possible in social media.




Sexism and Riley Curry

After Warriors MVP Stephen Curry showed up at the post game press conference with his 2 year old daughter, Riley, I became a Warriors fan. Curry is showing the world that he’s a basketball star and a dad, He’s multitasking, something moms are more known for. (Women are “naturally” better at doing several things at once, right?)

I was impressed and touched that the stellar player brought his daughter to work. While Riley tried to grab the mike, made faces, and clowned around, Curry answered reporters’ questions, all along taking obvious delight in his spirited offspring. While I was so grateful for this public image of the Currys, others criticized the player, his daughter, and his parenting claiming Riley should have been better behaved. The criticism reached a point that Riley’s mom, Ayesha, wrote an essay defending her family:

Last week, Riley joined her father in a press conference, and some thought she stole the show. I thought it was beautiful, and I wouldn’t change a thing. There can be more than 50 people and 10 cameras—not counting camera phones—in the room during press conferences, so it can be overwhelming. But my husband handled his duties on the podium with ease and class. And my daughter was who she is—vibrant, spunky, and full of life. I hope she carries this with her through adulthood.

Stephen attends practice every day, and gives his all during the games on an almost-nightly basis. When that’s over, all he wants is to see his family, and on the day of that press conference, our daughter wanted to be with her father. I thought it was beautiful for him not to push his daddy duties to the bottom of the list just because all eyes were on him. I believe you should let your children be children, and don’t be afraid to be a parent, regardless of who’s watching.

Family matters! Our children matter! At the end of the day, when all the lights dim, and the cameras are gone, we are still here as his biggest, loudest, and most supportive cheerleaders. We are also extremely proud that in spite of some criticism, Riley was able to share in that experience with her father and bring joy and laughter into the lives and homes of many all over the world.

I’ve blogged endlessly about how the public prefers that girls are seen and not heard. We like our girl children “quiet” and “well behaved.” We will tolerate “boy energy”– boys wrestling, yelling, or clowning around– because that’s “natural,” it’s just how boys are. What’s “natural” for girls? They’re “artsy” and “verbal.” Girls prefer quiet activities like writing, reading and making pictures, they’re just better at that stuff than boys are.

Those stereotypes are bullshit. I don’t know how to be more clear. They have everything to do with sexism and nothing to do with reality. The question I’ve asked often on Reel Girl is this: If females are artsy and verbal, why throughout human history, are the “great” artists and writers mostly men? The answer by the way, is more sexism of course. It’s OK for girls to be good at art and writing as long as there is no power, money, or status involved.

Quiet kids can be easier to be around. I get it. My three daughters are loud. They are active, play instruments, and sometimes yell. I enjoy silence and solitude, and sometimes my family is challenging for me. Did I mention my husband is a drummer? On occasions, I do validate my kids behavior simply because that’s what I need. When I give my daughters positive affirmation for being quiet and negative for being loud, it’s important to realize I’m doing this for me, I’m valuing my kids and training my kids to act in a way that is useful to me, not because its their “true nature.” My goal is to let my kids be kids. They have their whole lives to be grown-ups, though like Ayesha Curry writes, I hope they never learn to stay quiet to make other people comfortable. (I’m not talking about misbehaving in restaurants, obviously.)

On the blog What If We Were Free?: Riley Curry and Blackgirl Freedom, the writer also delves into the racism around Riley Curry, and this image is captioned:

So, since this didn’t cause a controversy, I guess this is what “respectable blackgirls” look like in public.


Isn’t she beautiful, gorgeous, hot? Sexism and Caitlyn Jenner

I am late to take my kids to camp, and I have no time to blog today, but I’ve got to write: I AM SO SICK OF THIS CAITLYN JENNER OBJECTIVISM. ARGH. EVERYONE STOP!!!!



A few weeks ago, after Laverne Cox, also transgender, posed nude for Elle I blogged:

Is Laverne Cox posing nude cause for celebration?

Ideals of female beauty vary over time and geography, but what’s consistent in patriarchal culture, whether the idealized body happens to be Rubenesque or Twiggyish, is that women are shown naked. (For a gallery of images, please see my post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons) Cox has has a unique opportunity to publicly redefine what it means to be a woman, and I’m disappointed she’s sexualized here. There’s nothing new or celebratory or original about a woman posing naked.

I don’t get why all of a sudden, if the naked woman is over 50 (like Julia Louis Dreyfus on the cover of Rolling Stone) or plus size, we’re supposed to do a 180 and be grateful for the sexism. Look, she’s 50 and topless! Isn’t that wonderful? People still think she’s pretty, men still want to fuck her, she has value in the world!


A few of you were upset with me for criticizing Cox. Cox is on her own journey, she has to so what she has to do, but I was blogging my reaction to her photo. Here is what Cox has to say today, in response to the attention given to Jenner:

Many have commented on how gorgeous Caitlyn looks in her photos, how she is “slaying for the Gods.” I must echo these comments in the vernacular, “Yasss Gawd! Werk Caitlyn! Get it!” But this has made me reflect critically on my own desires to ‘work a photo shoot’, to serve up various forms of glamour, power, sexiness, body affirming, racially empowering images of the various sides of my black, trans womanhood. I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them.”

Here is Jon Stewart:

“It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman,” Stewart began. “You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen, but now you’re a woman, and your looks are really the only thing we care about.”




Long live Furiosa!

Just saw “Mad Max Fury Road” with my husband. LOVE IT. Visually stunning, non-stop action, and a feminist masterpeice. Now, this, is a movie poster!


This image is not something I found on the internet, but a picture I took of the giant poster I saw when I entered the theater. Instead of reviewing the movie, I’m going to direct you to an excellent post by Laurie Penny on Buzzfeed which describes everything wonderful about it. here’s one quote but click on the link above and read the whole thing!

Fury Road — whose director called in feminist playwright and activist Eve Ensler as a consultant — offers a solution. We have elderly women on motorbikes counting their bullets in the bodies of men. We have the movie’s young heroines, the Five Wives, who resemble what would happen if someone decided to heavily arm a Burberry ad, kicking their awful chastity belts across the desert. And we have Furiosa, a protagonist who takes the worn stereotype of the strong female action hero in shiny latex and shatters it to flaming shards in the sand. The film does not judge its heroines on age and beauty: Together, all of these women give the lie to the notion that there is any proper way to be female on film. Supermodels and white-haired warriors with faces like withered fruit fight side-by-side under a leader whose beauty is in no way sexualized.


This movie is way too violent for young kids, but take some grown-up time and go!

Reel Girl rates “Mad Max Fury Road” ***HHH***

‘Tomorrowland’ inspiring and feminist, take your kids to this movie!

“Tomorrowland” stars not one, but two, brilliant female characters supported by (yes, supported by) the fabulous George Clooney. Frank Walker, the innovator played by Clooney, admires, respects, and loves these girls, Athena and Casey. Casey (played by Britt Robertson) is the scientist-dreamer who saves the world, but not before Athena (played by Raffey Cassidy) recruits and saves her in multiple bad-ass scenes. Just watching Athena drive the getaway truck is awesome.


“Tomorrowland” is the movie I’ve been waiting for, the narrative I’ve been dying to show to my kids. Not only is it feminist, beyond featuring only one strong female character (the typical Minority Feisty scenario) but Casey, the protagonist, is “special” not just because of her extreme intelligence but because she’s a dreamer. Casey sees the potential for the world to be different than it is. Her courage to be optimistic, to use her world view to change the future, is depicted in multiple ways that children can easily understand. In the beginning of the movie, when Casey is arguing with her father who is worried about losing his job and becoming useless, she tells him a story he always tells her: There are two wolves who are fighting. One wolf is darkness and despair, the other wolf is light and hope. “Who wins?” Casey asks her father. He answers, “The one you feed.” At which point in the movie, I elbowed my middle daughter whose go to response when I ask her to try something new is usually: “I can’t do it. ” She will then repeat that phrase about ten times as she tries (or stops trying) to throw a bean bag into a hole, or whatever the task may be. I always tell her, “Say you can, your body believes what it hears,” and she rolls her eyes. But watching “Tomorrowland” she understood what I’ve tried to teach her, and that is seriously worth the $10 I paid for her ticket. I am totally getting her the Casey action figure. (That hat Casey is wearing is RED though it looks a little pink in this photo and the emblem reads “NASA.”)


I don’t want to spoil the movie, because you must see it and you must take your kids– but I will say I looked at the narrative as a metaphor for gender equality. The message of the movie is: If you can’t imagine it, you can’t create it. It’s really a story about the power of imagination to transform who you are and the world you live in. The evil in the film is not so much a villain but pessimism and cynicism, the idea that everything, if not already known, is knowable. One of the ways the skepticism is communicated is by broadcasting  narratives– images of starvation, drought, the world exploding, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is exactly what I believe happens with girls and boys in the world today– we show them stories and toys about how different genders are, re-create sexism, and call it “natural” and fixed.

Another thing I really liked about the movie is that Casey and Athena are never put down for being girls. Sexism is not something they must overcome. In this movie, sexism doesn’t exist, my kids just got to see girls be strong and brave. I’ve blogged a lot that I obviously understand why the story of seeing a girl fight against sexism– whether its dressing up as a boy i.e. “Mulan” or giving a lecture i.e. Colette in “Ratatouille”– is important, but I’d like kids to experience an imaginary world, much more often, where gender equality exists.

I didn’t know “Tomorrowland”  would feature two incredible female characters. I saw the preview, where Casey picks up a pin that transports her to another world, but I knew nothing of Athena. It is truly rare to see two girls dominate the screen as these characters do. So why didn’t I know “Tomorrowland” would be so special? Today, before we saw the movie, I took this pic as we entered the Metreon and Tweeted:

Thought ‘Tomorrowland’ had a female protagonist so why are my 3 daughters the only girls in this picture?


I am SO sick of this bullshit sexist advertising, but this is why I created Reel Girl, so I could tell you to take your kids to this inspiring, feminist movie.

Reel Girl rates Tomorrowland ***HHH***


Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

After I was on Fox News Saturday morning to discuss Amazon dropping its girl/ boy filters for toys and games many of you asked me about Tucker Carlson’s intro of me as his high school classmate. (I can’t figure out how to embed the video here, so if you’re more tech saavy than me, please post the link.)


Yes, it’s true! Tucker and I went the same boarding school, though I was expelled sophomore year. Tucker went on to marry the headmaster’s daughter in the school chapel. That pretty much epitomizes our differing experiences in prepland, his successful, mine not so much.


Here’s a blurry pic from the 80’s of us at a Grateful Dead concert. I’m in the front and Tucker is to the left wearing glasses. Jerry Garcia, looking rather skinny and two dimensional, is a cardboard cut out. Looking back on high school, I don’t know if Tucker was better behaved than me –I was suspended for smoking a cigarette in the dorm and then kicked out the following year for drinking or if he– like a lot of the kids who made it through boarding school– was just more skilled at giving the appearance of following all those seemingly endless rules.

If you watch the video, you can see I vehemently disagree with Tucker on Amazon’s decision– and most issues along with probably all of the other hosts on Fox News. Still, at least the network had me on to speak. I got a national platform to address about an issue I care about which is more than CNN or MSNBC has offered me recently.

I’ll leave one with one more nugget of prep school trivia. Julie Bowen, then known as Julie Luetkemeyer, the actress from “Modern Family” (and from kidworld “Planes: Fire and Rescue”) was in our class as well. As brilliant and beautiful then as now, she was probably the smartest kid in our class.


Finally, I didn’t get a chance to mention it in the 3.5 minutes I was on TV, but Amazon didn’t fully drop its filters. Read the details in my update here.




Huzzah! Amazon drops ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toy/ game categories

I’m deep in Fairyworld working on my book (really, almost done) but I had to visit cyberspace to bring you this amazing news! Amazon has dropped its boy/ girl categories for toys and games. This is a huge step forward for gender equality, and it was taken because of you speaking out and creating change.

Just this weekend, I was at a soccer game for my 6 year old’s team, and another mom, knowing I have three daughters, said to me, “Your house must be so girlie!” Ugh, people say this all the time. I responded: “I try to keep their worlds big and open.” She told me she has two sons and let me know when her only daughter chose what color to paint her room, she picked pink.

“That’s the problem,” I said. “It’s not really her choice. Everything marketed to girls is pink, from Toys R Us to TV, that’s what they see.” I explained how pink used to be a “boy” color.

Her reply? “So, is everything in your house beige?”

I burst out laughing, but her comment reminded me of why I’m not a fan of the term “gender-neutral.” I prefer to use “gender inclusive.” I don’t want less colors for kids, I want more. I’m so sick of having versions of these conversations with parents about the limited gender boxes they buy into, hearing again and again about how boys will bite their toast into the shapes of guns because “that’s just how boys are.” I live in progressive San Francisco and when these words come out of smart, educated liberal parents, I’m still shocked (though my poker face is pretty good now.) At best, with children growing up in a world created by thousands of years of sexist narratives, where females are sidelined and sexualized,  from the Bible to the Avengers, with brain plasticity/ development based on activities kids engage in, you’ve got to AT LEAST say that you don’t have a fucking clue what girls and boys are “naturally” like.

So when I see parents affirm girls for being quiet, reading, or doing art, admonished not to get their clothing messy, complimented on their shoes or hair (which is, of course, designed to receive those compliments) while the same parents tolerate boys being “wild,” “disruptive,” wrestling, shouting, and running around, it stuns me that people really buy into the sexism that girls and boys are just different.

I’ve blogged before that I believe that people will look back on this time and be blown away by how sexist we were in the USA, that children were segregated by gender in the aisles of Target. Didn’t we learn that separate but equal doesn’t work? That so-called utopia doesn’t exist. My whole blog Reel Girl is dedicated to imagining gender equality in the fantasy world. If we can’t imagine equality, we can’t create it. It makes me sad and angry to see a whole new generation watch Hollywood movies made for kids where girls go missing. These kids get trained to accept and expect a real world where females go missing. This sexism in kidworld is so prevalent, that, ironically, it’s invisible. Parents don’t notice it. I get mocked all the time for even writing about it, for not being a real feminist because I care about trivial issues like cartoons and toys and, you know, children.

Amazon’s decision to refuse gender segregation is inspiring and exciting, but we have more work to do. Toys we sell come from the stories we tell. As I blogged in the posts If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?  and When Hollywood excludes girls, how can Lego market to them? until females are recognized as heroic protagonists in narratives, removing gender labels from the merchandise will only take equality so far. Kids– girls and boys– need to experience stories where females (plural, not just one, not a Minority Feisty) are front and center, being brave, making choices, and taking risks. Which reminds me, I better get back to writing mine. Huzzah Amazon! THANK YOU

Update: On her blog, Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals writes:

But Amazon didn’t drop the gendered categories. It just moved them. To the top of the page and under the “Toys & Games” heading above the item images.

amazonOn the left side bar under “Age Ranges” we used to see “Gender” and the binary options of “Boys” or “Girls”. Now we see the left side bar offering search options of “Popular Features”, “Shop By Price”, “Age Ranges”, “Toys & Games”, “Featured Character & Brand”, and “Interest”.


This is truly great and reflects how merchants should offer toys to children and families: age and interest.

The problem is, I still see “Boy’s Toys” and “Girl’s Toys” pages, as well as this when I go in to shop “Toys & Games”…


If there were a word for that deflated sound a party blower horn makes when it runs out of air, I’d insert it here. Because shoppers will still get the following message:

Boys go out into the world, build the world, explore the world, save the world, and play hard when they play outside. Girls, on the other hand, stick close to home, think of home, decorate the home, need things to be pink, play with dolls, and sit in pink folding chairs during “Sports and Outdoor Play”.

There are no robots, globes, vehicles, nor firefighters for girls. There is no pink, dolls, princess dresses, nor homey items for boys.


On SFGate, Amy Graff makes a similar observation about moving the gender category to another area of the site, but sees consistency with Amazon refusing stereotypes:

 Amazon still features special girls and boys pages noted at the top of the toys page and the current highlights on the girls’ page seem to be further proof that Amazon is taking a stand against gender stereotyping. On the girls’ page, you’ll find a plug for summer outdoor equipment such as swing sets, an ad for STEM toys and games and a promotion for package toy deals that allow you to bundle everything from Barbies and Avengers figurines for discounts.


I will do my own research on this, but it seems pretty obvious that keeping ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ categories for selling toys is archaic and meaningless. Amazon should get rid of them all together.

Update: As reported by Melissa and Amy, on the Amazon site, if you click on ‘Toys and Games, you’ll see this:

Toys & Games

Shop for dolls, action figures, games, and gifts for boys and girls. Explore Editors’ Picks in our Best Toys of the Month.


The good news is this small print, gender sub category is much harder to get to now. The bad news is its still there. I’m hoping Amazon is phasing the gender category out, and taking it off Amazon’s main page is the first step.

I will continue to research what Amazon is selling under ‘boy’ and ‘girl,’ but at this point, when I click on “girls,” I see a sea of pink and dolls. When I click on “boys” as Melissa wrote, I see robots, globes, and colors (except for pink.) I’m still blowing my horn, but I hope Amazon makes another move very soon to completely give up these limiting categories.

Amazon, are you listening? Your customers don’t need this kind of sexist assistance shopping, except maybe one, who wrote on Reel Girl’s Facebook page: “But my little lady brain is too small to figure out what to buy my kids without gender categories!”