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.