My daughter is turning four. We have managed to keep her alive, healthy, and for the most part happy for four years. While the party this weekend will feature many of her friends, it is also a celebration of doing our job as parents.
And it is a chance to continue parenting. Birthday presents are a wonderful/terrible thing. I remember getting birthday presents and that being one of the highlights of the year for me. I have seen the excitement that a large gift giving ignites and the consequences afterward. I think there is a place for this in children’s lives (and adults’ lives, too).
The excitement is less a concern than the gifts themselves. I recently finished Rethinking Popular Culture and Media and am currently turning my last set of notes into digital objects. Some go to GoodReads on my lists, others to Delicious as bookmarks. Still others get added to Pandora as a new station.
One of the articles in the book, however, merits inclusion in this blog. Many, actually, were that good, but this one is especially pertinent to me. “Miles of Aisles of Sexim: Helping students investigate toy stores” describes Sudie Hofman’s college course assignment which led her students to look at toy stores with a critical awareness of gender. The results are not surprising, yet they are striking.
- Madison Avenue now encourages violence during playtime in the name of peace and justice.
- The girls’ area…is well stocked with vanity mirrors… The focus is on being popular with boys. The shelves are overflowing with Mattel Barbies and endless paraphernalia, including Barbie’s scale, set at one weight: 110 pounds.
- The girls’ section does not have many board games that stimulate creative thinking or require higher-order reasoning.
- (for boys) science-based toys are solitary and don’t present opportunities for verbal or social development. Packaging hints at being the best or creating and building superior models or designs.
- Toys for girls implicitly urge them to find husbands in order to get their dream lives. Girls are taught to compete with each other for male validation… Girls’ toys promote unattainable physical perfection and materialistic values and typically strengthen the cultural messages of inferiority and second-class status
- twice as many toys for boys than girls
It is this that makes birthday presents so challenging for me. For many, these concerns are at best hogwash and at worst an example of crazy liberal plots to take over the world. I just don’t want to inundate my daughter with more negative messaging about her body, her role in society, and her worth.