Category Archives: Stereotypes

Toy of the Year, Says Who?

A friend posted this link to ABC”s slideshow of the Toy of the Year award winner. I then searched and found the Toy Industry Association’s news release for the event. Incredibly, the winner this year in two different categories is the toy that I featured over a year ago and then a second time in this blog. Lego introduced a pinked up version of their product aimed at girls, and it was a commercial success. This led it to gain accolades in the toy making industry. I moseyed over to the Lego website to see how the Lego Friends are doing. They have their own website. I am not sure how these mini-skirted, stereotyped bits of plastic fit the bill for an “outstanding toy developed for girls of any age, the Girl Toy of the Year” or an “outstanding toy that inspires creative play through various forms of activity, the Activity Toy of the Year”. I think they actually inhibit creative play by having all girls depicted in similar clothes with similar accessories. They have even skinnyified the arms and legs of the people. At least original Lego people, while very lacking in female characters, did not add the burden of eating disorders to the mix. Take a look through the available sets. It appears that girls can bake, take care of animals, play soccer (thank goodness for that) and karate, drive cars and boats, and relax in the sun. They do all of this with a splash of pink in every set. No science for you, Lego Friends! No exploration for you, Lego Friends! No plumbing, no carpentry, no building (ironic in a Lego set, no?) for you. No place in my house for you, Lego Friends.

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Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away

Boston can be a gray place during fall and spring. When I spend too much time inside, this can get me down, but when I am out walking every day, I see the changes the season is bringing. Recently, we have had a stretch of rainy weather, and people’s first thing in the morning is to say, “Ugh, gross weather,” or something to that effect.

That is not what I see. On my morning walk to the T, I see bright green leaves, I see rich, brown earth turned up as a neighbor is creating a new planting bed in his front yard, I see flowers everywhere, I hear birds reveling in the weather. I smell the world awakening in this cool shower. I hope it is doing wonders for my garden, so I answer them that I love the weather. Some look at me askance, and others slowly think and then share details of their morning experience that they forgot when they plugged into the expected attitude about the weather. It is a script, it is convenient, but it is not always authentic.

Now, I don’t want rain every day, but I do enjoy it when it is here.

These scripts surround us; they are pervasive. We use them to ease communication and to frame our world, but they need to be critically examined. Not all are as simple as disliking rainy weather. Some are about gender, some are about race, some are about age. I hope I consistently model a critical awareness of these embedded attitudes and make a choice to follow them or not based on what I truly feel, and I hope I do this modeling in front of  my children.

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Change is Slow, Perhaps Not At All

Near the beginning of this blog, I posted about the new Legos that have been created to draw the attention of girls. I have issues with this change for several reasons. The inclusion of pink, of cute, and of increasingly gendered Lego figure bodies sends the message that girls can only enjoy toys if they have these features. It also tells boys which pieces to stay away from in order to fit their gender roles. Instead of going down the easy path of pink, Lego could have made a commitment to evaluating its figurines on gender, role, race, disability, and many other aspects that often show bias in toys and then marketing a balanced group of toys with simple bodies. They could be leaders in the charge to encourage all children to enjoy creative toys in which they would find themselves represented but the rest of the blocks would be available to all. This also includes backing off the violent, over-macho pieces, too. Unsurprisingly, they did not do this, but their choice to further add gender characteristics to the pieces unleashed quite a bit of backlash.

Now Lego is meeting with “Feminist Parents” as a result of this uproar. I don’t know why the parents need to be feminist to object to limiting the roles and physical characteristic options available to their children, boys and girls. It is not surprising that market research shows girls like pink and curvy toys that encourage them to think about their looks. Enough money has been dumped into making them want those things that it would be surprising if they did not show those biases in research. It is a circular system that is only increasing in its intensity. I look forward to the day when a mass market toy company bucks the trend in a big way. Unfortunately there will be nowhere in the stores to put their product if it is not clearly gendered. There are no aisles left for toys for anyone.

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Filed under Stereotypes, Toys

The Lasting Impact of Racist Labels.

This is my 100th post on Dadding Ideas!

This morning, my daughter threw herself into the task of stripping her crayons of their paper wrappers. Leaving peelings scattered around the playroom like the cast-off skins of a colony of rainbow snakes, she was creating the kind of mess that she would then resist being part of cleaning up. I decided to halt the activity for several reasons. Cleanup was one of the most obvious, but I also wanted the names of crayons to be there for her to start identifying. Calling something azure or cornflower has so much more meaning than just blue.

And then my hand fell on Indian Red. I am in the midst of reading the many

critiques of racism and stereotypes collected in Rethinking Popular Culture and Media by Rethinking Schools. Quite a few have addressed how Native Americans are represented in movies, books, and other types of media. Here is yet another example. After a cursory look at the crayons that still retained their wrapper, I didn’t see any other races represented in the crayon set. No Pasty White Dude, no Sino Yellow, no Mexican Brown. Just the one. It boggles my mind that Crayola still has this color and that there has not been a concerted effort to educate them why this might just not be appropriate. Well, one more crayon to peel and rename.

I then hopped on the Internet to see if there was any buzz about this. Evidently in 1999 there was. The crayon was renamed to chestnut more than a decade ago. This box has been sitting on a shelf just waiting to insert its cultural message into a child’s life since then. With the paper wrapper shredded and in the recycling bin, this one small instance is no more. How many others are still on shelves?

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