Tag Archives: Pink

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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Filed under Stereotypes, Toys

Breaking Norms, Causing Stress

Over the last few days, we have had two house guests, friends from our college days, staying with us, and my father-in-law staying at my brother-in-law’s house. Our guests came to attend another college friend’s wedding on Friday, and our FIL cared for the two kids to free up both my wife and me for this celebration. The ceremony and the whole event were wonderful. The bride, our friend, was truly radiant and joyous.

In the midst of the bedlam of extra people in the house, event schedules that are not necessarily aligned with our children’s timing, and being cared for by others, our kids did pretty well. Both are showing signs of needing a bit more attention, and both realize on some level that their mommy is leaving today for a trip. I think the ripples should settle by Tuesday or so.

One ripple was that one of our house guests, in a beautiful gesture of reaching out to us and of generosity, brought some presents for the kids. For our daughter, she brought a Cinderella doll which I did not even see. I was working in my office, and my wife came in to inform me she had seen it too late, and now our daughter was asking for it.

A quick switcheroo was performed prior to my wife coming in, and my daughter was occupied by the sticker book that had been meant for my son, but she still wanted the doll. My wife and I huddled and came up with a plan. I had to be out the door in fifteen minutes to chauffeur my friends and their parents to their wedding (I even ordered a costume cap to play the role!).

We called our daughter into my office and closed the door. Obviously this was different from normal, and she hunkered down; I worried that she was thinking she had done something wrong. We explained that it was about the doll. I asked her what she knew about Cinderella, and her response was, “She’s a princess.” Disney has indeed penetrated this market. I then asked her what Cinderella’s story was, and my daughter did not know. She did parrot back the words I have been saying that princesses (and other royalty) have to take money from people rather than doing jobs like mommy and daddy. I really have to stop that line of reasoning.  She just wanted the doll because it represents what she sees in the clothing, language, toys, and behavior of her peers.

I gave a quick synopsis of the story pointing out that Cinderella had a loving father, that her step mother and sisters were not nice to her, and that the prince liked her because of how she looked. I also talked about at the end of the story, Cinderella’s step mother and sisters were hurt, and maybe that would not help them from being mean. Bottom line, Cinderella was a loving person who could do things like cooking and cleaning like we do. However, the point of this story is that some one liked her just for how she looked.

We then talked about why we choose our friends, and we came up with a list together. My daughter chipped in as much as my wife and me about traits: caring, creative, smart, etc.

At that point, I noticed the Lego Mindstorms kit I brought home from school to learn this summer. I offered these things:

  • We would find dolls of people who fit our list of what makes a good friend. I have found these, and am looking for more.
  • She and I would learn the mindstorms together

My daughter seemed to accept this solution and even wanted to start that moment with the kit. Now I have to research dolls to see what might fit with our conditions. At least they should not be branded and have a predetermined role and story.

My wife talked several times with our friend who was completely gracious and supportive of our parenting; she is a parent, too. Later during the reception I entered one of these conversations, and she clearly articulated her perspective on it. I absolutely respect her opinions while at the same time not sharing all of them. I am just thankful that she seems not put out by this incident. I hope that it will not affect her relationship with my wife, and at the same time, I tremendously value my wife’s support in these issues.

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A Day Well Spent

Saturday, the family went out to do some errands. We braved Target mid afternoon. Luckily it was raining, and that made it only hard to find parking and somewhat packed inside. On a nice day, that store is crawling with people on the weekend. With shoes returned and some other things taken care of, we headed to a much more fun location.

Artist & Craftsman Supply is one of my favorite stores. Unlike most art supply stores, the people there not only really know their stuff, they are not snobby about me not knowing my stuff. They work with all levels of artistic ability/knowledge, the store is amazingly well stocked, and they are even friendly there. Imagine, an unpretentious art supply store where all feel welcome and really helped. I love it! I could spend hours, maybe days, there. We even had a yummy dinner at Life Alive.

The two stores do have a connecting thread. A few days ago, I went to Target with my two kids on a mission to get new shoes for both and some socks for my four year-old daughter. Boy’s socks are dark, covered with sports or other “male” themes. Even more irritating are the girl’s socks. We already get my daughter her underwear from Hanna Anderson, not because we are too wealthy and have nowhere to throw our money, but because it is nearly impossible to find girl’s underwear that is not violently pink and sparkly or covered with Disney or other branding or both conditions simultaneously. While one might take pleasure in placing iconic gender-typing images in the line of fire for a potty training child, only the parents would take joy in the metaphorical results. The real results would be more media saturation for my daughter, Disney as intimate as can be. No thanks.

Back to socks. Can’t find any that I like, so I turned to the Internet. Not there either. Then I looked at Etsy and found some socks dyed in cool shades and patterns, and it dawned on me that I can do that, too. I can do it a heck of a lot less expensively than the $10 per pair listed online, as well. Even better, it can be an art project that we do together, and then my daughter will have a real connection to her clothes.

White, cotton socks at Target. Dyes and related materials at the art store. Hopefully we’ll get this project done on Sunday.

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Pink Fairy Armadillo?

Last week, I chaperoned a trip with the second grade from my school to the Harvard Peabody Museum of  Archaeology and Ethnology and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Given my aversion to both pink and Disney’s version of fairies, I was struck with how adorable in a sci-fi movie way the pink fairy armadillo is. If I created a world, it would be populated by creatures like this and even more bizarre ones. It looks like an albino mole with a topcoat of flexible plate armor.

I’d love to make a shirt with this pink fairy. I’d even support my daughter wearing one!

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That Mellon is Growing!

My daughter has a big head; well, it’s bigger than it was last year. Her bike helmet no longer fits. Her recent trip to the doctor for her annual checkup came away all good except getting a little more exercise into the routine. She does love running around and playing at the playground, but we can certainly have her walk and bike when we are going places rather than hitching a ride in the stroller. We have a nice walker/glider bike that she likes using, so this is easy. I hope to have her gliding along on her way to school, a half hour walk for me with the stroller. But her head is too big for her old helmet.

Today while my wife was busy, I took the kids to a bike store. I assumed it would be open by 11:00, but found that it would be closed for another hour when I showed up. We killed the time in a neat playground that we had not visited before. I have passed it in the summer, and there is a fabulous water section. I had forgotten to have my daughter pee before we left, so we hurried from there to a nearby grocery store, hit the bathroom, and made it to the bike store at the crack of noon.

There are two stores within a block of each other. One carries adult bikes and gear, and the other is dedicated to children’s bikes and oddities like tandem bikes. I got a new saddle for my bike at the first, and then we headed over to the kids’ store to check out our options.

I knew ahead of time that there would be the standard gendered options and that we would have to work around the pink ones. Sure enough, my daughter pointed them out, and I let her know that they were not an option. From the remaining ones which included white, black, blue, green, and red/orange, she chose the last one. I don’t know what it was that attracted her to this design, but it is certainly visible and thus a plus for safety. We also got some bike gloves that fit her. I dread the first real tumble from the bike, but the gloves may really help in that situation. She loves them and wore them, in the car, on the ride home.

This afternoon, my wife took her on a long ride. Hopefully we can keep pace with our growing daughter for some time yet.

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Filed under activities, health, Toys

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.


Filed under Stereotypes, Toys

Targeting Gender

Today, I went to target to purchase a gate for the bottom of my parents’ stairs. My son is determined to climb these stairs any time regardless of adult supervision. He has now started going down stairs, too, using the backwards feel and slide method. A long, slippery set of wood stairs is not what he needs to learn on right now, so I went to get this gate. While at Target, I walked by the toy section where not only the packaging screams out gender, but the backing to the shelves themselves are color coded pink, blue, and even green for outdoors.

What stood out at first was the action figures. I walked by the girl’s section first. Barbie and Ken stared at me vacantly from behind their individual blister packaging. Both are caricatures of men and women. I became interested in what the gender norms for figures of the opposite gender would be for each section. There were several versions of Ken along with other male figures of the different sets. The pink shelving clearly stated that these figures were for girls.


One thing that struck me was that these figures seem much younger than the Barbies and Kens of the ’70s and ’80s. They look almost teen/young twenties. Maybe because their hair was just molded plastic, or the clothes they wore were more conservative. It just seems that Ken and Barbie have become younger.

Next I walked the blue boys’ section looking for female action figures. I found one. This was a small scale supporting character for G.I. Joe who stood at attention nearby in his fatigues. His uniform looked fairly convincing. Hers, not so much. The men from the WWE were completely different from the Ken dolls. Though the one with the water bottle seemed almost contemplative while staring at his beverage, the images on the packaging showed the rage and violence that did not appear in the girls’ section.

Looking down the sporting goods aisle, there was a definite place for girls’ gear. You could spot it by the splotch of pink amidst standard gear.

Plenty of people have written eloquently about this phenomenon, and here I am at 11:00, on the road, tired to the bone. What I observed:

  • Men are portrayed as nice and cute in the girls’ section while the boys’ section shows rage, violence, and lots of muscle.
  • Women are shown as breasted versions of men in the boys’ section. In the girls’s section, it seems that men are just another accessory for the bedecked women.
  • Girls can now play sports because there are pink versions of sporting goods for them.
I worry about the self image created by the same gendered toys, but the stereotypes promoted by opposite gender toys are also powerful. Unsurprisingly, none of this stuff is in my house, yet. I want both my children to make their gender observations based on people we know, on my wife and me, and on books and other media we choose for them and that portray complexity and depth for both male and female characters.

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Filed under Gender