Gender specific toys are nothing new.
For as long as I can remember fast food chains offered a “boy’s” toy and a “girl’s” toy. It didn’t make me indignant or anything. I mean, both were usually garbage that smelled like cheap plastic and day-old french fries.
The only real difference between the two objects was usually their color. The ubiquitous dark hues for those born with wieners and something pink and sparkly for those of us nature had damned with girl parts. Sometimes the boys got moveable parts too, things with wheels or things that shot projectiles perfect for irritating your siblings on road trips.
Any disparity between the objects never bothered me. Much like the old saying, “in the dark all cats are gray,” so it is with any toy entering a minivan full of children about to embark on a drive from Rhode Island to Maryland to see their grandparents -- it was every piece of crap for everyone.
Much as I was never bothered by the pre-determined and assigned ‘likes’ meant for my gender (I happen to still be very fond of a nice, violent-looking neon pink or even tepid bubble gum) I knew that it was something I would be within my rights to fight against.
I didn’t though, I couldn’t muster any ire. Instead, I sat in my room crafting elaborate barbie-doll outfits out of my mom’s scarves. “You look good,” I’d say to one, wrapped up toga-snug style. “He will definitely pick you tonight,” I’d say arranging the dolls in the requisite line, all the better for Ken to pick his companion.
Truly I was a warped child, and however “hep” to the cultural mind-fucks that permeate our daily lives I claim to have been, my playtime still involved making a bunch of girl-dogs subservient to Ken. Clearly, whatever the good wishes of the people at Mattel had for my future, reminding me that like Barbie, I could be a career women, damage was being done. Hilarious, hilarious damage.
I guess this isn’t surprising given Barbie’s origins. Barbie as we know her today was in fact inspired by a German novelty sexy-time doll - called Bild Lilli - usually given to men at bachelor parties. For all her stabs at making herself a female role-models, Barbie has hit some snags along the way. One of these included a talking Barbie that maybe-sorta-absolutely said, “Math is hard!”
Luckily, there were some social-artists who could stop hitting themselves in the face and screaming when they learned this. Instead, they bought out a bunch of talking GI Joes and a mess of the math-hating Barbie and swapped out their voice boxes before returning them to the store. This is the greatest thing maybe ever.
Awesome activism aside, that all went down in 1991, and while Teen Talk Barbie isn’t still discussing how challenging she finds numbers, we’re still combatting some pretty pernicious and potentially harmful shit around when it comes to the messages we’re selling our girls.
Take these shirts being sold at the Children’s Place, a staple of most local malls. “Born to wear diamonds!” proclaims one top, while the other provides a checklist of her skills which include shopping, music, and dancing. An empty box next to the math slot is explained away by a parenthetical which reads, “nobody’s perfect!”
I would rather see shirts for girls that said stuff like, “Things Are Going To Be Really Hard For Me!” and “I Might Not Be Allowed To Wear Short Sleeves In This Country By The Time I Hit Puberty!” Because if we’re going to continue to send destructive messages to our girl-children, why not express real concerns, right?
If I sound annoyed, it’s because I am. I am a girlie girl to my core, and I think everyone should be allowed to like what they like. I’m not advocating stripping away sparkles and bows and all that soft shit. But giving little girls fake bedazzled cellphones and laughing off the challenges they’re bound to face in the future makes my butt want to throw up. It feels like a step backwards.
What do you think? I am being too ragey? I am all about playing with makeup and all that noise, I just don’t want to see girl’s defining themselves by the stereotypes foisted upon them by our society ahhhhhhhh!