Guerilla Feminism

I spent a good part of today searching for tasty edible finger paints, and so passed through more than one stack of Barbie vomit in a toy store. Hot pink fairy princess aisles aren’t quite so intimidating as drug store makeup aisles, of course, since they’re more or less designed as a fun-filled introduction to feminine beauty – but they still trigger a strong fight or flight response from my inner hairy-legged feminist.

It gets especially bad when some ass at Target decides that a uniform pink glow is an insufficient cue for clueless gift-shopping grandparents, and the pink aisle needs to be labelled “girl’s roleplay”. Our society already suffers a horrible shortage of flamboyant cross-dressing men – is there any need to worsen the problem and twist the minds of innocent young boys away from healthy gender-bending behavior? I didn’t think so.

Piqued, I pulled the offensive category insert from the aisle directory, and replaced it with the blank side facing out. I’m not prepared to combat the gender-based toy industry – in fact, I’ll even concede that on average, girls and boys probably do have some innate, biologically driven differences in toy preferences and play styles. Differences that often fall apart when you find an individual boy or girl in the toy section. But what seems like a harmless marketing ploy to an adult can be a harsh normative judgement to a kid. Go ahead, put all the domestic toys in one aisle and the outdoor robots in another, have your layout however you want, but there’s no need to humiliate the one boy who happens to want an EZ-bake oven – he’s got plenty coming for him down the road anyway.

And there’s especially no need to turn perfectly good unisex toys into emblems of masculinity. Even if Lego’s marketing department has been a little cold to those who build houses instead of battleships.

Some related bits and pieces:

  • Girls are apparently less likely to rate a girl-toy as being “appropriate for girls” as boys are, and both boys and girls prefer boy toys… [more] It’s just an abstract, but if you’re near a good library, it could be interesting.
  • Does anyone remember the fiasco when Toys ‘R’ Us tried to label their store sections Boys’ World and Girls’ World? It was enough to get the anti-feminist pundits up and running on the issue. Where have all the loud obnoxious feminists got to this time?
  • Food for thought in the nature vs. nurture debate: we’re not always aware of how early our own stereotypes can start to influence our offspring. The research cited here is all old (1980s) – and thank god it is, because otherwise I’d have to go conquer a daycare. [more]
  • Whoa! Scroll down a page in this blurp on the Toys ‘R’ Us fiasco, and you get:

    The resulting behaviors — what experts refer to as “male and female play patterns” — used to emerge around age five or six. But now they are often observed in young preschoolers. Possible explanations, child-development experts say, include earlier socialization with peers in day care and preschool and earlier media exposure.

    If you’ve got good references to this phenomenon you can quote off the top of your head, please do. Otherwise, I’ll look it up later when I have the time.

To boil it down: god dammit, why do girl toys always have to be so shitty and boring?

Oh, and I never did find tasty finger paints, but apparently you can make your own from corn starch and water. Shouldn’t be too tricky to add in some imitation cherry extract.

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