17 May 2007

waging a war on pink toys

Sorry, it has been so many days since my last confession...er..i mean post. The last week has been a whirlwind of endless writing and I've finally been able to take a breath and bring you the latest in mothering from the front lines.

In the midst of my Google searching for some juicy celeb pregnancy goss, I randomly came upon Fisher-Price's latest installment of gender stereotyped toys. I scanned the FP website only to find the 'Little Mommy Newborn Nursing Doll' which comes in a range of skin colours so little girls can have a doll that looks just like them.

Not only is said 'Little Mommy' doll (referred to as LM from now on) swaddled in pink like any good and hyper feminised little girl but the manufacturer's description goes on to say 'This baby's eyes are blue, her skin is light and her hair blond'. Isn't that precious and so typically Aryan?

Seriously, makes me want to hurl. I mean there's nothing wrong with children playing with dolls; that's how they learn about the social world (and this is both a good thing and a bad thing). What really bothers me about this toy is that it reiterates the fact that women should be nurturing and appropriately gendered. If children's toys (and this one is made exclusively for girls) are extolling the joys of motherhood, young girls learn quickly that the only path to feminine fulfillment is through the womb; any personal achievement outside of motherhood pales in comparison. Why are we teaching out girls to be 'Little Mommies' when boys are playing with trains and cars? Where is the 'Little Daddy' doll? I mean surely parents are more progressive these days and the gendering of play time is considerably less black and white, but the fact that it's 2007 and toy companies are still trying to sell the same tired old gender stereotypes is pretty depressing.

LM makes me think of the 'Happy Family' Midge Barbie doll who was of course married and visibly pregnant; open her stomach and out pops a curled up baby. In 2002, Walmart had to pull Midge off the shelves because the idea that young children would discover how babies actually enter the world was far too off-putting (even though Midge has a sort of an elective caesar every time baby is 'born'!) Women's distended stomachs were supposed to be hidden even though Midge was in an appropriately gendered, heterosexual marriage. Surely these complaints come from parents who want their kids to think that they came from the cabbage patch!

So this is the point. According to toy manufacturers, it's okay to tell little girls that they should be wearing pink and swaddling newborns without any inclination as to how the babies actually enter the world. Yet,when a manufacturer actually makes a pregnant 'mother' doll, the horror of women's biology is too much for people to stomach.

1 comment:

Sazz said...

Congrats on another fantastic blog entry! I love it!

I've been writing a bit about femininity on my own blog after having so much of it rammed down my throat in honour of mother's day. And I've found some great feminist critiques of femininity that I wanted to share. This is from my blog entry on capitalist consumption of femininity:

"According to radical feminists, genders (such as "masculine" and "feminine") are not merely "socially" constructed. Rather, they are politically constructed (Jeffreys 2005, 24). Radical feminists, including Sheila Jeffreys (2005) and Catharine MacKinnon (1989), argue that masculinity and femininity are genders "of male dominance" (in Jeffreys 2005, 24). That is, these genders have been constructed to serve the political purpose of maintaining male-dominance by eroticising inequality. Jeffreys states:

Women are required to practise femininity in order to create sexual difference/deference. But the difference is one of power, and femininity is the behaviour required of the subordinate class of women in order to show their deference to the ruling class of men (Jeffreys 2005, 24)

Jeffreys lists a number of beauty practices that constitute “feminine” behaviour, including wearing figure-hugging clothing, cosmetics, and certain hairstyles (Jeffrey 2005, 24). Denise Thompson (2001) shares MacKinnon and Jeffreys' understanding of femininity and its purpose within male dominated society. Thompson writes: "femininity exists to reinforce masculinity. It is the residual vestiage of 'humanity" women are allowed, so that men can continue to define themselves at women's expense" (46). For radical feminists femininity is the acceptance that women should be considered and treated as second-rate humans.

Difference is not of apolitical importance in male dominated society, rather it is about demonstrating and reinforcing the superiority of all that is male, over that which is female."

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The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.