The other day I bought DD (8) a little Playmobil grab bag. It’s a girl themed packet with one of the pictured figures. You don’t know which one until you open it. A few minutes after opening it, DD brought the figure into my office, saying “Of all the girls on the packet I got this?” She showed me the figure, shown at the top left. “Lady Gaga” DD said, a tone of disgust in her voice. “How is that cool?”
She has a point. This is a toy for girls five and up. As much as I admire Lady Gaga’s philosophy on tolerance, I’m considerably less enamored of her overly sexualized image. Her message of her music may be empowering to young LGBT kids but images like the one at right are extremely harmful to young girls. The Playmobil figure was dressed in much the same way, a cleavage bursting, underwear sort of outfit. I am so tired of seeing talented female singers rolling around in lingerie on beds, dancing in stripper or BDSM attire, or just generally appearing in public half naked. Yes, LG, I know you were born this way, ie. naked, but that doesn’t mean you need to flaunt it at Heathrow Airport. This teaches girls to use their bodies like shark bait.
Performing artists selling this hyper-sexual image of womanhood is bad enough but do we have to have it in our toys? Even Barbie has never marketed BDSM Mistress Barbie. I wonder if the boy themed Playmobil packet has hyper sexualised male figure. I don’t know, maybe Fabio.
So toys for girls were on my mind today when I read Steve Watkins’s piece on gender specific toy marketing. Watkins bemoans the gender split in kids toys and clothes and I agree with him. I take a slightly different tack than some on this issue though. I don’t think it is so much boys being pressured towards some things and girls being pressured towards others, as it is a kind of gender specific fun censoring that goes on as we grow up. In other words we girls are told to stop fighting and yelling and the boys are told to stop dancing in mummy’s pink shoes. Frankly I think we should all fight, yell and dance in someone else’s pink shoes until we die, but maybe that’s just me.
At any rate, sometimes it’s the little things that count with issues like this. DD and I wrote a letter to Playmobil, questioning the appropriateness of Lady Gaga as a toy for pre-tween girls. Thirteen year old Mckenna Pope is also on board the campaign to make toys helpful and inclusive. She has started a petition to present to Hasbro, the makers of the Easy Bake Oven, to encourage them to make the marketing of this toy less gender specific. McKenna’s baby brother it seems, wants to be a chef. She thinks he should be able to see boys like himself playing with the Easy Bake in their commercials. She also wonders why the product should be purple and pink. Her petition has over 10,000 signatures.
Way to go McKenna. You’re terrific!