Welcome to the final stretch of the holiday season. If you’ve procrastinated your holiday shopping, check out the Feminist Parent’s Gift Guide here. But for those of us who’ve already braved the big-box stores (or who only have big-box stores as an option because everything else closed down in the recession), you’ve no doubt realized that with all the yuletide joy comes something else…
Sing it with me now: It’s the most sexist time of the year!
To illustrate my point, I’m going to focus my rant on a recent trip to Target. But as my shopping trips have proved time and again, these Tired Marketing Fails are not exclusive to the red dot. Here we go!
THE UNDER 3 GET A (MOSTLY) FREE PASS:
One of the things I’ve been noticing is that, with a few exceptions here and there, if you are shopping for anyone under the age of 3, you can find a fair amount of gender-neutral (or at least not forced-gender-acceptance) displays. Some of the toys inside the displays might be sexist, but as the yellow background of this set-up shows, the idea is that the young ones are not completely gender-branded just yet.
DOMESTIC STUFF IS FOR GIRLS!
But all you have to do is turn the corner and you will find an aisle just like this. Pink backdrop and loaded with gender-coded baby dolls. Now, psychology tells us that all preschoolers — regardless of gender identity — enjoy playing with dolls. But this display clearly reads: GIRLS ONLY. BOYS WILL BE SHUNNED.
Likewise, if you venture into the pretend play area of Target, it is clearly “labeled” as being for girls. Because all a girl wants to do is grow up to be a housewife, duh!
IF IT’S ABOUT ACTION — IT’S FOR BOYS!
Just an aisle or two over I found the train section, to which my two-year-old daughter squealed with joy. She loves trains! But sadly, the all-blue color scheme let us know right away that this stuff is not for girls. Silly girls, didn’t you get the memo? You’re place is back in that last aisle, training to be in the kitchen! … You know how feminists are always complaining that boys get more “action” toys than girls? Yeah, this is exactly that.
Here’s another heart-break for my apparently gender-rebelling toddler. The action figures are not for girls! You know how I know? Because of that handy blue backdrop! How else would I know that my daughter can’t possibly think Spiderman is her favorite character? Silly little girls, action toys are not for you!
LEGOS, WE’VE GOT YOU’RE STINKING (GENDER NEUTRAL) LEGOS:
So, by now most of you have probably heard about the big Lego shit-storm. It turns out, we’re not in the minority of people who hate the idea that the toy company has branded their products based on the really tired idea that “pink is for girls” and “blue is for boys.” So, you’d think that they’d have a lot more of these gender-neutral green packages than the blue and pink ones (out of frame). Nah, this is just a token gesture after all. It’s almost comical, really. The whole point is that we don’t need three categories: pink, blue, and other. We just need one toy for all!
HOW CAN WE TEACH OUR KIDS RIGID GENDER ROLES WITHOUT GENDER-CODING THEIR TOYS?
Interestingly, Target has a whole aisle of pretend play sets and toys several aisles away from the highly gendered pink aisle. But don’t let the seemingly neutral zone fool you. There’s plenty of sexism (in these mostly Target-brand) gift ideas. This one reminds us that just as pretending to cook is for girls, pretending to fix stuff is definitely for boys.
I am willing to give credit where it’s due, even if it’s in the smallest possible gestures. While there are many gender-coded play sets showing girls using anything related to the domestic sphere — cleaning, cooking, babies, etc. — there was one domestic item I found with a boy on it (and that was not “labeled” with pink or blue). But can you spot the one thing that is off about this mini-Dirt Devil? No. Not that a boy is using it. How about it’s one of the only Target-branded pretend toys to show Spanish! Huh. It’s like there’s a whole other message here. Could they be saying that it’s okay for boys to play with domestic (girl) stuff if they are Spanish-speaking because they will probably just end up being landscapers or housekeepers? (Ugh. Please let it not be that!)
IN CASE YOU MISSED THE MEMO: PINK IS FOR GIRLS; BLUE IS FOR BOYS!
And now we come to the photo that so encapsulates gender-coding in toys and sexist branding. Indeed, this little pit-stop in my shopping experience made me the most mad of anything else I saw! Why in the hell do we need a pink car and a blue car? If you look at each box, aside from the colors and the kids riding them, these two toy jeeps are exactly the same! Is there a reason why these cars have to be given a gender agenda at all? Honestly. As adults, women and men both drive cars. So, there is no incentive, so to speak, to code this activity for one gender or another. (By “incentive” I of course mean that as a society the incentive to code something for one gender or another is to reinforce rigid gender roles and stereotypes.) EVERY GENDER DRIVES CARS! This is just the dumbest gender coding ever (behind Legos).
What about you? Have you seen some truly sexist stuff out there while shopping? I want to hear about it! Leave me a comment or drop me a line! You’re photo could be featured in an upcoming TMF!