TMF: White-washing Doc McStuffins right out of the underwear aisle

It’s been a while since I wrote a Tired Marketing Fail, but I think this may be my most outraged. The other day I was shopping for underwear for my four-year-old, a self-identified girl. My kid likes superheroes (which we’ve already parsed here), princesses, ponies, and yes, Doc McStuffins. And here is where we met with disappointment.

Perhaps because she already unconsciously benefits from white privilege or because of her developmental age, the draw for my kid these days is gender. She’s a girl and she likes to identify with other girls. She likes to hear stories about girls in book, TV, and movies — which is not always easy to find as cisgender male outnumber cisgender female characters three to one in family films while just 31 percent of central characters in children’s books are female. She likes to pretend to be different kinds of girls, whether they are princesses, firefighters, doctors, or Bat Girl Princess (Bat Girl mask and super powers with a princess dress, obviously).

So there we were in the children’s underwear aisle at Target and my kid spots the multi-pack featuring Doc McStuffins. But unlike the Frozen, Barbie, or Hello Kitty-themed packs, outside of the toddler section, poor Doc gets stuffed in with Sophia the First (is there a princess franchise more vacuous?) and Minnie Mouse. That’s right, in a sea of merchandising with white faces, the singularly female and black Doc McStuffins can’t even get her own package of panties — despite the fact that the character has mass cross-over appeal among different genders and races.

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

Is it just me or does it look like Doc McStuffins barely exists in this pack of girls’ underwear?

But as “DrMamaEsq” wrote on BlogHer last month:

People want to believe that young children do not see color. It seemingly provides us with the opportunity to intervene on young minds before racial stereotypes take hold. If young children do not see color, then we can provide multi-cultural materials to promote diversity, even when our personal lives—where we live, the conversations in which we participate, with whom we educate our kids—fail to reflect the racial equality and diversity we say we value.

What is true is that kids do “see” color because it is embedded into the very fabric of who we are as a nation. But kids, especially white children, are taught to ignore what they see, which is very different than not seeing color at all.

Indeed, I found myself in an unexpected teachable moment standing there in the underwear aisle. I could buy the multi-pack, which only had a couple of pairs of Doc panties mixed in with other non-Doc characters, or I could show my white child why this was messed up. Tired as I was — because when are we not tired, feminists? — I chose the latter. Because the fact that I can weigh this as an elective conversation is a manifestation of my own privilege. Let’s face it, parents of children of color are confronted with situations like these and worse (hello, Ferguson) on a daily basis. If I want to be something more than a suburban progressive with white-guilt, I need to be a part of the solution and that includes educating my kid about inequity and racism in our society. (Something parents of white kids need to be taking more seriously, because Ferguson.)

While I probably won’t be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for my explanation of the inherent inequality represented in that particular underwear aisle, I succeeded in pointing out that it wasn’t fair that Doc McStuffins did not get her own package, complete with multiple characters from the show, just like Frozen, My Little Ponies, Hello Kitty, Spiderman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Barbie. I told her it wasn’t right that Doc McStuffins wasn’t treated the same as the other popular characters and I tried to help her explore why it was that she might be treated differently. I’m not sure she completely understood the idea of race, but she very clearly could see that Doc McStuffins was not treated fairly in the world of the characters she loved. My kid was visibly saddened by this and she talked about it the rest of the night. She still points it out every time we see packs of undies, asking, “When will they make more Doc McStuffins panties?”

When, indeed, kid.

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

It doesn’t look like the Frozen characters are having any trouble getting their due.

Part of the blame must rest with children’s underwear manufacturer Handcraft, which has obviously chosen to offer mixed-character packs for older kids, while offering all-Doc packs for toddler sizes. So the designs exist. The market is there. And they are just willfully choosing to NOT give customers — KIDS — what they want.

Another portion of the blame has to land with the big-box retailers — Target, Walmart, and others — who do not push for more diversity from products offered by vendors. I guarantee that a company as large as Target or Walmart has the capitalistic muscle to nudge a vendor to offer whatever products customers are pining for. So once again, we the customers, have to put the pressure on retailers to give us what we actually want. (Something that’s been a trend of late, see: Target’s girls’ sizing problem.)

I’m so sick of having to do this!

But, as the Once-ler says in The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

So if you agree that Doc McStuffins is getting the short end of the stick — that the character and the diversity it stands for is being marginalized in the marketplace despite product demand — then I encourage you to share those thoughts with underwear manufacturer Handcraft, and the two largest retailers selling Handcraft products Target and Walmart!

To make things easy, here are some sample tweets and messages you can send RIGHT NOW!

@Target Give girls an entire pack of Doc McStuffins panties! Tell Handcraft to give Doc her due! #docmcstuffins cc @Disney

@Target Stop white-washing the girls’ panty aisle! #DocMcStuffins should not have to share pack with Sophia and Minnie! cc @Disney

@Target Frozen, Barbie, Hello Kitty … all the white characters get a whole pack of undies, why not #DocMcstuffins ? #fem2

@Walmart Give girls an entire pack of Doc McStuffins panties! Tell Handcraft to give Doc her due! #docmcstuffins cc @Disney

@Walmart Stop white-washing the girls’ panty aisle! #DocMcStuffins should not have to share pack with Sophia and Minnie! cc @Disney

@Walmart Frozen, Barbie, Hello Kitty … all the white characters get a whole pack of undies, why not #DocMcstuffins ? #fem2

Handcraft does not appear to be on twitter but they do have a contact form on their website. Here’s a suggested message:

Despite the popularity of Disney’s Doc McStuffins’ characters across genders and races, parents are still left hunting for a full package of Doc McStuffins character underwear outside of the toddler aisle. Please start manufacturing girls’ and boys’ sized underwear in packages that are entirely Doc McStuffins — just as you do for Frozen, Barbie, and Hello Kitty. Kids like mine can’t wait to get them!

You can also leave messages on Facebook for Target and Walmart:

Despite the popularity of Disney’s Doc McStuffins’ characters across genders and races, parents are still left hunting for a full package of Doc McStuffins character underwear outside of the toddler aisle. Please ask Handcraft Manufacturing to start manufacturing girls’ and boys’ sized underwear in packages that are entirely Doc McStuffins — just as they do (and you offer) for Frozen, Barbie, Spiderman, and Hello Kitty. Kids like mine can’t wait to get them!

As always, I’ll be tweeting from @TheSinCitySiren and you can catch me on Facebook at The Tired Feminist!

No room for hate

Had an interesting conversation with my friend Alex today. It got me thinking about all the things I see in my Facebook and twitter feeds. All the issues and causes and politics we care about. One of the things people ask me is why I care about equality issues for people who do not look like/love like me. I say the answer is as simple as my favorite Bouncing Souls lyric:

People say, well, if they don’t care, then why should I care? I say, if I don’t care, why should anyone care?

If we are serious about caring for our neighbor, as the President said tonight or as the Bible says for those who follow that, then we must care about those who do not look like ourselves. Why does a white, suburban, work-at-home mom care about organizing a hate crimes event for LGBT individuals and people of color? Because I am exactly the person who should care!

There are no “my issues” and “your issues.” There are no “women’s issues.” There are no “gay issues” and “straight issues.” There is one issue: All people are created equal. All people are born with the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness. And when we find that people are not treated equally, it is our duty to be a part of that solution. Because if you just sit back and say, “Well, that’s not my problem.” Or if you say, “But that doesn’t really effect me.” You’re lying to yourself.

When people I love are treated like second-class citizens because of their sexuality or gender identity; when I’m treated like a second-class citizen because I want to be paid equally and have autonomy over my body; when my neighbor finds hate-speech scrawled on his block wall… It is a problem. It is a problem for each and every one of us. We are all diminished when bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and inequality are left to fester because it is, “not our problem.”

So, yeah. I’m organizing a hate crimes event. I’m taking my tea cup full of water to the forest fire. And I will keep doing it. Because it is the right thing to do. Like my husband says, “We’re the Bristols. We do what’s right, even if it is hard. That’s how we roll.” So, I hope you will roll with me. I hope you will sit back and look at the big picture for just a moment and realize that all these “hates” have the same root.

And nobody wins when there is hate.

How feticide laws turn women into gestational slaves

Anti-choice advocates have a friend in feticide laws.

Akin to personhood laws, as far as I can tell, there is no upside to feticide laws. The supposed intent of such laws is to add a charge of murder to anyone who kills a fetus through violence. However, these laws are often really about criminalizing the behavior of pregnant women and penalizing them for mistakes or even miscarriages.

Take the case of Bei Bei Shuai, the Indianapolis woman whose infant daughter died in her arms at a hospital shortly after birth. Months later, Shuai was arrested and charged with murder and attempted feticide because, while pregnant, Shuai had eaten rat poison in an attempted suicide. The case — which I’m sure will eventually wind up in the Supreme Court for all its implications on the abortion debate — once again casts a pregnant woman as merely an incubator, making her life and choices matter only in as much as they might have an effect on a fetus. Instead of concern or action to address the mental health and emotional needs of pregnant women — as many as 23 percent of pregnant women experience depression — this case serves to shame Shuai for potentially harming a fetus. (There is no evidence that the rat poison led to the death of her child after birth.)

We tell women that their own health and welfare are irrelevant (see: abortion bans even to save a woman’s life). Where are the murder charges for doctors who let a pregnant woman bleed to death rather than perform a life-saving abortion? No. No. No. That wouldn’t happen because that would require outrage that a woman — who is already full formed and alive by all objective and scientific standards — to be protected under the law and held in higher esteem than a fraction of a life, a fetus. For all our worship of Motherhood, women must find joy in pregnancy and parenting no matter how painful or difficult it may be emotionally, financially, or physically. (Shuai attempted suicide after the father of her baby dumped her when she was 30 weeks into the pregnancy.)

Of course, in our society failure is not an option. While I can understand the desire to mourn the loss of a new life — infant mortality is always sad — we must not do so on the backs of women, as if they are our gestational slaves. (Indeed, I see no similar public mourning of the fact that America has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation.)

There is no question that feticide is just another brick in the wall that defines how women are second-class citizens to men. Perhaps the patriarchal hierarchy isn’t as simple as the belief that men subjugate women. Perhaps the hierarchy actually goes more like this: men first, then fetuses, then white women, then white children, then “other” women, then gay women… If the stalled reauthorization of VAWA — left to die in Congress because people actually wanted to protect ALL women, including Native American women, immigrants, and gays — is any indication, this may be more true than not.

I don’t care if this is an unpopular statement, but here it is: ALL fully formed people deserve equal protection under the law. Fetuses are not fully formed human beings. And yet, by the laws that we pass, we elevate them above the women who carry them. When you take away someone’s autonomy by enacting law after law that takes away their choices (trying to “think” for them because they are not capable of rational thought on their own) and dehumanize them to such an extent that they are worth less than a cluster of stem cells, that is the very essence of oppression.

Cross-posted from The Sin City Siren.

TMF: Victoria’s (racist) Secret

The ideal Victoria’s Secret consumer? Even I’m not this white.

I’m mixing it up for today’s TMF. I don’t usually pick adult items or ad campaigns for the TMF: Tired Marketing Fail! series. Mostly, it’s because I think adults can field adult issues on their own. (Well, most adults.) I usually target kid stuff because the marketing is aimed at kids, who don’t generally have the ability to distinguish sexist bullshit from regular bullshit. Depending on the age, they can’t even distinguish when a television program ends and when commercials begin.

TMF is also a little reminder for all of us out there buying stuff for the kids we know. What parent out there hasn’t been at the mega-box store seemingly sleep-walking through the rote task of getting that week’s shopping list done? Hell, since becoming a mom I’ve had weeks when I can’t remember if or how many times I’ve showered. Did I brush my teeth yesterday?

But today I’m making an exception to the usual TMF format. Today I’m going off on Victoria’s Secret. Not because of its history with child-labor marketed as fair trade… No, this time it’s because the company can’t stop putting out racist shit! From “geisha” outfits in its catalog earlier this year to sending a model strutting down the runway last weekend wearing a Sioux-inspired war bonnet, Victoria’s Secret seems to be trying to get away with misappropriation, exploitation, and sexualization of non-white cultures. (Photos of each are in the links above.)

Jezebel writer Ruth Hopkins dials in exactly where we should be on the outrage scale:

I am livid. After years of patronage and loyalty to the Victoria’s Secret brand, I am repaid with the mean-spirited, disrespectful trivialization of my blood ancestry and the proud Native identity I work hard to instill in my children. Well, I’ve got news for you, Victoria’s Secret. Consider yourself boycotted. Perhaps it’s time for us to resume the feminist practice of bra-burning. Regardless, this Native girl is ready to go commando.

We just went through one of our most racism-filled election cycles in modern history. Indeed, one of the many reasons why Mitt Romney lost is because he employed the so-called Southern Strategy — feeding on the fears of conservative, white people who fear and dislike people who do not look like them (or, racists, for short) — and banked on the almost exclusive power of the white vote to put him in office. And we all know how that worked out.

So, maybe Victoria’s Secret is merely using its capitalistic prowess here — a sort of Southern Strategy of consumerism — but this time trained on sexualizing and corrupting icons and motifs from non-white cultures. Except that this happens all the time. This is, in fact, the very definition of white privilege and institutionalized racism. Whites can play dress up as other cultures because it’s cute, fun, or even sexy. It mocks the non-dominant culture. It negates their power. And it reinforces the dominance of whites in our culture.

As a white person, I am deeply offended at the implication of this kind of marketing, products, and consumer-driven events. If I don’t speak out, I am part of the problem. I become complicit with a cultural machine that only sees diversity if it can be comodified and sold to white people (in non-threatening ways, of course). This is the same reason why I will never root for the NFL’s Redskins.

Beyond that, there is a moral bankruptcy in this. Culture and race are not things to be acquired or tried on.