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!

TMF: Bad Facebook, bad

(Trigger warning: Eating disorders)

Sometimes when I’m scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, I am stopped in my tracks by a particularly obnoxious “sponsored post,” aka advertisement, like these. Welcome to another installment of Tired Marketing FAIL:

Copyright: The Tired Feminist


Or this:

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

Where do I even begin?

First of all: Fuck you Facebook. I am not on a diet. I do not plan to go on a diet. I am not concerned with weight loss or middle-age flabbiness. True story: I’m happy with my weight for the first time in my adult life. So, fuck you, very much.

Second of all: Without even clicking on the links, I can just look at these and know that they are propagating terribly destructive and misleading claims. Who the fuck is “Doctors’ Quick Trim” and why on earth would I believe anything they say. (Well, it says “doctors,” so it MUST be true!) How dumb do you think I am?

Thirdly: Does anyone even think that model in the first ad is real and not a product of intense Photoshopping? Look at her bust-waist-hip ratio. Is that healthy? I’m really asking, because it looks like a Barbie doll version of so-called beauty that has nothing to do with actual health. Because, you do realize that even thin people can be unhealthy, right? And so-called “fat” people can be healthy. Tell me you know that. But also, is there any way that model is even 30 years old? The ad is trying to sell me — a woman who is “30+” — on some gimmick that totally works for older ladies like me. But the model you choose is not actually my age-range? So how am I supposed to believe you, again? … Meanwhile, HOLY CRAP DOES THAT PICTURE OF THAT MODEL PROMOTE EATING DISORDERED THINKING OR WHAT?

Finally: Having recently experimented with buying an ad on Facebook for my sister site, The Sin City Siren, I have come to the conclusion that ads like this are explicitly marketed to women. All you have to do is check the “women” box when you buy your ad. This is a totally misogynistic and sexist Tired Marketing FAIL! It relies on the sexist assumption that all women are unhappy with their bodies/appearance/weight at all times. No exceptions. And that’s total bullshit.

If you’ve seen a Tired Marketing FAIL, send it my way and maybe it will be featured in a future installment!

TMF: Mamas got the magic at the Olympics

The 2012 Olympics in London have been heralded as a win for feminism in many ways — some calling it the Title IX games even. And there’s a lot to celebrate for women in these games.

But as the old poem says, we have miles to go before we sleep.

If you’ve watched any part of the Olympics, no doubt you’ve seen at least one of the P&G commercials celebrating moms. Now, I’m a mother myself. And I admit, there’s a certain part of me that gets a little misty when I think about all the sacrifices families must make to help an Olympian achieve their dream.

And then I watch a P&G commercial — for a brand that peddles paper towels and household cleaning products — and I see how the company is exploiting my mom mojo: P&G values moms. And moms buy household cleaning stuff… because moms clean the house! I didn’t even need to be an Olympian to make that leap.

Enough with the sexist ads P&G!

For one thing, despite the catchy jingle, it’s not just moms who have the magic in the household cleaning department. And for another, this campaign is like getting hit in the head by a two-by-four of social norms. Only women (aka moms) are parents and therefore deserving of accolades. Only moms sacrifice. Sorry dads, grandparents, aunts, sisters, brothers, foster/adoptive parents, step parents… your skills, sacrifice, love, and support doesn’t apply here. Move along.

But it doesn’t stop there. NBC, which covers the Olympics exclusively, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to dialing up the drama by exploiting the mom mojo. Of course, there are shots of anxious parents in the crowd, watching their Olympian go for gold. (I don’t even mind that so much.) But when the announcers start pouring it on… well, it’s so bad that Slate has brought back the Sap-o-meter.

Yes, mothers (and fathers) are proud of their Olympic-caliber offspring. They should be! But doesn’t it distract from the stature of Olympians when we infantilize them to push products? These people have dedicated their lives to becoming the best athletes in the world. Let’s show them some respect!

And what about the Olympians who are parents? What about beach volleyball team Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who are going for their third consecutive gold medals in their sport (which, by the way, would be a historic feat in that sport)? Walsh Jennings is a mother herself, which is why I was doubly offended when John McEnroe referred to the Olympian and her team-mate as “girls,” while talking to Bob Costas. These are not teenage gymnasts — whom I would argue you should call “young women” out of respect for their hard work and discipline as athletes. These are thirty-somethings with husbands and kids and fully developed adult lives. They are not girls.

Let’s move on. And in the spirit of the games, move forward.

Originally posted on Fem2.0.

TMF: Paul Frank edition

This TMF is a classic example of tired marketing (FAIL!). All of these shirts are part of the Small Paul collection for toddlers and babies that I found at Babies R Us. See if you can spot the difference between the shirts marketed to boys and the shirts marketed to girls:





Are you getting the message? Even in the hipster realm of toddler clothes, the gender rules still apply. Boys do stuff. Girls look cute! I guess Paul Frank gets some points for a slightly more subtle approach. The shirts aren’t entirely pink and blue. But I think the pink bow in the skull keeps things neatly in the confines of societal gender norms.

Even hipsters can’t out-run gender coding in children’s apparel, it seems.

Spotted a Tired Marketing FAIL? Send it to me and maybe it will be featured next time!

TMF: A Mighty Girl

Image used with permission from A Mighty Girl.

Every now and then I am pleased to find a winner (rather than a loser) for the Tired Marketing FAIL! (TMF) series. So, today I give you A Mighty Girl, an online, curated clearinghouse dedicated to “raising smart, confident, and courageous girls.” The site even comes PinkStinks approved.

The Washington, DC-based A Mighty Girl bills itself as the world’s largest collection of books and movies for smart girls. There are sections on civil rights, being an “independent princess,” gardening, and many different kinds of adventures where girls are the heroes of their own stories. This is the theme of the site, which states:

Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure. It is our hope that these high-quality children’s products will help a new generation of girls to grow and pursue whatever dreams they choose — to truly be Mighty Girls!

Hell yeah!

The site is also well-organized. You can find books by age or topic. And there is a huge range of topics from the expected kids categories to more evolved categories including science, creative arts, women’s history… even abuse and violence. Glancing at the cover art of the books reveals a nice diversity, too.

There is a lot of bad stuff out in the world. So it’s nice to highlight a winner every now and then!

Have you seen a candidate for Tired Marketing FAIL? Send it to me and maybe it will be featured in the next post!

Only 8 more days to send a message to the UFC!

Have you signed the UFC petition, yet? You only have 8 more days until it closes! Then I will be delivering it to the UFC headquarters in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month in April. This is a chance to have your voice be heard that rape jokes and hate speech are NOT funny. Ever!

Need the backstory? Check out the UFC Campaign page with all the details — from Penn State jokes during live press conferences to prison rape jokes by UFC President Dana White!

Now that the petition is coming to an end, it’s time to deliver it! Come out on April 3 — which just happens to be national Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action — and we’ll deliver the petition to UFC headquarters and rally for change in our community here in Las Vegas! There are already some great organizations who are coming out for the cause, with more being added all the time. Check back soon for all the details!