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If You Won’t Buy Your Kids Racist Presents, Don’t Buy Them Sexist Ones

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Maybe it's because Santa is an old, white guy, but Christmas season has a special way of bringing out the inner sexist in grown-ups. In fact, I started my blog, Reel Girl, 2 days after Christmas, 4 years ago, because I was blown away by the gender stereotyped presents my three daughters, then ages 10 months, 3 and 6 years, received. It was Polly Pocket who drove me to blog.

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I call her Polly Prostitute, partly due to her fashion choices which includes boots, heels, and minis that barely cover her ass. Before you get mad at me for "slut-shaming," this is a doll marketed to little girls. Why do kids, ages 4 – 7 (the group Polly is supposedly for) need to be choosing belly-baring outfits for Polly? But, really, the bigger question is: Why do girls need to be choosing any kind of outfit for Polly at all?

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This tiny plastic doll has about 50 million tinier little plastic articles of clothing, all impossible to keep track of, like fluorescent stilettos or a hairband with kitty ears smaller than my pinky nail. I have a hard enough time not losing the tiny clothing that the three real humans in my house wear, why in Santa's name would I want this shit around around to sort and organize, all so my daughters can get trained to focus on clothing, shopping, fashion, and appearance?

All three of my daughters received multiple "age appropriate" gifts back in 2009, and have every year since, that involved dressing: paper dolls with paper clothes, magnetic dolls with magnetic clothes, soft dolls with clothes you can button and tie, and of course, Barbies, and American Girl dolls at $100 a pop. The list goes on.

I'm here to tell you that these toys are not cute, nor are they a phase girls are ever allowed to "grow out" of. This focus on appearance never disappears from a girl's life; it simply mutates. That, my friends, is dangerous. We wonder how and why girls get so obsessed with their bodies. Mystified, we conclude this preoccupation is "natural." Kids keep getting sexualized and sexually abused. Eating disorders are epidemic, and still, we, authority figures and role models, keep giving girls toys that teach them and train them that how they look is the most important thing. Can you imagine doing this to boys? Giving them endless toys to dress, providing them with very few other male images, from the moment they exit the womb? Would we label that abusive?

If female characters don't look like Polly Pocket, they pretty much go missing from kidworld all together. Part of that is due to Hollywood. Female protagonists go missing from most of the narratives made into mainstream movies and marketed to kids. Every year, on Reel Girl, I post all the children's movies coming out that year, and female protagonists are few and far between. If you look at the posters, you can see how females, literally, get marginalized. Check out this recent Christmas movie, as a typical example.

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Illustration for article titled If You Won’t Buy Your Kids Racist Presents, Don’t Buy Them Sexist Ones

Do you think if parents saw a poster with this many female characters for a mainstream movie in theaters across America, they might do a double take? But this gender ratio is so normal, no one notices. It's in the Hobbit, Tinitin, Star Wars. And then the toys come out based on those films. This year, my seven year old daughter wanted a more adventurous LEGO set than Friends, where the girls sit at cafes and bakeries. We looked in stores for Leia. This is what we found.

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Illustration for article titled If You Won’t Buy Your Kids Racist Presents, Don’t Buy Them Sexist Ones

Yep, there's our girl, in a metal bikini, chained to a giant, green beast. I bet Polly would love that outfit, too. And what's crazy is that we got this set in the hope that it would be empowering for her, because it included Leia. I know if I search on the internet, I can find a few female minifigs that aren't quite as awful, but why can't I see them in a toy store? Why can't kids experience powerful females as they go about their day, on cereal boxes and embossed on diapers, the way we see powerful and varied male characters everywhere we look? Why are powerful females presented as if they were some kind of special interest group if they exist at all? Why are girls, anywhere outside of the Pink Ghetto, shown as in they are a minoritywhen they are, in fact, one half of the kid population?

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Here's a brief history lesson on racist propaganda and children's media.

Images/narratives of Jews 1938

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Africans 1931

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Females 2013

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Be on the right side of history. Please, say no to sexist toys for your kids this Holiday season.

This post originally appeared on Reel Girl. Republished with permission.

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DISCUSSION

missfishnetsfriday
FishnetsFriday

Jesus Christ, this is a shitshow of an article. And it could've been done so well, too.

First of all, playing dress-up with dolls is hardly an issue; the issue is that the activity is so gendered. My brother happily dressed dolls and played pretend until he was around nine and people started stating "that's not what boys do." The assemblage of photos that comes with this article, allegedly demonstrating what a wanton harlot Polly is (Polly Prostitute? REALLY? And the toys are sexist? Not the author of the article? Are you sure?) look perfectly reasonable for the most part.

Toys are not the only mechanism by which girls grow obsessed with your body. I'd argue it has a lot to do with, oh, magazines and advertisements and parents who think a plastic doll might as well be a representation of a prostitute based on how she... dresses. What will you do one day if one of your daughters wants to wear a miniskirt and boots? Faint dead away?

Doubtless there needs to be more representation of women in the toy aisle - you might try GoldieBlox if you're still looking for something. Women of color, especially, direly lack representation in the toy aisle. This is not an issue that should be taken lightly. However, this article does not handle it well. At all. Your repeated disparagement of stereotypically "feminine" pursuits in this article is somewhat indicative of sexism, too - ew, it's a traditional GIRL'S THING to dress up dolls, why can't my girls have a non-pink non-blue Nerf gun or something? Ew. Girls. Your rage at this appearing to be all there is is completely understandable, but until the sales of those "less-offensive" toys you mentioned take off on the Internet, toystores will not assimilate. Why? Because marketing doesn't think there's any money in anything else.

Your term "the Pink Ghetto" is doubtless going to be deconstructed by other commenters far more eloquent than I, so I'm going to stick with the fuck, lady? and what? I'm not really sure the comparison between a section of a toystore and ... actual... places that mostly exist because of oppression of a class, race, or ethnicity is at all valid or acceptable.

As a child - and this wasn't too terribly long ago, for me - I received gifts that had nothing to do with dressing up. So did my friends at that age. Are you sure the issue is not at least partially with your relatives?

Or you?