like, do I even need to say anything?
omg. OMG! Have you seen this?
I saw this commercial the other day. I can’t stand it. If this stuff existed when I was a kid, well, I am not sure that I would have ever left the house. Not only does this track go on the wall, you can connect it with tracks on the floor.
This is a great example of technology done right. This thing uses 3M Command Strips to hold the tracks up, which you put on with the use of a provided template. When you’re done with the playing, you just peel it off the wall.
I would imagine this could provide a lot of kids a good amount of play time. It would pretty much distract me if I had this little contraption. Look, I know I have written about toys so often in the blog already but c’mon, it attaches to the wall!
I was not a Barbie girl (big surprise?) I had one left over from my sister, who I don’t think was a Barbie girl, either. But I had my very own Skipper, the little sister of Barbie. She had a flat chest; this, I remember.
I suppose because Barbie was so curvy, Skipper was so much more relateable to me as a gawky kid.
Contemporary toys fascinate me, especially the ones that have a history. Have you noticed that toys have changed rather drastically? We seemed tougher as kids of the 1970s. This was my Slinky:
And this is the new Slinky:
Notice a difference? The new Slinky is made of plastic. Plastic! Ours was the original, made of metal—cut your fingers when you popped open the last ring. We also had this wonderful outdoor horror, the metal slide:
Do you know what this did to the back of your legs on a sunny day? I think I still carry the skin scars from my childhood. And now, children have this pleasure:
Not only is today’s playground apparatus non-heat inducing but now it comes in bright colors! I am most surprised by the differences in relation to gender. The Easy Bake Oven, for example, looked like this when I was a kid:
And is now produced as this:
In a generation of young foodies due to Top Chef, and an entire cable network geared toward food, I wonder why Hasbro has gendered this product so strongly, limiting cross-gender possibilities. They aren’t the only ones. Here is my Big Wheel from when I was a kid:
And now, we can purchase this for the stylin’ contemporary girl:
I can tell you this: I was a total tomboy when I was a kid. This Big Wheel would have never seen my butt in its seat. Sadly, I destroyed my original Big Wheel jumping ramps in the woods with Chris K, my childhood partner-in-crime. Even the game Cootie (remember?!) has taken a huge turn. This was my cootie, once built:
And this is the new and improved Cootie:
But no toy has made me turn my head as quickly as Barbie. Get this: here was my Barbie camper:
And here is today’s:
And my Barbie case:
This side-by-side comparison offers a fantastic comparison of the Barbie penthouse. If you notice, the contemporary penthouse has a hot tub. A hot tub? Really?
But I think this rattles me more than anything:
I’ll say it again: um…wtf?
The Gender Gap
Last Spring, Constance McMillen was barred from bringing her girlfriend to prom. The story leaked, and rightful outrage ensued. Now, in the same state of Mississippi comes another story of discrimination. Ceara Sturgis decided to wear a tuxedo in her senior portrait. The school responded by excluding her from the yearbook entirely. Two very interesting cases; the latter is an issue of basic human rights, while the latter covers the much more broad rhetorical term we call gender.
First, let me say this about yearbooks: they’re pointless. If you want to remember those times, then stay in touch with the people who meant most. 20 years down the road, you won’t care about the room you took Spanish in. And as for the submission of senior portraits–ridiculous. My high school would allow nothing besides a professional portrait. So, we overpaid for mediocre pictures. Then, there are the quotes, where seniors are asked to submit a favorite quote to be printed under their portrait. I remember my friend submitted “Murder Lunch,” and it was printed. When I asked him why that phrase, he said, “It’s just stupid. I like to make fun of the people who think they’re so deep, but use the same quote as 20 other people.”
But, back to Ceara’s case. To me, the issue of her wearing a tuxedo goes beyond sexuality and fashion choices. By wearing a tuxedo, Ceara dares to defy the norm, where girls wear pink and boys wear blue. Remember, sex is biological in terms of male/female, but gender refers to the way we act; the debate is whether it is assigned or learned. The moment a baby boy is born, we place a blue hat on him. From birth, we assign babies a gender. If they can break free of it, then good for them. Although breaking the mold isn’t easy.
I was in a Toys ‘R’ Us a few weeks ago helping a friend grab a gift for her little cousin. When I asked what the cousin liked, my friend said, “She’s a girlie girl. Anything pink.” As I wandered around the toy store, I was dumbfounded by how rigid the gender roles are for children. Even in toys, boys are being taught how to be manly and girls are raised to be “girlie girls.”
Let’s look at those toy kitchens everyone had. Of course, they’re much more modern now; some have dishwashers, and stoves that are built into the wall. More interesting is the box. Rarely will you see a boy playing in the kitchen. No, it’s usually a young girl, smiling innocently as she cooks or wash dishes. If you do happen to see a boy, take note of his position: he is usually being served the food, or on a pretend cell phone. Because the boy is supposed to grow up and work, while the girl waits at home for him.
Look at the term “girlie girl.” We as a society come up with new words and phrases to keep the definition of our roles. If a girl plays sports, she’s slapped with the label “tomboy.” Unfortunately it seems the roles for boys are more strict. I won’t forget the day a father yelled at me and my co-counselors at day camp because his son made a bead necklace in crafts. According to the father, he didn’t want his son to grow up queer.
I applaud Ceara for refusing to go home and put on a dress for her photo. It’s blatant discrimination on the school’s part. It is not a school or government’s place to assign gender. We as human beings possess that right to carve out our own identity. We as human beings should be allowed to be who we are. The key word there is “should,” because unfortunately discrimination and hate is a daily thing. But, why don’t we walk towards growth one step at a time: let Ceara wear the tuxedo. Let your son buy a barbie doll or the race cars. Let your daughter choose if she wants to be a stay-at-home mother or kick ass on the soccer field. Hell, maybe your kid can do both! We all should have a choice. It’s a freedom. And until we are able to make our choices freely, can we really call our country the land of the free?
In many of my classes, we often discuss the gendering of children’s toys (see here, here and here). This topic comes up a lot because not only does so much of my work have to do with gender and youth culture but also because, evidently, we can never have enough toys. Or stop playing with them.
[I have coloring book pictures hanging all over my house from my niece who sends them to me pretty regularly. She’s 19.]
In Adol Lit this week and next, we are discussing gender and reading. We’re learning, for example, that boys limit themselves to reading books about boys but girls will read books about both boys and girls (which might explain part of why Harry Potter was so popular). So this division of gender among youth culture is divided, even in reading.
What continues to surprise me, however, is the persevering ideological enforcement of dividing gender by color. In a country that had transgressed so much about gender division—Oprah hosting the first pregnant man
and even the first transgendered mayor,
—we are still locked in that gender codification of identifying our girls in pink and our boys in blue with no other consideration outside that binary.
With that in mind, chew on these for a bit:
Now let’s move into that “so what?” space I am always tossing at you. Are these just photos of kids with toys? What do they mean?