Who IS that girl?
We know all about how kids’ toys are divided by gender in really icky ways. Why can’t a boy use an Easy Bake Oven? Why aren’t girls playing with those trucks in the commercials? And the issue goes far beyond surface advertising – “boy products” often encourage building, activity, and adventure, while “girl products” usually emphasize appearance and foster skills like nurturing and cooking. These are all great qualities, but dividing them by gender is bad news for any kid.
From even before a child is born, gender is inscribed upon them as one of the most defining characteristics. If you’ve ever been to a toy store I’m sure you’ve noticed that many aisles are segregated by gender: the (pink) Barbie aisle next to the (blue) hot wheels aisle which would then have the (pink) baby doll isles on the other side. Even Lego has recently released girl-targeted products, because obviously girls don’t like to build things unless the blocks are pink or have princess characters, right?
The products most associated with boys often encourage building, activity, and adventure. Girls’ products, on the other hand, often emphasize appearance and foster skills like nurturing and cooking.
But we’ve hit a new level of kids’ toy weirdness with this sexualization business. It seems like it’s impossible to find toys in mainstream stores that haven’t been rebooted into new phases of sexy ladyhood. Even toys that aren’t human at all.
My Little Pony: Before & After (why?!)
The over-sexualization of “female toys” emphasizes appearance as the most important aspect of a girl. Most people are more than familiar with Barbie’s unrealistic body type problem, but many other toys and characters are receiving “sexy” makeovers, such as Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Bright, Merida (from Brave), the list goes on. These makeovers include slimming down the characters, changing facial features, lengthening legs, and giving them longer, “sexier” hair.
Strawberry Shortcake: Before & After
Characters like Strawberry Shortcake are supposed to be depictions of young girls, and she definitely looks more tween-ish than before. When they’re “sexified” it changes our perspectives of what girls are supposed to look like.
Additionally, when strong, independent female characters like Merida get these “sexy makeovers,” attention is pulled to their appearance, not their leadership or their great role model qualities. In fact, these makeovers don’t just tell girls that being attractive/hot is a good thing, they show them that it’s the most important attribute a girl can have.
Merida: Before & After
Thankfully there are campaigns and projects working to change this. The thoroughly awesome SPARK movement is a girl-powered ad-busting machine, tackling sexualization in the media one product, advertisement, or magazine at a time. SPARK brings together “hundreds of girls 13-22 and more than 60 national organizations to reject the commoditized, sexualized images of girls in media and support the development of girls' healthy sexuality and self-esteem.” Get SPARK’d and check out their website and Twitter to find out how you can take action.
Let Toys Be Toys is another great project, working to keep the kids’ toy industry more gender-neutral. As they put it: “This isn’t about political correctness. This is about doing the right thing by our children and giving them a real and varied choice. We believe in equality, but this isn’t about making children the same. It’s about giving children the choice to be individuals.” You can follow them on Twitter.
Thanks to: dailymail.co.uk
Images from: dailymail.co.uk, trashionista.com, dangerousbookforboys.com, lettoysbetoys.org.uk