What could be more harmless than Fuzzy Slippers in a toy store? Surely, a quick trip to buy a friend’s kid a “princess-y present that can be put together” would garner nothing more than the odd reminiscence of childish imagination, games once beloved, toys once cherished, right? But no. Do you have any idea what toy makers are making? What they are marketing to our children? I almost blew a gasket in there and might well have if I knew what one was.
Ask most people, men and women, if they think that women are treated equally in our society, in the work place, and in the home. Okay, maybe not in the home. But in general terms, I think that most people would argue that women have “come a long way, Baby.” Pah!
I used to teach literature courses in which I would occasionally (okay, quite often) challenge gender stereotypes, the depiction and perpetuation of gender roles. And it was always an uphill battle. Either the students were convinced that we have achieved a gender-neutral oasis of egalitarian utopian equality, or the students were convinced that biological imperatives were at work, and that women were therefore (and I shudder to recall this much less type it and thereby give it validity) better suited for maternal and domestic roles. Neither of these seems quite accurate to me, particularly when we consider that a man and woman with the same background (education, experience) in the same job–neither breast feeding nor hunting brute creatures for food but say, at a law office or hospital or factory–earn different salaries; the last I heard, women were making about $.75 to the male dollar (and let’s face it, the dollar’s not worth a whole lot these days).
Back to the toy store– let’s call it, Stereotypes R Us, so there I am looking for the pretty princess things and loving it greatly. I was a girly girl and loved that stuff as a kid. But I also loved my Lego’s and Lincoln Logs and books and puzzles. Browsing through the toy section, the “Girl” toy section, I was astounded to find not just the “Easy Bake Oven” of my youth (even then I couldn’t manage not to burn a cake. With a light bulb. Go figure.) but a whole range of domestic supplies for the up and coming domestic goddess. There were “housekeeping” kits complete with mini vacuums and brooms and dustbins; there were little mixers, wee little coffee makers, and teeny blenders nestled amid full blown child-size kitchen sinks (with little drain pans, even!). Gah! And there was an ATM machine and a “shopping” kit with little debit cards, so that every little girl can grow up to shop herself into debt and not be able to pay it off because she makes seventy-five cents to the male dollar.
What the hell is going on in this world? The boys had great things like science kits and models to build and galaxies to paste to their ceilings. There were robots and trains with moving parts and metal detectors and bug or bird studying kits. In the boy section, there were any number of educational but fun toys. Well, I guess the girl section had a lot of educational toys as well . . . . Sigh.
I’d love to give props to Toys R Us for showing a picture of a little boy playing with the toy toaster (pictured), but I was just in a Toys R Us, and the toy toasters are right next to the Easy Bake ovens which are right next to the Princess outfits and pink plastic kiddie karaoke kits for the wannabe Hannah Montana or Brittany Spears.
Don’t even get me started on Bratz.