Gender & Popular Culture WGS 220-05
Blog Post Writing Assignment # 1
October 2, 2007
Given boxes filled with jewelry and makeup and closets adorned with dress-up clothes, little girls are bound to be absorbed in a world of fairy tale images of beauty, glamour, and a whole slew of guidelines of how they should look and act. Today’s toy market provides a large and seemingly disturbing variety of gadgets and accessories that, according to society, should define the lives of female youth. Items such as vanities and makeup kits provide little girls with weapons that allow them to mark and mess themselves and not knowingly, reconsider her appearance.
The famous “Pretty, Pretty Princess” game is a prime example of such ‘weaponry’, with its many pieces of plastic jewel mockery and a large embellished mirror, the game idealizes the epitome of what society thinks is female beauty. The makers at Milton Bradley expose little girls to the dainty and exquisite life of a princess and even gives them the tacky crown with which to complete the look. The game not only falls short of a wholesome and educating pastime for young girls, it also fails to see past the picturesque and silenced life that society wants a lady to be destined to. Prior to my toy shopping extravaganza, I came across an interesting article on About.com. Publicist, Dipika Mirpuri begins her piece titled “Fun Indoor Activities for Girls” in stating that “most girls love fashion, painting, cooking, makeup, arts and crafts”. Mirpuri then claims that “these girl’s toys will provide your child with challenging and stimulating tasks” (Mirpuri). Immediately the reader, who is usually a mother, falls helpless to the idea that her little girl’s knowledge will be broadened indefinitely if she allows her to dress up and pretend to be a modern-day housewife. Yet what the mother fails to realize is that by doing so, she places her child directly into a whirlwind of material possessions stung by false identities both of which trick her and her daughter into trying to attain a purely feminine image with solely feminine duties. This image leaves a little girl helpless to her own identity and could perhaps leave her “standing before a mirror in all finery and jewels, feeling suddenly ridiculous and miserable” (Gilman 72).
A link titled “Simply Dolls” then led me to a page strewn with an immense image of a half-naked Barbie doll look-alike, cross-legged, sitting atop a stack of gift hat-boxes. The site attests that they display “all kinds of dolls - including fashion, baby and porcelain - to suit any girl” (SimplyDolls.co.uk). Does ‘any girl’ pertain to the thousands of little girls out who are not particularly phased by a Barbie doll or who were not yet exposed to the petite beauty that one exemplifies? Our society tends to single out girls who go against the ‘prim and proper’ image that is associated with a doll, which in turn causes them to accept and conform to this persona, while dually puts them in a terrible position to feel left out if they do not. Assuming that any toy deemed as ‘feminine’ involves a domestic task, beauty enhancement, nurturing and/or looking attractive, we can say the opposite for all ‘masculine’ toys, which are identified as more competitive, aggressive, constructive, conducive to handling, and reality based. This type of gender construction sets highly unequal learning standards for boys and girls, yet even more-so, actually promotes and encourages the gender-specific lifestyle that a child both learns and is entertained by. Even ‘gender-neutral’ toys, such as books and bicycles, puzzles and finger-paints are under question. Even the most neutral past time for active young children, a pair of roller skates, is hardly found without bright pink and glitter embellishments. The most visible role models and dynamic social influence in children’s lives are their parents. And it seems that because the parents are the ones to provide their children with such gender-encrusted paraphernalia, they are the ones responsible for gendering toys in using traditional stereotypical standards when classifying them. Yet, in actuality, it is the problematic toy market that sends both implicit and explicit messages to children regarding their specific role according to gender, and also sets the tight boundary lines that children feel uncomfortable venturing outside of. And when put into a world that demands so much of each and every character, including children, this becomes a large stand still in the growing-up process. As Michael Messner puts it, “gender identity [should be viewed] not as a ‘thing’ that people ‘have’ but rather as a process of construction that develops, comes into crisis, and changes as a person interacts with the social world” (Messner 121).
We need to start allowing children to come into society with duty free hands so that they discover and become products of their own unique identities. They should not feel forced into a world of pink and blue being told what is right and where is wrong.
Gilman, S. J. (1984). “Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to see”. Becoming a Woman in our Society. 20, 72-74. Messner, M. A. (1990). “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities”. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 120-135 Mirpuri, D. (2007). “Fun Outdoor Activities for Girl”. About.com Yahoo!Shopping. 2007. Search: ‘girl’s toys’