What WOULD Bekki Eat?

Well, I'll start with what I wouldn't eat. I wouldn't eat margarine. Or tofu. Or lowered-fat anything. Olestra is right out. Hydrolyzed, isolated, evaporated, enriched, or chocolate flavored "phood" won't pass these lips.
What will I eat? Real food. Made-at-home food. Food that my great-great-grandmother could have made, if she had the money and the time. And if she hadn't been so busy trick-riding in a most unladylike way.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Putting kids in a box

Today's rant isn't about food. Sorry. I flipped casually through the coupons this morning and didn't manage to get mad about anything. Perhaps I was distracted. Perhaps the coupons were more boring than normal. I do have a couple of weeks of backlogged rantiness hanging around here, cluttering up the table, but I honestly might never get to it.

Today's rant is about Toys R Us, and their rampant sexism. I had to go shopping today... my first non-doctor-related outing since the baby was born. My older son's birthday is coming up, and I didn't feel like clicking around Amazon. I wanted to see things in person. So there I was, with my list of ideas I'd come up with, plus ideas he'd come up with. And I noticed for the first time that they (the store) had made official something I'd jokingly referred to for years... the "pink aisle" was now truly pink. I had reserved that term for the Barbie aisles, usually, but it could be used to describe any of the very typically-girly zones of the toy department. I have a daughter, but she was rarely interested in the items in the pink aisle. I suppose she played outside the box. When she was three her favorite take-wherever-we're-going items were plastic snakes, Buzz Lightyear, and fuzzy stuffed snakes. No dolls. She eventually went nuts for Polly Pocket and then My Little Ponies, but that was the extent of it.

I said I was shopping today for my son, though. So why was I in a pink aisle? Why did I notice that the end caps of the aisles literally spell it out in painful sexist detail now? ("boys" and "girls" as if the blue and pink weren't enough.)

Because my son wanted a toy coffeemaker for his restaurant. Last year I bought him the un-pinkest play kitchen I could find, because he loves to cook. He prefers real cooking, and would almost certainly prefer a real coffeemaker, but sometimes a mom has to insist on harder-to-break plastic. So I had to shop a pink aisle for him, and hope he doesn't mind a glittery purple coffeemaker. He probably won't. He luckily has no idea whatsoever that he's supposed to like certain things and not others. He has all the "right" boy toys- sturdy metal Tonka truck, balls, Indiana Jones play set, Star Wars blasters, football helmet, and Duplos. But he also has a little shopping bag, play food, his own apron (another thing that was hard to find in not-pink), and this Christmas he asked for and got a Littlest Pet Shop adoption center. It's pink. With frilly bits and flowers. He loves it, no matter what Toys R Us thinks.

How dare they compartmentalize our children? There's already enough societal bias and strong messages about what's "right" to play with, without them being so damn blatant about it. Ads with girls playing with dolls and boys playing with trucks make it very clear what Everyone thinks about things. We don't need to smack our kids in the face with it. My son can read already, and if I took him to Toys R Us, I'm not sure what he'd think about those labels. On the one hand, he's a strongly-opinionated boy, secure in his rightness... so he may just think they're wrong and move on. On the other hand, he very much likes to learn how the world works, what the rules are... so I can easily see him boxing away his own interests just to match what some stupid corporation thinks he should or shouldn't enjoy.

I find it very ironic that cooking is a pink aisle thing, anyway, considering the rampant sexism that still exists in the male-dominated world of professional chefs. Gah!

I'm not sure what to DO about this. If I were a more organized woman, I might try to organize a boycott or some such thing. But I honestly have no idea how long they've had those infuriating labels up. Possibly years. I don't go to Toys R Us much.

I just know that they really pissed me off. How dare they tell my children what to play with? How to correctly have fun? My kids get to be whoever the hell they want to be.

Oh, my daughter was with me today, and nicely asked for a little play set with a horse, some accessories, and a little girl. I was surprised with her choice and tried to talk her out of it... she never picks toys with people in them. She agreed that she usually doesn't, and said her room currently has a "shortage of humans." I laughed at the funny way she'd said it... and then really laughed when my darling daughter further explained why she wanted the little girl in the play set. Food. For the wild creatures the inhabit my daughter's playtime. A feeder human!! So, my girl has finally found a use for little dolls... ha ha ha!


Kelly said...

Bekki, first let me say that I really enjoy your blog. You are obviously intelligent, quite entertaining, and I find I most often agree with you.

However, as parent myself, I have also run afoul of things being compartmentalized as being for boys, or for girls. In fact, years ago when we took our youngest to a local store, and she became enamored of a certain pair of boots, we ran into it in the form of a teen employee who kept saying "um, those are for girls." My daughter had priorly elected to get her hair cut, really short, and apparently this teen took her for a really femmie boy.

Now that I look back on it from the distance of a decade or so, it's funny, but back then it was annoying. The employee would mutter from time to time, "um, those are for girls," at which point I would mutter back "She IS a girl," but apparently the employee wasn't listening. I finally rounded on her, and made sure she listened, by fairly shouting "She IS a GIRL!"

Now, of course, we ran afoul of that from the opposite direction, but I certainly know what you mean.

But, I must say, places like Toys R Us and the like don't make "Pink Aisles" because they are being sexist, at least in the sense as most people who are offended by such things take it. They really are trying to offer the best customer service they can, by trying to give parents a clue as to which aisles they might want to shop in.

While there is a very slow paradigm shift going on, as far as men cooking and the like, I don't think, for example, that toy companies would yet have a lot of success marketing EZ Bake ovens and the like to MOST boys, although I am not implying that there is anything wrong with a boy wanting one, and in fact I applaud those who do. (I wanted one when I was a kid, never got it) I'm proud of my cooking skills, but even now, most young boys have sports stars as their heroes, you know? :)

Society is changing; please don't scream "sexist" if it is not changing fast enough for you. Yes, there are things in toy stores that are marketed to girls, or to boys, but the thing is, on average, that marketing is still correct. Not correct as in PC, just correct in that most girls want certain things, and most boys want other things. Someday it will be different, but we're not quite there, yet.

Oh, and by the way, these days there is no doubt that my youngest is female, or especially a mammal. I really don't know from whence those things came, but I wish they had appeared with a good deal less enthusiasm. Now I kind of wish I could go back to the time when she could be mistaken as a boy. :P

Ien in the Kootenays said...

You really have a fun and entertaining writing style. I was bound and determined to NOT let my children be stereotyped. Both looked fairly a-typical and were frequently mistaken for the other sex. So daughter Nienke got Tonka trucks. Big expensive ones. They were never touched except when her best friend who happened to be a boy came to play. And when she turned 9 she INSISTED on a make-up play set called "fresh and fancy".

In retrospect the part she enjoyed most was mixing stuff up, like a chemistry-set. They both enjoyed Little Ponies.

About Me

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Tejas, United States
I am many things... all at the same time. (No wonder I don't get much done!) I am a wife to a retired infantryman, mother of 3, stocker (and stalker) of the fridge, passionate fan of food, nutrition, ecology, coffee, wine, and college football. I love all things witchy and piratey. I often cook with booze. I feed stray cats. I don't believe in sunscreen. I don't like shoes and really hate socks. And I currently can't eat any gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, coconut(!?), or sodium metabisulfite (aw, shucks, no chemical snackies.) Sometimes even citric acid gets me. But only sometimes.