The majority of the Toys R Us Lego Isle is a very familiar shade of blue, copyrighted and trademarked, and gleaming under the florescent lights.In one brightly lit section, however, pink reigns supreme: the section full
of toys marketed to little girls.
As discussed in today’s fbomb, “Most of these toys can be placed in at least one of three categories: luxury play (play that seems to serve no other purpose than to stimulate the girls’ imaginations in settings of extreme opulence and wealth), housework play (in which a child mimics doing household chores, including anything from an Easy Bake Oven to a baby doll to a plastic kitchenette), or interpersonal relationship play (in which a child is meant to identify with a doll of some kind, and she and other “dolls” are meant to interact). Many of these toys reinforce sexist and harmful ideas in girls that invariably inculcates passivity and conformism in adult women.
A classic example of sexist toys can be found in the “household maintenance” aisle of Toys R Us, win which things like toy brooms and dustpans are marketed specifically to girls. Such housework toys send the message that housework is traditionally feminine and expected of wives and mothers. Girls can use toy brooms to pretend they’re cleaning their family’s house or pretend to make her family dinner in a toy kitchenette. The fact that these toys exist is not an issue: some children (boys and girls alike) may actually enjoy pretending to cook or sweep. The problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of these items are being marketed to girls, not boys.
But it’s not just that gender-specific toys indoctrinate girls to do gendered work: many also teach young girls to covet lives of luxury, status, and indolence, which invariably set them up for failure, defeat, and despair. These “luxury” toys reinforce the disparity between what girls are taught to want and what they actually receive or are able to achieve. Girls are practically trained to expect these lavish lifestyles when the reality is that they will more than likely end up working for the rest of their lives, both at home and in the workforce. That is not to say that parents either have the choice of buying their children things like toy yachts or sitting their children to explain the details about living in abject poverty. Rather, especially given that in comparison to the rest of the world most Americans are incredibly blessed and privileged, the ideal lifestyle luxury toys encourage girls to aspire to is disproportionate to how most Americans actually live and could in fact be detrimental to the way girls view society and shape their own goals.
There is another key point in the despair for modern young women, however, and that is the ideal of beauty. Teaching young girls to admire and desire opulence is one thing, but the messages that other products like Bratz dolls, or the new “Monster High” dolls send are equally insidious. Monster High dolls are a new commodity on the market. They are Barbie-esque dolls that are reminiscent of popular monster tales, such as the classics of Dracula and Frankenstein. They have pithy names like Frankie Stein and Draculaura, and their impossibly long legs are highlighted by their incredibly short skirts. While their bodies seem to be more proportionate than Barbies or Bratz, they are still impossibly wafer-thin, with tiny waists and noticeable and often exposed breasts.
These standards all feed into what Americans consider to be the ideal beauty. Women and girls are taught to seek this perfect ideal of beauty, and in turn taught that being beautiful is one of the most important aspects of their very existence. Typically, as shown in these Monster High dolls, the ideal of beauty is predominantly white and able bodied. This ideal reinforces sexism, sizeism, racism, ableism, and ageism. The idea that women have to seek out perfection, while most men are perfectly acceptable as they are is simply sexist.