About a month ago I started asking my 3 year old what he wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him. This kid LOVES holidays so I always start the conversation early just to see his face light up. From the get-go he told me he wanted a Miss Piggy, Tinker Bell Surprise Eggs (banned in the U.S.) and Batman. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and happy that he picked toys not marketed "for boys". In my previous posts you'll see we've had a few discussions about "girls toys" and "boys toys" which he learned about from someone at preschool.
What happened next is what has given me the Easter-shoppin' blues. I googled Miss Piggy first and my excitement immediately diminished. Miss Piggy may be a "non-boy" toy, but she's a non-boy toy boy-toy. (see what I did there?) She's just like every other toy of a female in that the focus is on looking pretty. While she may be a no-nonsense kind of pig in the shows, when you have just the figure with no voice box, she's just another princess in pink. She doesn't do anything, like many "girl toys". She's just pretty to look at. I want my son to have a more positive female toy to play with. I want toys that show him diverse versions of females. I want him to see that females can do or be anything they want to be. And yes, there is a place for a princess, but that can't be all there is. Besides, only very few people in the world can actually grow up to be a princess.
I didn't have much luck with Tinker Bell either. She can at least fly, but she wears a dress that barely covers her top or bottom. Also, someone please explain to me why a kids toy needs to be busty. Can we avoid the sexual references until their in their teens at least, please? The Surprise Eggs are banned in the U.S. so those were out of the question.
I went to Wal-Mart and Target to see if they had figures/characters/dolls that would work. When I got to the "pink isle" I quickly realized what I was up against. There were of course Barbies with all their various clothes and shoes and pretend cell phones and make up. There were Tinker Bells dolls but they didn't do anything and they still had the short skirt.
Then I found Dora. Good ol' Dora! But wait, what have they done to Dora?! The little girl in shorts with a little bit of a belly that uses her brain to solve problems and help friends has had one of those horrible make-overs! She has been slimmed down and put in a dress. She went from being an active little girl to looking like one of the passive "fashion dolls" everywhere else on that isle.
How am I supposed to teach my sons that there is more to women than their beauty if all of the toys out there that represent girls are ones made to stand there and look pretty. I thought I at least had Dora to fall back on, but there wasn't one Dora doll with her trademark shorts on in that isle. Thank goodness the show on Nick Jr. that my son watches hasn't switched over to the glamorized Dora.
I finally found a few things that I was comfortable with buying for my son's Easter presents based on his requests. The Easter Bunny brought him a Brave DVD (a strong female character that isn't focused on love), a Jessie figure from Toy Story (although she's the only figure from that movie that comes with a stand, like that's what she should be doing...standing still), Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Suess, Cars jelly beans, a Hot Wheel car, and Dora and Diego eggs. I even found a pink (his favorite color) basket to put all that in. He was very happy and so was I.
However, I still think we should have better options for our kids as far as female characters. Are we still only wanting girls to play dress up and put on make up? In 2013, don't we want to encourage girls to be active and not passive? Don't we want them to dream of being doctors, lawyers, fire fighters, astronauts, and engineers just like we encourage our boys to?
Just by walking down the "pink isle" you can see that the message for girls is that they should focus on their appearance because their beauty is what is important, learn to be mothers because that will be their job one day, perfect their make up technique, talk on a cell phone, go shopping and throw a party. There is so much more that girls and women are capable of if we just encourage them instead of stomping on their self-esteem and telling them their not pretty enough.