Barbie for her, G.I. Joe for him
BYLINE: Lydia Lovric
The New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women wants to give certain Christmas toys the ol’ heave ho ho. The council is urging parents to steer clear of presents that may promote violence or sexist stereotypes.
Presumably this means that little Billy won’t be finding the latest Spiderman action figure, Dr. Octopus, under the Christmas tree and little Suzie should forget about baking meals in her very own Easy Bake Oven. Rock’em, Sock’em Robots and Holiday Barbie dolls are almost certainly out of the question.
Ultimately, parents have to decide which toys deliver a sexist message, says Rosella Melanson, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
So what does Melanson have to say when it comes to the buxom blond beauty? (No, not Pamela Anderson — the other plastic doll: Barbie.)
“I think Barbie has become more of a problem in terms of the image that it gives women,” explains Melanson. “I’m sure that most women who are feminist today had a Barbie at some point, so it’s not like it’s the end of the world to have one. But if that’s the only kind of presents [a girl receives] — … a Barbie, plus a make-up kit, plus a Britney Spears outfit — then I think the kid is not stupid and will get the message that that is her lot in life. To be pretty and that’s all.”
As an alternative, the council recommends more politically correct Christmas presents, such as musical instruments, sports equipment, science kits or skill-based video games.
While these are all perfectly good gift ideas, do we really need to limit ourselves to gender-neutral toys? If a child asks Santa for a few items which may be deemed feminine or masculine, what’s the big deal?
Although the council may have the best of intentions, one can’t help but feel that its membership may just be the proverbial grinch, trying to steal Christmas.
What little girl, at some point in her life, doesn’t dream of getting a doll? When I was young, it was the Cabbage Patch Kid doll. Today’s generation seems to prefer the ultra cool Bratz dolls — featuring outfits and shoes that are far funkier than anything found in my closet. One has to wonder if there’s any real harm in getting a girl something as benign as a doll.
Boys, on the other hand, are probably hoping for something a little less fragile. Remote control cars, tanks and video games are at the top of the list for many youngsters. My little nephew won’t go anywhere without his toy drill (although he has yet to fix anything) and his Fisher-Price tool belt might give Mike Holmes a run for his money.
Growing up, most of my toys consisted of “girly” items. I had an Easy Bake Oven and could make a mean omelette for anyone who was brave enough to test the culinary skills of an eight-year-old. I had dolls and a miniature tea set. I even had a My Little Pony. My parents didn’t force these gifts upon me. I wanted them.
Despite what some people believe, this gender divide does not appear to be manufactured. Research supports the notion that after a certain age, children are inherently drawn to certain toys.
Even monkeys select toys based on gender. According to studies out of Texas A&M University, male monkeys seem to naturally prefer cars or balls while female monkeys opt to play with dolls or pots.
This suggests that such preferences are intrinsic rather than the result of social or sexist constructs.
Unfortunately, it seems as though radical feminists are intent on ridding the world of all things masculine or feminine. Such traits are not celebrated, but viewed as flaws or weaknesses.
Most parents will no doubt ignore the council’s plea. Moms and dads know that if you give little Suzie a Dr. Octopus figure, she’ll probably just end up cuddling the comic book villain and offering it a cup of imaginary tea. Give little Billy a brand new Easy Bake Oven and he’ll probably use it to melt Lego blocks.
When most of us reflect back on our most cherished toys, chances are, they don’t fit in the “gender-neutral” category. Ask most girls, and it will probably be a favourite doll, like Raggedy Ann or Strawberry Shortcake. For boys, it may be a G.I. Joe action figure or a Transformer.
When I asked Rosella Melanson what her favourite toy was, she said she couldn’t remember. Either she honestly can’t recall (which is kind of sad) or she’s afraid fellow feminists won’t approve of her answer. That’s even sadder.