Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Gender-Branded A Beanie Baby!

I was reading my friend Ron’s blog and he shared a video of a little girl, Riley, who was ticked off about companies who try to trick the girls into buying pink stuff!

Riley thinks that girls should be allowed to buy Superheroes and boys should be allowed to buy pink Princess toys. You need to watch the video, it’s absolutely priceless the way she expresses herself!

Stereotyping and gender-branding toys are common practice for toy manufacturers. If you look in the toy aisles all you see is PINK princess apparel. Where is the Warrior Princess with a sword and shield? Where is the Superhero with neutral colors, or goodness forbid, PINK? Instead of black, red or blue? Why is pink the color for girls and blue the color for boys? Why do we, as a society, accept these as the norm?

And why did I fall into the trap when my own son was four?

About fifteen years ago, I was buying a Beanie Baby, Chocolate, The Moose, for my then two year old niece, Danica. He was a cute moose with dark brown fur and flopping orange antlers. Dalan, who was four at the time, liked him, too, but grabbed Pegasus, a light-blue horse with a white main and tail and multi-colored wings, and said, “I want her.”

Totally NOT thinking, I blurted out, “That’s for girls, why don’t you pick a different one.”

He held onto that blue horse and said, “You’re buying Danica a moose, and that’s for boys.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at my son with my mouth agape, but NOTHING came out, because HE was RIGHT! My gosh, I had gender-branded a freaken Beanie Baby to my child! And I didn’t even realize it until HE pointed it out to me!

 I had NO idea WHY I even said what I said, it just popped out of my mouth. What the hell was wrong with me? Where DID that thought even come from? If he had asked for a doll, I would’ve purchased him one. It was a HORSE! A pretty blue horse with rainbow-colored wings—but still, a horse, and I said it was for GIRLS! I needed my damn head examined!

After mentally berating myself, I said, “You’re right. ALL toys are for boys AND girls. Put the horse on the counter with the moose.”

After that incident, I NEVER gender-branded another toy... AGAIN!

Riley IS four and my son WAS four. Is there a connection with THAT particular age? Are they smarter at four than say… I was at thirty-one? Are we tainted as adults? After years and years of media and marketing brainwashing do we fall into the trap of pink, kitchens and dolls are for girls and blue, legos and guns are for boys?

I would like to believe that 21st century parents have evolved and will purchase whatever toy their child likes (not EVERY toy, just the TYPE!). It would just be nice if marketing representatives would get with the program and stop trying to trick us into purchasing what they THINK our children want, rather than what each individual child actually wants!

 Not every girl wants to be pink and frilly and not every boy wants to build stuff and pretend to blow it up.


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