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5 Jan 2008 / Julie

Trouble in Toys R Us (or Flashback to the 1950s)

While i’m trying to weed out the clippings of catalogs and magazines and newspapers that I horde, the fact that the last two in a row articles that I’ve had for over a year have finally come to be of use doesn’t make me want to stop hording… It’s a left-over habit from my college thesis days where everything I ran into seemed to be of use.

Anyway, the weekend before New Years my bf and I went into Toys R Us to buy Rummikub, the game I prefer to call Rumminoes. It was 4 minutes before they were closing so we didn’t walk around to see the cool things they’re selling now so we decided to come back. (We did however witness some interestingness while waiting to check out.)

We came back the next day to roam around the isles, relive our childhood (which we did more than expected), and see what’s new for the little ones today.

At first we avoided the pink-n-girlie section for all the other cool stuff but when I called my bff’s sister to see what my niece would like she guided me to Polly Pocket and Dora. Sounds easy enough. But then we entered the princess-exploded isles and I nearly lost my cool. I was appalled. My bf had to guide me gently out of the pink-n-girlie section slowly back into calmness a few times. Why? Because I had come face to face with the Learn to be a princess kit (“Teaches girls how to act, dress and dance like a princess”), the girlie-Dora vanity (is the gettin’-dirty, adventurous Dora even allowed to have a vanity? and what’s with the long hair?), and the Pink Boutique Edition of Monopoly (instead of buying real estate you can shop at the mall… pink and purple translucent boutiques and malls instead of houses and hotels… and the box doubles as a jewelry box! gag!)

I thank my parents every day that they raised me as a human who could do anything I wanted- i wasn’t limited to barbies (in fact, i don’t remember owning any), or pink (my room growing up was yellow) or the Playskool kid-sized kitchen (which I think I had) and I could roll around in the mud if I wanted to (and I did). Dad build me a treehouse. I had a bike (purple). and my bff growing up was just as tom-boy as I was. I do remember a moment in the Contemporary Hotel in Disney when I fell in love with a blue sparkly Cinderella dress (which, later my jr prom dress resembled) but as far as toys went I was asking for robots and stuff like that.

But then there’s businesses out there that make crap like the Rose Petal Cottage and probably more appalling, people who buy it, making it certain that their daughters get the age-old message of “be pretty, quiet, and take care of the men in your life.”

It’s a message that, in 2008, we should be farther from by now. NOW, in a recent email wrote about how something as innocent as toys are helping continue the backwards messages we give our kids. Apparently it’s too radical for the toy manufacturers to think that a “girl might want to ride on a truck, or a boy play house.”

I know i’m not the only one who has issues with this stuff. A father who bloggs at Moderately Insane wrote about the language used to describe boys and girls which also informs the toys that are made and bought for them.

And the article I’ve been hording (“Whats wrong with Cinderella? One mother’s struggle with her 3-year-old daughter’s love affair with princess culture.” Peggy Orenstein. The New York Times Magazine. December 24, 2006. pg 34-39.) discusses the princess-issue:

To call princess a “trend” among girls is like calling Harry Potter a book.

Andy Mooney, Chairman of Disney consumer products, says, “we simply gave girls what they wanted.” The article continues:

There are no studies proving that playing princess directly damages girls’ self esteem or dampens other aspirations. On the other hand, there is evidence that young women who hold the most conventionally feminine beliefs- who avoid conflict and think they should be perpetually nice and pretty- are more likely to be depressed than others and less likely to use contraception. What’s more, the 23% decline in girls’ participation in sports… as been lined to their sense that athletics is unfeminine. [...] school-age girls overwhelmingly reported a paralyzing pressure to be “perfect”…. “please everyone, be very thing, and dress right.” Give those girls a pumpkin and a glass slipper and they’d be in business.

School-age girls aren’t the only ones with these ideas, either. There’s a superwoman trend out there saying that we have to be successful in business AND still be able to come home and run a successful house.

Not only that, but those of us who grew up on Disney (myself included) now have even more opportunity to be princesses with a new line of Disney princess-inspired bridal gowns. Omg.

Great. So i can freak out about how i’m going to raise the children I don’t have yet (nor know if i want yet) but I have to deal with princess-zillas. As if bride-zillas weren’t bad enough. I guess it was only a matter of time.

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