Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Worst how?

Watchful reader Catherine noted in a comment to a previous post that she found this HuffPo slide show of the 14 Worst Toys for Girls.  Great material!  But while the slide show starts off with a bang - a set of dust pans and brooms emblazoned with Disney Princesses, it fizzles out quickly by chiding the infamous South American breastfeeding doll.  (Also, there's a pole-dancing doll the existance of which has never been confirmed and is possibly a hoax, but whatever.)

There are really three categories in the list - things that are objectionably from a feminist standpoint, things that aren't necessarily bad at all but its easy to be flip about (pregnant doll, breastfeeding doll), and things that are just in bad taste - like a computer game for designing overdone baby clothes. Teresa Guidice would be proud but others might charge over-headbanding.

Surely the problem with My Cleaning Trolley isn't that it encourages cleanliness and domestic skills, but that it encourages them to "Girls Only" as the brand clearly states.  And it's all pink and purple and pretty.  Does it come in a boy version? I'm going to guess that it does not. If it did, would that make it better?  Maybe.

And those broom and dust pan princess sets?  Do those come in Cars themes or Tractor themes?  Maybe. Again - better? I don't know.  Do we have to genderize a broom?  If it encouraged boys to see housework as something PEOPLE do rather than women's work, then shoot, stick Spiderman on all of them (or some other unfairly boys-only character) and I'll buy it for all the little boys I know.

And all the gross I-poo-and-pee dollies that reinforce women as the expected caregivers are somewhat tiresome - but they were more tiresome before I became a mother and realized that biology has us firmly by the cajones on this one - especially (or maybe only?) if you're a breastfeeding mother.  The care is going to be lopsidedly assigned to the woman - which makes our challenge not avoiding the care but making sure it is not seen as less-than outside-the-home employment or traditionally male employment or roles within the home.

But the real problem inclusion on this list is the infamous breastfeeding doll.  How do we discuss this one? I don't even know where to start, but it's basically a game of Choose Your Own Offensive Element and running with it.

Let's start by acknolwedging that there are probably millions of dolls-with-bottles on the market around the world.  From there we can take two paths. One path circles back to my above point about whether such dolls, marketed to girls and not boys, reinforce the notion that only women should be responsible for raising children. (And stay home and yadda yadda.)

The other path brings us to this point: babies can eat from bottles or they can eat from breasts.  So if we have toys that allow girls to play at feeding babies with bottles, what is inherently wrong about toys that allow girls to play at feeding babies with breasts?  And of course that path brings us to our cultures assignation of breasts to predominantly sexual roles, making it unseemly, or downright obscene, for little girls to play at placing their dolls at their breasts.  And further along that path is the reality that little girls don't routinely observe breastfeeding (maybe in their home, but seldom in public, and less often on TV or in a book or - yeah - in toys). 

So the caption on the HuffPo slide says "things wrong with this picture" - but really, what in the hell is wrong with this picture?  Nothing, unless you're an Enfamil or Similac corporate executive.

Of course, even more sad than the HuffPo take may be the blog post to which it links.  In the post, a mother who herself breastfed, finds the doll the most obscene thing ever and says what comes next along this line would be anatomically correct Barbies and Kens to teach girls about . . . fornication.


And we're back to breasts being primarily and forever sexual.  And not, what mine are right now, feed bags with a really mundane and time consuming purpose (that's also a bit phenomenal because, have you seen the fat rolls on my kid's legs? I MADE THOSE).

This whole discussion makes me think two things: first, I want that breastfeeding doll and second, no, I don't want any toys, I will give my kid a carboard box and some string because, like cats, kids like packaging more than the contents anyway. 


  1. You would think boys would like the poo/pee dolls way better than girls. Maybe they should add fart noises.

    Also, I think you just solved your previous problem. Perhaps you should wean (get it?) your Y&G students by showing up with the breastfeeding doll FIRST, then after they're used to that bring in the real deal.

  2. The "My Cleaning Trolley" made me throw up a little bit. And, and once again now, I hope people revisit Phyllis Diller's cut on "Free to Be You and Me."