Archive for the ‘Worst stereotyping *SSS*’ Category

The New York Times piece on gender-fluid kids reinforces so many stereotypes, I’ve got to go through them.

Let’s start with sentence #1:

The night before Susan and Rob allowed their son to go to preschool in a dress, they sent an e-mail to parents of his classmates. Alex, they wrote, “has been gender-fluid for as long as we can remember, and at the moment he is equally passionate about and identified with soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas (not to mention lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows).”

Here, the writer, Ruth Padawer, sets up a series of stereotyped binary/ boy-girl opposites: soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas, lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows. I waited for her to explore any reasons why our culture promotes this symbology. Unfortunately, I waited for the whole article.

Why are princesses considered to be the epitome of femininity? Could it, perhaps, have little do with with genes and everything to do with the fact that perpetuating the image of a passive, “pretty” female  is popular in a patriarchal culture? Just maybe?

A few more sentences down:

Some days at home he wears dresses, paints his fingernails and plays with dolls; other days, he roughhouses, rams his toys together or pretends to be Spider-Man.

Most kids on Planet Earth would paint their fingernails if they weren’t told and shown by grown-ups that it’s a “girl thing.” Nail polish has nothing to do with penises or vulvas or genes, or even anything as deep and profound as “”gender fluidity.” To kids, nail polish is art play, brushes and paint. That’s it. Oh, right, art is for girls. Unless you’re a famous artist whose paintings sell for the most possible amount of money. Then art is for boys.

On an email that Alex’s parents sent to his school:

Of course, had Alex been a girl who sometimes dressed or played in boyish ways, no e-mail to parents would have been necessary; no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt.

What? Does this writer have young daughters? Has Padawer heard about the boy’s baseball team from Our Lady of Sorrows that recently forfeited rather than play a girl? Or what about Katie, the girl who was bullied just because she brought her Star Wars lunch box, a “boy thing,” to school?  Does Padawer know Katie’s experience isn’t unusual? How rare it is to find a girl today who isn’t concerned that a Spider-Man shirt (or any superhero shirt or outfit) is boyish and that she’ll be teased if she wears it? My whole blog, Reel Girl, is about that “raised eyebrow.” Has Padawer seen summer’s blockbuster movie “The Avengers” with just one female to five male superheroes? The typical female/ male ratio? Or how “The Avengers” movie poster features the female’s ass? Think that might have something to do with why females care more than males about how their asses are going to look?  You can see the poster here along with the pantless Wonder Woman. Does Padawer get or care that our kids are surrounded by these kinds of images in movies and toys and diapers and posters every day? How can Padawer practically leave sexism out of a New York Times piece 8 pages long on gender?

First sentence of paragraph 3: (Yes, we’re only there.)

There have always been people who defy gender norms.

No way! You’re kidding me. Like women who wanted to vote? Women who didn’t faint in the street?

Moving on to page 2:

Gender-nonconforming behavior of girls, however, is rarely studied, in part because departures from traditional femininity are so pervasive and accepted.

Um, wrong again. Been to a clothing store for little kids recently? Ever tried to buy a onesie for a girl with a female pilot on it? Or a female doing anything adventurous? Check out Pigtail Pals, one of the few companies that dares to stray from “pervasive and accepted” femininity. One of the few. And we’re talking toddlers here.

The studies that do exist indicate that tomboys are somewhat more likely than gender-typical girls to become bisexual, lesbian or male-identified, but most become heterosexual women.

Is the writer really writing a piece on gender fluid kids and using the word “tomboy” without irony?

Next page:

Still, it was hard not to wonder what Alex meant when he said he felt like a “boy” or a “girl.” When he acted in stereotypically “girl” ways, was it because he liked “girl” things, so figured he must be a girl? Or did he feel in those moments “like a girl” (whatever that feels like) and then consolidate that identity by choosing toys, clothes and movements culturally ascribed to girls?

Hard not to wonder. Exactly! Finally, the writer wonders. But, not for long. Here’s the next sentence:

Whatever the reasoning, was his obsession with particular clothes really any different than that of legions of young girls who insist on dresses even when they’re impractical?

Once again, I’ve got to ask: Does Padawer have a young daughter? Legions of young girls “insist on dresses” because like all kids, they want attention. Sadly, girls get a tremendous amount of attention from grown-ups for how they look. Today, my three year old daughter wanted to wear a princess dress to preschool, because she knew that if she did, the parents and teachers would say, “Wow, you’re so pretty! I love your dress.” And if it’s not a girl’s dress everyone focuses on, it could be her hair, or perhaps her shoes which are probably glittery or shiny or have giant flowers on them because that’s what they sell at Target and Stride Rite. Unfortunately, focusing on appearance is how most adults today make small talk with three year old girls.

The next two graphs are the best in the article so I will paste them in full, though notice the use of “tomboy” again with no irony.

Whatever biology’s influence, expressions of masculinity and femininity are culturally and historically specific. In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until they were 7. Colors weren’t gendered consistently. At times pink was considered a strong, and therefore masculine, color, while blue was considered delicate. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. That started to change in the early 20th century, writes Jo Paoletti, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland and author of “Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys From the Girls in America.” By then, some psychologists were arguing that boys who identified too closely with their mothers would become homosexuals. At the same time, suffragists were pushing for women’s advancement. In response to these threatening social shifts, clothes changed to differentiate boys from their mothers and from girls in general. By the 1940s, dainty trimming had been purged from boys’ clothing. So had much of the color spectrum.

Women, meanwhile, took to wearing pants, working outside the home and playing a wider array of sports. Domains once exclusively masculine became more neutral territory, especially for prepubescent girls, and the idea of a girl behaving “like a boy” lost its stigma. A 1998 study in the academic journal Sex Roles suggests just how ordinary it has become for girls to exist in the middle space: it found that 46 percent of senior citizens, 69 percent of baby boomers and 77 percent of Gen-X women reported having been tomboys.

The piece is riddled with more gender assumptions that aren’t questioned.

When Jose was a toddler, his father, Anthony, accepted his son’s gender fluidity, even agreeing to play “beauty shop.”

But why is beauty shop feminine? We all know beauty toys and products are marketed to girls, but why? Here’s that Avengers ass poster again. In a male dominated world, women are valued primarily for their appearance. They are taught to focus on how they look and that if they do so they can get power and prestige. Appearance is the area where girls are trained to channel their ambition and competition. Oh, sorry, girls aren’t competitive or ambitious. That’s a boy thing.

On gender fluid child, P.J., the author writes:

Most of the time, he chooses pants that are pink or purple.

Wait a minute, didn’t she write a few pages back about Jo Poletti’s book Pink and Blue? Remember, pink used to be a “boy” color; it’s only recently that it’s perceived as a “girl” color?

Here might be the most fucked up quote:

When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?

When Miss Representation posted that on its Facebook page  above the link to the the article, angry commenters immediately began to respond:

i am NOT the lesser gender!
why can’t people see how insulting that is? i mean, who would *openly* call a race or ability or sexual orientation “lesser” and not largely be considered a bigot?

It was that comment that inspired me to write this post, because the whole piece is insulting to girls and women. I hope it’s insulting to boys and men as well.

Read my email to the New York Times editor here.

Read my response to comments on this post here.

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My daughter is home sick today and she’s in my bed, playing with my ipad. She pushed a button, showed me this app (RacePenguin) and asked me to get her the one that flies. She’s only three and hopefully cannot recognize the awful male/ female distinction in this game yet.

Can you see these options for kids to choose from?

If not, here they are:

(1) Kids mode: Flying becomes easier No bear behind you

(2) Super Penguin: Go Higher, Go faster, Have more control

(3) Penguinette: Unlock a cute penguin girl

(4) Magic penguin: Teleport uphill: Get a magic boost for every perfect slide.

Who in God’s name is going to want to be Penguinette? Look at her! Her blonde hair and red bow? WTF? While the other penguins go higher, faster, and have more control, she gets to be cute? This is a fucking game for little kids and “cute” is what the female does? Do you think she’s going to win the race? Does she even care about winning it?

This kind of sexism is programmed and marketed to kids everywhere, constantly, through games, toys, TV and movies. (I let my eight year old download this game because it was free. Free sexism, what a bargain!)

Gender stereotyping in kidworld is so ubiquitous that, ironically, it’s become practically invisible. It’s so normal that too many parents have stopped noticing it at all.

Parents, please be aware of this kind of sexism aimed at children; it’s not fair to our kids and their growing brains.

Reel Girl rates Race Penguin ***SSS*** for triple gender stereotyping, not suitable for children.

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Here’s a question I can’t wait for my daughter to hear:  “If you can’t celebrate finding a leopard print bag on sale at Kohl’s, what CAN you celebrate?”  I mean, really, what else is there?  Especially for someone as decorated and lauded as sensational athlete and gold medal soccer player Mia Hamm. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xl5aP_fKBo  Kohl’s new “Shop to Win” campaign features Mia, Lindsey Vonn (Olympic gold medalist and world class skier) and Dara Torres (Olympic gold medalist and international swimmer), describing the intensity and thrill of competition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAOSB3jtz7k&feature=relmfu  In the sport of… shopping.  In 31 seconds all of their hard work and successes have been cheapened.

Ladies, you have become conspirators in advertising’s new sexist low.  Girls around the world who worship these symbols of incredible sacrifice in making a dream come true can now shoot for the grand goal of:  scoring a killer deal shopping?  Is that the message they really want to send to younger girls?  And how does this campaign help their athlete sisters, fighting for recognition from men, when their message is effectively, “Thank God all that sporty stuff is done so we can get down to what we REALLY want to do – SHOP!” The ad campaign must have been conceived at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.   Right?

Wrong – Lindsey loves the campaign. Check out her interview with Bloomberg TV telling the interviewer Kohl’s fits with her image because, you know, we girls have GOALS when we shop and like to feel like we are WINNING!  http://mobile.bloomberg.com/video/88881222/  If you are still unconvinced that this is the real Lindsey Vonn, her explanation of sponsor choice reveals her true colors.   It’s not all about the money apparently–I mean, Red Bull provides a trainer and a massage therapist that travel with her, and Vail Resorts has a training camp named after her. And, y’know, like, that’s what matters.

Heaven help us when a smart real female role model comes along and says I like myself for who I am and screw anyone who wants to paint me into a dumb pretty girl corner.

See my post on SFGate about this campaign and the gender discrimination in endorsement options offered to male versus female athletes.

Tell Koh’s how you feel about its new ad campaign on its Facebook page.

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And I am getting reports that it is deleting them. Please let me know if this is true. Post a link to my post, take a screen shot, and post the screen shot on Reel Girl. I am technically challenged and took a photo with my camera. THANK YOU

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to show she’s naked? That’s what commenters are saying. What do you think? She’s holding her skin? This has got to be the worst ad campaign EVER. I have seriously lost my appetite for M & Ms. So gross. Yuk.

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To anyone who thinks this S & M-M & M is outdated because it’s from a few years back:

Here is Ms. Brown on back cover of the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:

To anyone who thinks that I just have a dirty mind and there’s nothing sexualized about M & Ms for God’s sake, here is how Sports Illustrated promotes the ad on its own Facebook page:  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: “Did you see the sexy Ms. Brown made the cover of the Swimsuit issue again!? Welllll, the back cover; Check her out.”

Keep in mind that Ms. Brown is the new female, that before her debut on TV during this year’s Superbowl, even Time Magazine called the animated M & M characters “male-centric.” Ms. Brown has since been called the feminist M & M (as opposed to the boy-crazy Ms. Green.) Brown wears glasses (that means she’s smart!) and tweets empowering messages about women’s issues.

So why is our token feminist character peeking out the window with kissy-lips waving a towel (implying she’d naked, I guess?) on the back cover of SI, so in full view of any kid whose parents have this magazine at home?

Why does M & Ms have to sexualize its female cartoon characters? Before Ms. Brown, there was only one female out of five; now there are 2 out of 6, and this is what M & Ms does to them? These cartoon characters appear in toys, games, and in full size at CVS and Party City stores.

Why are we allowing these stereotypes to sell sexism to kids  in any available blank space? If M & Ms promoted racial stereotypes, there would outrage. Parents, this is not OK.

Please go to M & Ms Facebook page and tell the company to stop sexualizing females. As I posted earlier, the M &Ms marketing strategy is just as sick as using a cartoon camel to sell cigarettes to kids.

Read more about gendering food marketed to kids.

Read about the difference between sexualizing (bad) and sexuality (good)

Update: I am getting comments that the M & M pictured above is actually Ms. Green, that green thing she’s waving? It’s her shell which she has stripped off and is waving to show that she’s naked. I have seriously lost my appetite for M & Ms. Gross. Thoughts?

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This letter was inspired by Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals. You can read her letter here. Please write to Lego as well.

Here’s an ad for Legos from 1981:

Here’s a photo of the new Friends Legos created in 2011:

LEGO Systems, Inc.
555 Taylor Road
P.O. Box 1138
Enfield, CT 06083-1138

Dear Lego,

Legos were special. They were unique and creative and helped kids to build. Legos inspired kids’ imaginations. Boys and girls could play Legos together. But with your new product, Lego Friends created for girls, I can no longer tell the difference between Lego toys and the ubiquitous Disney princess products or Barbies. Is that the point? Because if it is, your copy cat strategy abandons the very qualities that made your toy great.

I have a blog Reel Girl where I rate kids’ media and products. Toys can get 1 – 3 Ss for stereotyping and 1 – 3 Gs for Girlpower. So recently I went to hear women architects talk about the new Architect Barbie. I have three daughters ages 2 – 8, and I asked the architects if I should buy this new Barbie for my kids. They all emphatically said no. Buy them blocks, they said. Buy them Legos. The architects loved Legos as kids. I blogged about their advice and spoke about it, I put it out it on Facebook and Twitter. I am sad and surprised to say that now Reel Girl gives Legos new Friends for girls an SSS rating.

I know Lego didn’t start all this gender stereotyping in kids’ toys. I get that you’re jumping on the bandwagon because you need to sell products. You’re worried because sales are down. But you’re making a mistake.

I know you spent a lot of money on market research. But all you’ve really researched is the effect that mass marketing has on kids. Look at your 1981 girl and your 2011 Kim Kardashian wannabe lounging in her hot tub with a drink. All that you’ve researched is how to help turn our daughters from the beautiful kid into the plastic one. Lego is better than this. That’s why we love your toy. That’s why we buy it. But now, instead of helping kids grow, you’re stunting them.

We’ve all moved beyond the nature versus nurture debate. Now we understand babies brains come into the world full of potential. The experiences they have help to determine how those brains develop. For example, babies are born able to mimic and make all kinds of sounds, but as they learn a particular language, their brains start to wire up to produce particular intonations; they lose their ability to make many other sounds. Kids who learn to speak other languages early retain that ability to make different sounds for a lifetime. Limiting kids’ early experiences limits their brain growth. That’s why gender stereotyping is so dangerous.

Pink is just one color. Girls are not born with a pink gene. Pink used to be a boy color, the pastel version of red. Blue was for girls, the color of the Virgin Mary. Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella wore blue. Sleeping Beauty was switched to pink to differentiate her from Cinderella. This kind of information is what you should be spending your market research budget on because paying experts to ‘observe’ that girls choose pink is only studying the effects of multinational companies. Or maybe that is what you want to know?

The more you split kids and adults into tiny categories, the easier it is to market and sell products. The concept of ‘toddler’ was developed by clothing manufacturers in the 1930s as a stepping stone between infants and older kids to sell clothing. ‘Tween’ was coined in the 1980s.

I know asking you not to mimic what’s out there is challenging. Some of your best selling Lego sets ‘for boys’ like Star Wars and Indiana Jones come from million dollar movies franchises that don’t exactly have many females in them. But I wish you would use your research and marketing money to figure out how to help develop kids brains, the way Lego used to do.

Please consider bringing back the 1981 ad and creating the kinds of toys that the cool kid in the picture would love.

Thank you.

Margot Magowan

Reel Girl blog

Update: People are going to Lego’s Facebook page and posting the 1981 pic asking them to bring beautiful back. If you agree and want to post it, go to Lego’s FB page, click like, and then you can post the pic.

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Last year, Disney execs switched the title of “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” because they didn’t want to highlight the female star. They did this with no shame at all, to practically no protest, giving interviews to media outlets about their decision. So female stars are practically banned from kids’ movie titles but males are featured in them again and again and again? And this is OK? What message does this blatant sexism send to kids?

Here’s a list of 2011 movie titles that refer to the male star:

Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked



The Adventures of Tintin

Arthur Christmas

Puss In Boots

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

The Zookeeper

Kung Fu Panda 2

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Winnie the Pooh

Kids’ movies of 2011 that feature a girl in the title? One: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

When girls are continuously, relentlessly relegated to supporting roles, both genders learn that girls are less important than boys. Is this really the message we want our young kids to learn when they go to the movies?

I have three daughters ages 2 – 8. We pay our $10 like everyone else. My kids want to know where the girls are. Hollywood, what should I tell them?

You can see Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Kids’ Movies in 2011 here. The Gallery features 20 movie posters from 2011.

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Kidsmovies.com posted a link to ReelGirl’s gallery of girls gone missing pics of 2011 movie posters. The banner at the top of the kidsmovies site features its own unintended (I think) same-old-same-old-boy based line up: Curious George, Nemo, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Gnomeo and Juliet, Up, Kung Fu Panda (I’m guessing, the picture is the top of Jack Black’s head) and Horton. The only girl front and center out of 9 movie posters is Rapunzel (typical rescue story- can you see why girls are obsessed with princesses? Without that storyline girls hardly exist in kids movies at all.)

There’s not a single poster that features multiple girls and no boys in this particular montage. If I seem like I’m nitpicking, it’s because this same, repetitive ratio is EVERYWHERE! (See the kidsmovies.com gallery here.)

And here’s the irony. Pixar and Disney head, Ed Catmull, is continually celebrated for his creativity, out of the box thinking, and taking chances. Here’s an excerpt from a typical glowing profile (this one on SFGate):

The president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation has a low profile outside of industry circles, but he’s one of the main architects behind the studio’s creativity-driven foundation. And he’s intent on keeping things unpredictable, fighting “conservative forces” that have made the golden ages of other cinematic movements all too brief…

But with Lucas, Catmull and later Jobs in charge, creative types at Pixar were encouraged to take chances. And the results changed the animation genre.

“Ed Catmull brought that to the culture of Pixar, in the sense that he wants people to try stuff,” Lasseter says. “If it doesn’t work, fine. In fact, sometimes you get more excited when it doesn’t work. And that’s the total opposite of Hollywood, where people are so scared to try different things. They’re risk-averse.”

The 30-minute speech that follows is filled with Ed-isms. Anybody should be able to talk to anybody else at any time… It’s OK to be surprised in meetings… Don’t be afraid to fail..

“It’s so easy to go to a conservative place. You know something that works, and you don’t want to change,” Catmull says. “We’re always going to have something that is a little chaotic and messy. …As a company we’re just trying to allow unpredictable things to happen.”

Conservative forces? Keeping things unpredictable? If women were running these animation studios, you’d never hear a quote like “unpredictable” to describe the slew of Pixar/ Disney movies where girls are continually relegated to the role of sidekick or princess. Instead of a G Rating, too many Pixar/ Disney movies should get a Triple S for major stereotyping, not suitable for kids. Makes you wonder how many women are in the MPAA? Or have ever headed the MPAA? Stay tuned.

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