Societal Constructs Often Result In Sub-Optimal Leisure Options
In the Mindless Diversions blog, one of the regular features is the Saturday! feature in which I put various classic commercials for various products. Now, the intention is to show commercials that you may have seen on Saturday mornings in the past and invoke emotions thereof. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to sit through even 30 seconds of The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! (or, maybe you would, I don’t know your life) but, I’m pretty sure, you’re willing to sit through 30 seconds for a commercial. One of the things I’m going for is some variant of “I had that!” or “I knew a kid who had that!”
Simple enough, right?
Well, this entails spending time watching a dozen or so commercials every Saturday morning. If doing this has taught me anything, it has taught me this: Girls’ toys suck.
Now, sure. There are gender-neutral toys that are pretty good (Spirograph, Lego, Slinky, Connect Four, any of those new Discovery Channel toys) but when you get down into the weeds of “stereotypically gendered toys”, the toys in the “boys’ section” are much cooler than toys in the “girls’ section”. I did think this when I was a little kid looking through Sears’ Wish Book but, hey, I was a little kid. Of course I’d think that girls’ toys were dumb. I’ve grown up (for small values of “grown up”) since then and I’ve been looking closely at the commercials from back then as well as the toys in the different aisles before the various Christmases and Birthdays we are blessed to buy toys for and I think that I have enough distance to say that, yep, girls’ toys still suck.
I try to be self-aware enough to say that it’s not necessarily self-evident that Beyblades are cool and Baby Alive is not cool… but, I fail. (Aside: Maribou explained to me that her circle sometimes got into “Baby Alive Fights” which brought to mind visions of overfeeding Baby Alive and then using Baby Alive as an impromptu squirt gun. My eyes got really big and I asked “Really???” because, let’s face it, that would be kinda cool but she told me, no, not Baby Alive ballistic warfare, more of the “Aaaaah, she made her doll poop on me” with retaliation hours later kind of fights. Which is not as cool as Beyblades even if you are using Baby Alive as a bludgeon.) It’s not just the dollies and dolly accessories either: This seems to go throughout the entire (inevitably pink!) section. I’m even trying to take into account the fact that we can inevitably expect some cruddy toys (heck, we can expect more than half of them to be at or below average!) but it seems endemic.
Off the top of my head, there are only two girls’ toys that are about as cool as mid-tier boys’ toys: Fashion Plates and Sky Dancers (if any of you guys know of any girls’ toys that qualify as pretty cool, *PULEEZE* tell me about them in the comments). Fashion Plates, you may remember, took different plastic plates with different heads, tops, and bottoms on them, you’d put a piece of paper over the plates, make a tracing, and then color in your own “unique” creation (I admit: That is pretty dang cool). Sky Dancers were so cool that they had to be recalled. They were little fairy dolls in a special holder and when you pulled the string, the Sky Dancer started spinning and her arms moved out and she turned into a helicopter! (!!!) Of course, parents complained because kids got hit in the head (wikipedia says, and I’m quoting here, “While its foam wings provided a limited amount of safety, nonetheless, there were over 100 injuries reported” which tells you exactly how cool these things were).
I’m wondering why. Surely there’s not a conspiracy to make sure that girls are afflicted with crappy toys. Maribou explained one theory to me that girls will still buy and play with cool boy toys but boys won’t buy or play with girl toys… so stuff that may have been created “for boys” (like Erector Sets, maybe) becomes a gender-neutral “for the engineering child in your life!” toy while a Hello Kitty pencil topper will never, ever, be anything but a Hello Kitty pencil topper. (She points out that this happens with books too… girls will read stories where the knight kills a dragon who had kidnapped a princess even though they’re “boy books”, but boys won’t read “girl books” where the princess is a sassy, but down to earth, fully realized protagonist who passes the Bechdel Test.) While this explains some stuff to some degree (I admit that I was well into my 20s before it ever occurred to me to read _Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret_) it still leaves me kind of befuddled.
So I guess I have a handful of questions. Am I completely off-base here and completely wrong about the suckitude of girls’ toys? If not, is this a problem that is, in fact, fixable? And, if so, how can we fix it? I don’t think that the Handy Manny toys are sufficient to get us from here to there on this one. I want to be able to buy the occasional toy for my nieces that are for them in the same way that Bakugan appeals to the nephews. Most of them are too young for Fashion Plates and they don’t make Sky Dancers anymore.
Am I looking at things the wrong way?