Saturday, February 23, 2013
What do Kinder Eggs and Sexy Cowgirls have in common?
Absolutely nothing…except this:
Yesterday, I was absent-mindedly perusing my Facebook account when this image appeared on my homepage. And it couldn't have appeared at a better time.
Just minutes earlier, I had dismissed my last-period English class where had just finished an hour-long discussion on how companies design chocolate bar wrappers for their target audience. We has looked at a variety of different bars, one of which, ironically, was a Kinder Egg.
I am glad we had that conversation because without it, I am not sure if I would have spent more than 5 seconds looking at this ad before moving on.
It is, without a doubt, one of the most offensive ads I have seen in a while.
In case you're not seeing it, let me point a few things out to you: The geniuses at Kinder Egg have decided that instead of the gender-neutral puzzles and mini-model kits they usually offer, they would segregate their eggs into "boy" eggs-which contain Hot Wheels cars, and "girl" eggs, which contain this plastic doll, which appears to be a pre-pubescent girl in a classic one-knee-bent model pose showing off her legs in her daisy dukes, cowboy boots, and a midriff-bearing pink belly shirt with her archetypal blond hair and over-sized blue eyes peeking out from underneath her cowboy hat. In a nutshell (or literally in a chocolate shell) Kinder Egg is selling what every little girls wants: her very own sexy cowgirl.
I showed the ad to my 10-year-old and asked her if she'd want it.
"No," she replied. "It's stupid. What would I do with it?" I asked her if she thought it would be a good toy for her 4-year-old cousin, Lily.
"No way! Her whole belly is showing! It's just so…awkward and weird. I don't think she should play with it."
I tried to get her to explain further but she wouldn't. She knows that its wrong but finds it hard to explain why.
I completely understand how she feels.
I've been thinking a lot about this picture and why it bothers me so much. After all, Kinder is far from being the only company out there marketing stereotypical and sexist toys. McDonalds often has "boy" and "girl" Happy Meal toys. Most of the arts & crafts kits for girls focus on being a fashion designer, makeup artists, or jewelry maker. And Barbie still has a cup size-to-waist ratio that I've only seen on one other live person: Heidi Montag…and that was only after hours of surgery.
Which one is real & which one is plastic? Technically, they both are…
It's not that I'm against Barbie or those arts & crafts kits or the McDonald's toys. The truth is my daughter does prefer them over either "boy" or neutral toys. When she was born, I decided not to buy "girl" toys; we had accumulated a ton of toys in the three year since my son was born & I saw no reason why she couldn't play with those. Except that she didn't. She showed no interest in anything except the stuffies-diapering and caring for each one like they were her babies. She ignored all the Lego but could spend hours playing with my jewelry, makeup, and shoes. And this was all before the age of 2: before she watched TV (she had no interest), before she was old enough to be influenced by the kids at school, before she had been "taught" to be a girly-girl. She just was born to be one.
Now before you chastise me for allowing that to happen, I'll remind you that I gave her the choice. She chose the jewelry over the Lego. She chose to cradle her "babies" instead of making them fight like my son did. And 5 years later, when she was playing dress-up with her friend in my closet, she chose to wear my running clothes and marathon medals along with a pair of my highest, strappiest heels, lipstick, and an overabundance of blue eyeshadow; she looked like the coolest, strongest female superhero ever. I couldn't have chosen a better outfit to represent what being a woman means to me…except maybe a little less eyeshadow.
No one fits the female cliche more than I do: I am teacher who loves cooking, shoes, romance novels, and watching the Oscars for the dresses more than the awards. A woman who has no problem asking for help carrying something heavy or using my feminine powers to get upgraded rental cars or putting on the damsel-in-distress routine in order to get faster & better service at places like the Apple store. I have no problem washing the dishes in my warm, cozy kitchen while my husband is outside in the freezing cold shovelling the driveway. But does this mean I am a "weaker" female? Quite the contrary. I am secure with who I am and what I like, and I know how to use my God-given talents and assets to overcome any hurdle. I'm very happy being the strong, pink-loving, high-heel wearing woman that I am.
So if all that is true, than who am I to criticize Kinder Egg for their choice of "girl" toy? Because by segregating their toys into "boy" and "girl", they have taken away that element of choice of what a girl could be and instead, is dictating what a girl should be. That is where I have an issue.
When I was in grade 12, I was having a lot of trouble with math. I used to work for hours and hours each night and still have to go in for extra help almost every morning. Finally after months of this routine, my MALE math teacher sighed and recommended that I drop his course; that some girls just don't have a mind for math. So what did I do? I dropped math. In hindsight, I know that it was a stupid thing to do, but when someone whose older and (supposed to be) wiser tells you what you should be, you listen. I felt I had no choice.
That moment is one of my biggest regrets in life. I regret that I allowed that man to dictate to me what I should be. Which is exactly what Kinder Egg is doing by offering a sexy cowgirl as the only option to girls who don't like cars.
In other words, they're teaching girls that are only two choices in life: you can either play with boy's toys…or you can be one.
Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?