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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?


6 comments:

  1. Great piece. Funnily enough, i had the exact same experience with my math teacher,but i offer my perspective as i don't regret the dropping. he might have been softer than yours. Told me he saw me knocking myself out, spoke to my tutor and knew it wasn't sinking in. He said he hated to encourage me to drop, and in fact, was strongly encouraged not to say this to a woman, but with a high gradepoint average, he felt why let it lag down, and get in the way of future success. I dropped it, i did feel a twinge, but i no longer had something pulling me down, and i used my spare to work on things i was really interested in. I look at it like you in high heels cooking, teaching, loving romance novels, strong in who you are--knew what i was good at, and didn't look back. I hope this helped in some way, and keep doing what you're doing--obviously your daughter gets her common sense from you. :-)

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  2. This post is a perfect example of internalized misogyny. You treat traditional femininity (and the female body) as if it is something to be shamed and repressed. It is important that Kinder releases these toys so as not to exclude (kind of like you’re doing) not only feminine girls, but also feminine boys. There’s nothing wrong with wanting girly playthings, but that’s not the message that society (including you) tells these kids. They discourage kids from being feminine because their uninformed minds seem to think it’s a step backwards for feminism to be so weak, and the only way to be “good” female is to be physically strong, athletic, warrior-like, and otherwise masculine, not to mention, you have to hate make-up jewellery, and dresses because EW GIRLS. According to that line of thinking, a good female is a quintessential boy. If that’s not misogyny, what is?
    And you’re just self-righteously perpetuating it, convinced you’re on the good side. Not to mention the body-shaming. The fact that you think a bit of leg and stomach on a kid’s toy is sexual – YOU’RE THE ONE SEXUALIZING THEM. Clearly, it’s not meant to be sexy. Just look at the face and the figure. It’s just how cowgirls dress. Legs and abdomens are just body parts. There’s not necessarily anything sexual about them!! It’s astounding how few people understand this!!
    Moving on: you’re shaming Heidi Montag, who made the PERSONAL decision to have cosmetic surgery for her own self-actualization needs (TECHNICALLY, undergoing plastic surgery doesn’t make you plastic, despite whatever Fox News conservative propaganda you’ve been filling up on), a decision that has nothing to do with you, and you have no right to shame. Especially since she did nothing wrong (this relates back to your misogynistic views). If you want to change some aspects of your body, and you can, THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH CHANGING IT. IF IT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF, WHY NOT? Ever heard of body-positivity?
    I’m tired of people like you who think they’re on the forefront of feminism and liberal progression, who actually ruin it for the feminists who choose to educate themselves before they talk.

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    1. I think you may have misunderstood my message. I agree with you 100% in respect to girls being girls. I am the biggest girly-girl there is, I wear miniskirts and makeup and have no problem using my power as a feminine female to get what I want. I have no problem with plastic surgery if it makes you feel better about yourself. In fact, I've had plastic surgery for something I was self conscious about. My problem is that Kinder created this toy for girls...therefore implying that if you are a girl, this is a toy you will like. And only for girls. Some girls will like this kind of toy and some girls won't. Likewise, some boys will like this toy and some boys won't. My problem is with the marketing: my stating its a toy "just for girls and offering only this as the "girl" option, Kinder is making a dangerous assumption about what all girls are interested in while at the same time, assuming no boys would be interested in it. I never once stated whether I would've wanted this toy if I were a kid and frankly, its irrelevant. All I said is that it shameful for Kinder to pigeonhole the likes and dislikes of all girls into one skantily-clad little girl dolly.

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    2. into one skantily-clad little girl dolly?
      first of all, you're sexualizing something that's not necessarily sexual
      second of all, still the slut-shaming http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/what-is-slut-shaming/
      third of all, the doll, if you'll look back up at the doll, it isn't the only toy offered? the flower thing and the bracelet thing? hello?
      nevermind the transphobic implications of what you just said???????
      think long and hard about what you're about to say before you embarrass yourself (and me) further have a good day?

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    3. While I see the points you are making about slut shaming, I disagree that these toys should be segregated. I don't believe the author ever said toys that might be considered girly shouldn't be made, but what was wrong with having one kinder egg that could have any toy under the rainbow in it? It was better when it was not marketed as boy or girl - but just toy. The toys in the picture could still be included in the normal, non-gender specific toy. It might piss some kids off (both make and female) because they didn't get a moving toy or something to put together (as a little girl I hated the toys that just came out together and didn't do anything -assembling was the fun of kinder surprises) but at least they wouldn't be told that they SHOULD like what is in the egg simply because it is made for their gender. It's a kinder SURPRISE ...

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  3. Contemptuously promoting modesty = slut-shaming, sorry to say.

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Thoughts?