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  1. #1
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    Feminism is dead at McDonalds.

    Gender stereotypes are perpetuated in the most unusual places.

    The latest McHappy Meal toy here in Australia happens to be a choice between either a tiny car or a tiny Bratz doll. As a Kindergarten teacher you can imagine that I've seen quite a few of them over the past few weeks - they are a very popular News item. Anyway, last week I commented on the fact that all of the girls were bringing in the dolls to show while the boys were bringing in the cars.

    The Kindergarten children calmly pointed out to me that this was because "if you are a girl you can only get a doll, and if you are a boy you can only get a car". Furthermore, they informed me, "if I wanted a car I would just have to find a boy to trade with, because McDonalds would only give cars to boys".

    Well, well, well. I had a bee in my bonnet about that. I promised the children that the next time they saw me I would have a McDonalds McHappy meal car because girls most certainly can have cars and boys most certainly can have dolls if they want them.

    I kid you not, I could not sway these children to believe me.

    So anyway, I set off to McDonalds on Friday night and when I ordered my McHappy meal the cashier said: "Would you like the male or the female toy?"

    NOT "the car or the doll"; "the MALE or the FEMALE toy".

    I told him I would have a car thanks, and I very proudly showed it to 14 incredulous 5 year olds this morning. It sounds silly, I know, but I think it is these sorts of little things that add up to the big issues.

    What I would like is this:
    I would like it to seem perfectly reasonable and normal to a group of young children that girls might choose to play with cars and boys might want to play with dolls from time to time - not something to laugh uproariously about. I don't think girls have to play with cars, or boys have to play with dolls, I just don't want that to be such an outlandish idea.

    Having said all that, I notice building is a gender-neutral playtime activity. What's going on here?

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  3. #2
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    I constantly have to remind my niece what little girls CAN do. It's weird because my nephew never says, "Girls can't watch this or do that" because I think he doesn't want to exclude his sister from his "boy" activities.

    Being gender-neutral has made gift-buying so much more difficult. Fortunately, there are always books, board games, art supplies.

    I do remember being younger and collecting both the mini-Barbies (now they have mini Bratz? WEIRD) and then the min-cars just because I COULD. Plus, there was the genius marketing mini-beanie babies move-- another gender neutral toy, although I can't quite muster up any merits for it.

    As much as I joked on shows like Full House growing up, they still did some important things with letting the girls on the show see their potential. Michelle even pulled the whole "Aunt Becky, you can't help me build a car. You're a GIRL." And Aunt Becky was hurt because all she'd wanted to do was live vicariously through Michelle. Granted, they attached a rose to the car at the end, and it won by a "Rose", which who knows what that declares about traditional femininity.

    So, it's everywhere. Even in Good Messages. I'm fairly sure girls are affected by it more, just from what I can tell. And god it irritates me.

    But I think it's great that you took a moment to show them something new. They're so young! It's not too late!

  4. #3
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    that's appalling - 'male or female toy'!

    I remember being absolutely gutted in 3rd year infants (aged 6) when Father Christmas came to school - he gave all the boys a magna-doodle thing, and the girls got a bookmark with a butterfly on. I was disgusted.

    can't add anything more, because you put it all so well pudding.

    But I think it's great that you took a moment to show them something new. They're so young! It's not too late!
    hear hear!

  5. #4
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    i love the way you responded, pudding. that would infuriate me! i feel lucky that my mother made sure i knew i could do anything i wanted (which was be a firefighter-heh, i still want to). and one of the biggest gaps between my husband and i arose from a conversation about our then-future child being able to go to work with daddy to be an electrician's helper..."if it's a boy" my husband actually said. man, did i change his views on that, but i'm still stunned at how much we had to fight about it to get him to see how screwed up his thoughts were- i blame it on his parents, but still, a grown man...how did i not know this about him before i married him?

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by little my
    that's appalling - 'male or female toy'!

    I remember being absolutely gutted in 3rd year infants (aged 6) when Father Christmas came to school - he gave all the boys a magna-doodle thing, and the girls got a bookmark with a butterfly on. I was disgusted.
    As a devoted book lover, I still have to confess that I loved my magna-doodle more than any bookmark I ever got.

    And pudding, that was a really amazing way to challenge what was going on. And I think the kids are astutue to have noticed the way McDonalds was only giving cars to boys and dolls to girls regardless of the kids preference.

    The UK McDonalds toys of the moment appear to be My Little Pony and Transformers (which I think is the same toys as the one and only time I had a Happy Meal as a kid, that makes me feel old). I wonder if the same thing happens here.

    Soapandwater-
    Art supplies were the best gift ever when I was a kid. Fun scissors, shiny paper, glitter glue, modelling clay, paints I loved them all. Hell, they are probably still one of my favourite gifts to receive now.

  7. #6
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    I think we're heading the right way, though - it's great that more and more people are paying attention to these stereotypes.

    My sister loved playing with cars but when she was in daycare (in the late 70s) she was told to "leave the cars for the boys to play with" (wtf?). Actually I think it's insane that cars=automatically "male". Cars have only been around for what, 100 years? so if males were genetically predisposed to like playing with cars, that would be the quickest evolution ever.

    But we're really so brought up with these distinctions that it's hard to change that way of thinking. My other sister has two daughters (one who loves her Spiderman tee and blue stuff, and one who is a total girly/pink/princess kid) and is very determined to teach them that girls and boys can do the same things etc. But she was still surprised when my niece's friend (a boy) came to visit and his favourite of my niece's toys was her glittery pink angel wings. She was really embarrassed about being surprised... :-) I think they actually bought him wings for his birthday, though. But my nieces obviously get a lot of influences from other people, so the oldest one still said that doctors are male and nurses are female...(which of course led my sister to getting a children's book where there is a woman who is a doctor, just to show her that all doctors aren't male) And even small kids know which shoes are "boy" shoes (the blue ones, or ones with "cool" patterns like flames) and which are "girl" shoes.

    pudding, I think it's great that you actively try to get "your" kids to think about gender stereotypes! I have read about some daycare centres here in Sweden where they are really paying attention to that kind of stuff - such as doing more "girly" stuff (like learning massage) with the boys and "boy" stuff (like sports) with the girls. The teachers had videotaped themselves and were shocked at how differently they treated boys and girls although they thought they were treating them the same way. (They also realised that when the kids were eating, the girls hardly had time to eat because they were busy passing things to the boys at the same table. So after that, they moved girls and boys to separate tables and suddenly the boys got better at expressing themselves too - before, they'd only had to point to whatever food they wanted and a girl would pass it to them, but now they actually had to ask "could you pass me the bread?" because no one would "read their mind" so to speak.)

    By the way, I read about a really interesting experiment where they had dressed up a baby in pink clothes, and everyone they met said things like "oh, she's so pretty" or "what a cute baby"...then they dressed the same baby in blue clothes, and the people they talked to were more like "he looks strong" or "what a boy". I even found myself talking differently to two dogs - of the same breed - because one was female and the other one was male. I was totally appalled when I realised that.

    Re: building, ever noticed how Lego has changed lately? When I was little there were the coloured building blocks, and some minifigs, and that's about it. Now they have all kinds of robot/space/machine-related stuff obviously intended for boys, and dollhouse-type sets (in pink, of course) obviously intended for girls. Not even the minifigs look gender neutral anymore. (there are a few sets with "strong" female characters, but I've never seen them in a shop.) It doesn't necessarily have to be wrong to make different kinds of sets (as the dollhouse appeals to a different group than the robots) but I wish they didn't have to make the pink/blue distinction. Or at least make a couple of pink, glittery spaceships to build, as I don't like that only the "boy" toys are allowed to be complicated or technological. Girls should be allowed to use their brains too without being ridiculed for liking "boy" toys.

    [disclaimer: I don't mean that playing with dolls isn't "using their brains" - but I mean that girls in general aren't "supposed" to like technological, science-y things, and I think that sucks.]

    I better stop before I've written a whole essay. :-)

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by notmarcie
    The UK McDonalds toys of the moment appear to be My Little Pony and Transformers (which I think is the same toys as the one and only time I had a Happy Meal as a kid, that makes me feel old).

    Soapandwater-
    Art supplies were the best gift ever when I was a kid. Fun scissors, shiny paper, glitter glue, modelling clay, paints I loved them all. Hell, they are probably still one of my favourite gifts to receive now.
    when i was little, my parents bought me my little pony AND transformers. art supplies were great too :D mom taught me how to cross-stitch, and at the same time my dad taught me how to play football & baseball. i love that they raised me with minimal gender stereotypes.

    and pudding, that's great you're showing these kids at an early age they can have (and eventually be) whatever they want, regardless of gender :)

  9. #8
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    this is such a fascinating (and infuriating) topic!

    my mother got me "little scientist" kits, tonka trucks and engineering toys when i was a kid, but i have to admit to playing more with the barbies, dolls and stuffed toys! although the engineering kits came with actual engines & pontoons so you could make little things that really drove, or zoomed around in the bath like boats...

    hijack, sorry. i went to all-female school from ages 5-18, which was very empowering, and where no one would EVER tell you girls couldn't do this or that, but that we could succeed at whatever we gravitated toward, or chose to do. I think part of why I am so comfortable being a relatively girly girl is that I don't think it means anything bad or weak about me. Had people been telling me in school that I COULDN'T have toy cars or do "boy" things, I can bet I would feel different.

    Well done, pudding, for showing those little girls (and boys) the same thing my great teachers in school showed me!

  10. #9
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    Not a ton to add, but my sister and I were talking about this the other day. I guess she took the little ones that she babysits for to McD's and they gave her a hard time when both the girl and the boy wanted the "boy" toy. Hello? I think that we have enough issues teaching kids about gender equality without Mickey D's reinforcing things.

    Personally, I know I loved my Spiderman Big Wheel just as much as my sister loved her "powder puff" one. :)

    -r

  11. #10
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    wow! great thread! i have nothing to add, but it's really interesting.


 
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