Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Diamonds & Hammers...Oh My.

Because pushing stereotypical gender toys to toddlers wasn't starting early enough, Fisher Price has come out with a set of rattles, marketed towards babies ages 3-18 months.

Am I shocked or surprised?


Am I disappointed?


Princess Free Zone has already written up a well-thought out post explaining all the reasons these rattles are feeding into the problem of gender stereotypes (and nicely addresses the "So What?" argument I hear way too frequently).

Of course, I couldn't help but add my own two cents:

Let's break this down quickly. For anyone who has a kid (or anyone with a lick of sense), we know that a 3 month old isn't going to be swayed one way or another based upon a rattle. An infant girl isn't going to play with her faux diamond, pink, plastic rattle and cement her membership in the girly-girl club, nor will an infant boy demand a trip to Home Depot for some tools of his own after gnawing on his hammer rattle.

So why am I getting so riled up about this?

It's because of the fact that Fisher Price feels that babies this young are already categorized by gender and should be catered to as such. They compound the issue with the accompanying phrases on the packaging.

Sweet Baby Girl  vs.  Busy Baby Boy

These just play into the falsehood of how some of society views babies: Sweet, docile baby girls versus loud, active baby boys. Toys that reinforce this notion simply perpetuate the falsehood.

I'll let Fisher Price in on a little secret...a 3 month old baby girl has no real concept that she's playing with a faux diamond rattle. In fact, she has no idea of the weight that little rattle in her hand actually possesses. Yet, as she grows up, those ideals will continue to be reinforced, over and over again - through toys, clothes, TV shows, movies, and more, until she gets to the point where she starts to buy into it, whether she truly believes in it or not.

Our kid's will be inundated with stereotypical gender messages throughout their entire childhood. Being a new parent is exhausting enough, do we really need to tire ourselves further by dealing with gender stereotypes this early out of the gate?

There are plenty of other options out there...

EZ chomping on a wooden rattle at 3 months old. No diamonds or hammers here!

And really, the mama in me is also kind of against these types of toys in general because...why? Why do babies need all this stuff (another post for another time, to be sure).

EZ playing with a favorite "toy" - a spoon.

Our consumerist culture has pushed us to the point where diamond rattles for 3 month old baby girls is somehow acceptable. If trends like these catch on, I'm almost fearful of what comes next...

(Toy manufacturers...please don't see that last sentence as a challenge. Really.)


Jecca said...

I'm not sure the fisher price gives a damn about baby girls or boys wanting or needing to play with gender specific toys .....I think they are catering to the parents that want said items. Not that that makes it any better...its us who puts the label on the hammer as a boys toy and the pink as a girl. My girl would probably prefer a hammer... A very good friends boy would defiantly prefer the pink.

A. Mama said...

For sure, Jecca!

My response was a bit more knee-jerk/eye rolling (and tongue-in-cheek when I say that FP is marketing at 3 month olds. How many more body parts can I include? ha!).

I think FP is certainly catering to parents as they see a market for these types of toys. In the end, of course it's the parents that buy these toys (and buy into these stereotypes) and in turn the companies will continue to churn them out.

Anonymous said...

I'm doing more and more of my shopping at hippie-indie places so I can avoid seeing stuff like this because it makes me ragey.

In addition to what you point out (I haven't been over to read the piece at Princess Free Zone, so if I'm repeating, I apologize) I feel as though this type of marketing solidifies (as if it wasn't pretty solid already what with it being nearly impossible to find gender-neutral clothing outside the newborn - 3mo mark) very early on, that children MUST meet a binary expectation. Of course babies don't care - it's the purchasers of the product who are prodded to choose boy or girl, which sets the purchaser up to decide how the child will be socialized.

Plus, Fisher Price now has twice the product leaving the shelves with each subsequent child born into a family (assuming that children are born of different sexes.) Even parents who purport not to care are likely to purchase, or be given some measure of toys that conform to gender stereotypes. "It was just so cute, I couldn't pass it up!"

Anyway, barf.

Linda said...

I was working for my friend who was rearing her three- and four-year-old grandchildren and was clueless about what to do.

Bribing the children to not pee in their diapers they still wore was my first task I assigned myself. When I brought the little girl a car one day. She threw it back and said it was a boy's toy. I put the little car back in my pocket and pointed out a few things--Grandma and I drove cars. Lots of women drive cars. So, Grandma and I like the little car.

You could see in the child's eyes a recognition of truth. She still got girly toys, "boy" toys, and non-gendered toys.

She was so immersed in the princess bit, that I started just talking about all the things a princess could be--doctor, police person, server, bus driver, teacher. She slowly accepted what I said. There was no talking her out of being a princess when she grew up, not even when she was turning six.

My 41-year-old daughter got her share of tractors and cars and farm animals because her brother would not share. He played with dishes and dolls before she arrived.

Their teething ring was hard rubber in colors that were not gender-based, whatever that means!

I did buy lots of pink for my daughters and even more for granddaughters.

My daughter HAD to wear a long dress full or frills and lace to school. She played and almost ruined it. The teacher said she gathered up the skirt and crawled through the long tubes on the playground. Ha, my daughter was not going to allow a skirt to be in her way! I was proud she got the dress dirty and a little torn and did not reprimand her.

A. Mama said...

"Plus, Fisher Price now has twice the product leaving the shelves with each subsequent child born into a family (assuming that children are born of different sexes.) "<--THIS exactly! This idea was actually one of the main points in my Pink Scare article for Bitch. Back in the post WWII era, companies were coming up w/new and different ways to make people SPEND MORE. One way was to market different things towards each gender, in the hope that parents would return to purchase them with each additional child. And society proved these companies right buy buying into it, which is why they keep churning this stuff out. Vicious cycle.

BernardG said...

Actually I think what you're looking at there is a covert toddler-cockring and dildo, not so subtly masked in gender- and age-normative packaging. Way-to-go sexual liberators who have finally infiltrated the original purveyor of postmodern gender and sexual repression: Fischer-Price.

Linda said...

I think I thwarted the marketers. I bought a little turquoise stretch, hooded jacket for my son. Each of the two daughters wore it. His soft, high top shoes (non-walkers) were worn by the girls. His toys, whether boy toys or generic were used by the girls. Of course, at some point, the girls did get "girly" toys and colors.

I was given three used outfits for my crawling son...corduroy overalls in blue, red, and yellow. They each had a matching long-sleeved knit shirt. These were house clothes only and the girls wore those, plus my niece. They were in such great shape, that another little girl got them for crawling in the house.

Sears started the whole "blue for boy/pink for girls" idea in order to sell more items and discourage using hand-me-downs as much as possible.

Rachael said...

Actually, I am shocked and surprised. And so reading this post I bothered to wonder why I'm shocked and surprised. And it's not Fisher Price that surprises me, for the reasons pointed out by others (e.g., "Fisher Price now has twice the product leaving the shelves with each subsequent child born into a family"). I just really don't get that people actually want this stuff for their kids.