To Peshwar, With Love

Sending prayers, light and love to the people of Pakistan today. To the families in our community with ties to Pakistan, we grieve the murder of your children and educators. We hold hope for those trying to heal from injuries and for survivors who try to calm terrified hearts.

Two years ago when our children were murdered at Sandy Hook the image below was one that stood out to me, of children in Pakistan praying and grieving for us. Today it is the world’s turn to shift that love to Peshwar.

Love and prayers the world round.

Love and prayers the world round.

For our community, if you discuss this tragedy with your children remember to do so in an age-appropriate way. Point out the helpers, like strangers who carried injured children in their arms to doctors, a parent whose own child did not exit the school but stood with another student waiting for his family, for nurses at bedsides of injured children holding vigil until mother and father arrived, for residents who flooded blood banks to capacity to donate blood to the wounded. For older children, there are beautiful lessons here about empathy and bravery, for example several of the female teachers who witnesses say were killed while trying to stand up to the attackers in order to protect the lives of their students.

While this may seem a world away, point out to your children the similarities we share in this human experience. BBC, Reuters, and Al Jazeera have some moving photo galleries (non-graphic) that demonstrate how connected rather than different we are, despite the borders, oceans, languages, and religions that separate us.
Hands that come together in prayer, perhaps held in a different way, still seek the same peace ours do. Heads bowed in silence, perhaps searching meaning from a different god, feel the same feelings ours do. Mourning that is perhaps spoken in a different language yet carries no less grief. Tears from mothers and fathers that fall with universal understanding, as violence against children and those who try to protect them is an act found unconscionable the world over.

We are more the same than we are different.

The caption explains it all: Children of sworn enemies pray for each other during this tragedy. We can teach our children to love, or to hate.

The caption explains it all: Children of sworn enemies pray for each other during this tragedy. We can teach our children to love, or to hate.

Birthday Parties Outside of the Gender Box

Birthday parties are one place where gender stereotypes can really sneak up on us, especially considering how much of the paper supplies are themed with commercial characters and then even further gendered. My children always have co-ed birthday gatherings and each year they pick a theme for their party. We’ve had parties at a veterinarian’s office, a school gym, pools and water parks, and our house. The themes they choose range from exterminator, dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, Angry Birds, and Wild Kratts. Our parties are creative with a lot of DIY and done on a small budget – but they are always a blast!

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Marketers gender party supplies knowing many folks will buy a boy version and girl version because heaven forbid a boy eat off a cake plate that only has Anna and Elsa on it (with no trace of Olaf, Kristof, or Sven). Let’s just get them a pack of Star Wars for good measure.

Allowing your child to express and explore their interests on the special day we celebrate them is a true gift – it says to them that who they are is important and accepted. So if your son wants a Doc McStuffins or My Little Pony party, or your daughter wants a dinosaur or tool party…..go with it!

Here’s a great example of a mom who decided to follow her daughter’s lead and ended up with a very memorable day for the whole family. Why wouldn’t a six year old girl think a tool/building party to be fantastic?

Pinterest is a great place to find ideas, just don’t let the gender categorization fool you. Pick your theme, buy plates and cups in plain colors, and use decorations and games/activities that support the theme without having to buy pre-fab or commercialized items. You don’t need to create a boy version and girl version for you party – just plan a “kid version” and trust in the abilities of the little people to explore and have fun!

Immy is thrilled with her tool-themed party, image via Clarksburg Mom.

Immy is thrilled with her tool-themed party, image via Clarksburg Mom.

More LEGO Female Scientists, Please!

Kids were so excited they each got a set of the hard-to-get LEGO Research Institute with three female scientists.

Kids were so excited they each got a set of the hard-to-get LEGO Research Institute with three female scientists.

Two pieces of updated information regarding the LEGO female scientists ‘Research Institute’ set that I think will be of interest to you. Unfortunately, as of this morning the LEGO website is saying the set is sold out again.

On Friday I made two posts on PPBB facebook page letting my followers know the LEGO female scientists were for sale again in the USA, as well as the UK, and Canada. I know how upset everyone was when we found out the set was a “limited edition” item from LEGO and so many people were not able to order one when they were first made available to the public this fall. (They sold out in three days.)

Last week Friday folks rushed to order and crashed the LEGO website! The PPBB posts were shared hundreds of times and seen by over 45,000 people. Hundreds of comments were left on my threads saying an order had been placed and how happy the child (or adult!) receiving the little female scientists would be.The Research Institute continues to sell out online within hours and I have heard from dozens of people for months that clerks from LEGO stores all over say the set sells out within minutes of the store opening. If and when the scientist sets are in stock, that is.

Hopefully that gets the message to LEGO. One would think with this level of consumer demand the company would be announcing these will be a permanent option stocked with retailers everywhere and the line will be expanding.

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.

If you haven’t already signed our petition asking LEGO to make these permanent, now is a great time to do so and to pass the petition request along to friends to gain more signatures and momentum. Thank you for using your voice!  Sign here: https://www.change.org/p/lego-lego-make-empowered-female-minifigs-permanent

 

But here’s the REALLY EXCITING news! The original creator of the female scientist set – ‘Alatariel’ – has a new proposal going on LEGO IDEAS: Female Adventure Scientists! (Image below) The minifig set is described as follows:

-The geologist explores the mountains to locate important minerals and unravel the processes that have shaped the Earth.
-The wildlife biologist is on a jungle expedition to study the tiger in its natural habitat.
-The archaeologist investigates bones and artifacts to uncover the secrets of an ancient civilization.

You can vote for the new proposal for more female scientists by visiting https://ideas.lego.com/projects/83039.

Proposed Adventure Scientist set from Alatariel, creator of the Research Institute.

Proposed Adventure Scientist set from Alatariel, creator of the Research Institute.

Public support through LEGO IDEAS (formerly CUUSOO) is how the ‘Research Institute’ came to market and will again send LEGO the message that we want these fantastic and empowering female LEGO character sets to stick around and for the line to grow!

Thanks for all of your support,
Melissa

Ben tackles the T-Rex skeleton.

Ben tackles the T-Rex skeleton.

Amelia hard at work.

Amelia hard at work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business that wants to change the way people think about childhood. Operated in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love. If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” here, at your local bookseller or online.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I’m Sad About The Things My Community Doesn’t Get

Last night I hosted a live chat about Barbie, billed as an extension of and reflection from my time spent thus far on The Barbie Project. For those who are unfamiliar, The Barbie Project is a play experiment that I have been involved with and blogging about since April. The project has created some really fantastic, thoughtful, funny and inspiring posts about how our girls play.

The live chat went great – better than I expected actually – and I was able to email the Barbie Team a list of nine action items we’d like to see them incorporate in their toys moving forward. (I’ll be writing a post on those in a bit.) I don’t have any control over at Mattel so I cannot comment as to whether or not any of our suggestions will be used. But your voices were heard. There is value in that. Thank you to all who participated, it was a fantastic discussion and revealed how complex this multi-faceted doll/brand is. More importantly, it revealed how creative our girls are and how they make their toys their own.

There will always be girls who play with Barbies. I want to make sure that play is as empowered and healthy as it can be and that is why I am doing The Barbie Project. I know girls use Barbies in very creative, adventurous ways and I feel that we shouldn’t count that out. I see a strong interest from Barbie in better understanding empowered play in today’s girls and creating dolls that act like a canvas for their imagination. Why not guide them along the way?

 

Now I need to clarify a few things with y’all. 

Because as great as the constructive criticism and play ideas were from our discussion, I was left feeling very sad and frustrated.

 

Melissa is sad.

Melissa is sad.

My very first post for the series began by fully explaining why I was doing this. It would be very important for you to read that now, if you have not yet done so.

Especially those out there calling my integrity into question.

It would be equally important to remember, my participation in The Barbie Project was not for our PPBB community. My posts were not intended for you guys. I’m thrilled if you read them, thank you. Several folks contacted me to say my Barbie Project posts were very helpful to them and helped them think more creatively about their child’s play. I was pleased to hear it as that was my goal.

Those posts were for ‘pinkified parents’. My posts were for people who normally do not think critically about media messages or use media literacy with their children. I wanted those parents to have better ideas for empowered and intelligent play with their girls. I also wrote the posts for people assume Barbie play is all fashion shows, proms, and weddings. Many times, it is far from it.

I put my reputation on the line to accomplish bringing our messages into Barbie’s spaces – of ten million people. And I’m really sad there are so many people out there in my community who don’t get that.

There is value in spreading the message. I don’t need to continue to preach to the choir. You all get it and know how the song goes. That is why I’m usually so proud of you. But please see that I need to go out onto the sidewalk and ask new folks to come on in and sing with us.

Be certain on the fact that I absolutely wanted the opportunity to insert my voice into the Barbie community, and win over those parents and have them start following my work. I also want my voice at the table at Barbie Headquarters. I’m sure you see the value in that. I’m confident you understand the power in meeting people where they are at and meeting companies in the middle.

Everything I have said in this months-long Barbie conversation is true to who I am and what I stand for: girl-centric characters in play, adventure, taking up space, girls exploring the world, girls in leadership positions, building and STEM during play, empowered/intelligent play, not shaming girls for being feminine or pretty, focusing on what a girl can do vs what she looks like, using critical thinking around toys/media. I feel very confident in that I have not gone off course. I’m very proud of the posts Amelia and I put up for the Barbie Project.

In a time when so many toy lines remove the girl characters, I like that Barbie offers career and adventure options that no one else has. In an afternoon Amelia’s dolls can be President, a doctor, a mom, an astronaut, a marine biologist, a jeep-driving safari hunter, a glamorous woman in a ball gown, a group of friends heading off on a road trip in their camper, a teen in sneakers roasting marshmallows under the open, starry sky. Girl characters are at the center of it. They are the essence of it. Shop online if the big box retailers don’t carry what you want, and then contact those retailers and explain that to them. I don’t see Barbie as the hill I want to die on when it comes to my daughter. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk about the bumps along the way like body image, a dress that is a bit too skimpy, skin colors, hair textures, pointy feet, the pink, etc. We talk about all of it.

Those conversations go right to the Barbie Team. I don’t have any way to measure how much influence we have over there or not, but I can assure you I am using every opportunity available to me to exercise my influence. Find value in that, regardless of how you feel about the toy.

And recognize, the Barbie Team is listening to this community. That is something I hear demanded of them frequently, yet when Lori Pantel, VP of Global Brand Marketing for Barbie, granted me her only interview following the computer programming book fall-out our community largely ignored that conversation. I was embarrassed. I was extremely disappointed in that failure to recognize the significance of that for our community and what statement Barbie made by making that move.

I am sometimes left wondering what exactly it is people want, beyond a platform to complain. I prefer engagement and acting as a change agent.

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Okay, now. I’d like you all to remember that behind these words on the screen your looking at sits a person. A person trying to educate parents, create social change, make a witty comment or two, and provide for her family.

I’ve spent every morning for the past five and half years showing up – for you. For all of you. I spend hours vetting, curating, and moderating our community….more hours blogging…..months writing a book and now traveling and speaking to groups to spread our message.

Melissa is happy it is morning and she says 'Let's go see what the PPBBers are doing today!'

Melissa is happy it is morning and she says ‘Let’s go see what the PPBBers are doing today!’

In regards to my working as a consultant to media content creators, I want to say three things:

  1. You cannot see what I’m doing behind the scenes nor hear what I’m saying in private conversations I’m having with the powers that be. I cannot share those with you, per binding legal contracts.
  2. I get paid for the work I do. My skills and expertise come at a price, and I hold no shame in knowing my worth. You don’t work for free and neither do I.
  3. The media content creators I have been working with are fantastic people who are closer to being allies with us than you might first think. Change is slow. That doesn’t mean we aren’t trying.
I want to tell you something the woman who mentors me taught me years ago: Change comes from within. Change is slow, it requires a buy in and that necessitates trust. It takes time to build trust. But the change that comes from this is the most meaningful and lasting.
I want you to know — the trust this community has in me is something I do not take for granted nor take lightly. My time spent doing this work is the only thing I will justify for spending time away from my kids. I cherish this community, as often you all are my only sense of sanity as I try to make sense of all the fuckery out there being marketed to our kids.

We need to work together to make changes for our kids, they deserve a healthy childhood. I need all of you to have faith that every decision I make is guided by that commitment.

I will never ask for you to trust me, because trust has to be earned not requested. You can decide for yourselves whether or not to put your trust in me. What I will do is promise that I will work every day to create meaningful change for our children. Every day I wake up and that is my goal, it is what drives me. I will prove myself to you through my words and actions, so that you know you can count on me to give brands hell when it is called for. You all can also count on me to meet brands in the middle and gain some ground for our kids.
I have poured my heart, soul, blood sweat, tears, and money into this business/book/community. I only get one shot at losing my integrity. There is not a chance I will sell out. Our kids mean too much to me.
Melissa says 'Look, we've got this.'  The important word being 'we' - meaning we need to stick together.

Melissa says ‘Look, we’ve got this.’
The important word being ‘we’ – meaning we need to stick together.

The Mask You Live In Debuts at Sundance January 2015

mask you live in.2The Representation Project film will debut at Sundance Film Festival in January 2015.

“Compared to girls, research shows that boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. The Mask You Live In asks: As a society, how are we failing our boys?”

“America’s narrow definition of masculinity is harming boys, men, and society at large.”

I’m very excited for this film and here’s why…..

Three years ago I made the decision to part from the norm of my large girl empowerment community and include boys in my work. It didn’t feel right to me to polish just one side of a coin, both sides needed attention. You aren’t pro-girl if you are also anti-boy. It doesn’t work that way.

I could see the boys behind the masks. Some of my fans and customers were very angry with me for making this decision, they strongly felt that girls had it so rough and boys were just fine with all their privilege and maleness. In a way, I understood how they felt betrayed by me. I also understood why they were so wrong.

The issues facing boys, while different from those facing girls, are no less important and no less impactful to our larger society.

At the time I made this change with my business my son was a preschooler and I saw how the world was rushing in on him, just as I had a few years prior with my daughter. I didn’t agree with the messages he was being taught by culture about his gender and how he should “be a man”. Just as I had been fighting for my daughter’s right not to be rushed through her girlhood, I understood I had to do the same for my son.

mask you live in

My son – and your son – do not need to be men……they need time and space to be a BOY. Allowing him the full human experience is what will grow him into a confident, intelligent, emotionally intelligent, empathetic, strong, moral, respectable and respectful man. All of this forced toughening up and performance of “being a man” makes boys and man nothing more than fragile and empty. We rob our boys of their humanity when we encourage this to define masculinity.

Our sons are under no obligation to be anything other than the human being they were born to be. That includes the freedom to feel and express uncertainty, vulnerability, fear, love, joy, silliness, and healthy outlets for anger.

Allowing boys the space to be full people is not only what is most fair to them, it improves things for girls. These boys then grow up to be better friends, peers throughout school, romantic partners, fathers/uncles/grandfathers, coworkers, and members of society. We need to decouple the idea that anger, aggression, and violence are inherent “male” qualities.

This mask we teach our boys to wear, needs to be no more.

 

From the Representation Project:

“With The Mask You Live In, we’re expanding the conversation to include how our culture is harming boys and men. Research shows boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives.

 

The Representation Project

Oh Ferguson…And countless other communities

The news of no indictment in Ferguson arrived just as my family was sitting down to a late dinner on a snowy Wisconsin evening. I’ve spent the past two hours trying to come up with something profound or inspiring or “right” to say, because saying nothing doesn’t feel right either.

At one point I even sat down to type out my thoughts but deleted it, every word felt inadequate. I kept picturing Michael Brown’s parents. Usually so good with words, I was empty tonight. So very sad, angry, and empty.

But there were plates to clear and a sink to fill with suds and rooms to straighten and kids to round up, brush and put to bed. Many times as a parent you don’t get to feel your feels when you are having them, as the business of children demands everything else of you.

It was as I put my son to bed that I understood what needed to be said. I looked at my beautiful son as he lay snuggled under his blankets, my hand pressed between his two small hands. He is six, He is white, He is still at an age of innocence. He is still mine to mold and shape before more of the outside world comes in to influence.

So I pictured Michael Brown’s parents as I kissed my little white boy’s hands and made a promise to continue to teach him to use those hands for good. And I pictured Michael Brown’s parents as I kissed my little white boy’s forehead and made a promise to continue to teach him to use his mind to seek justice and equality. And I pictured Michael Brown’s parents as I kissed my little white boy’s face and made a promise to continue to teach him to see your brown skin boy as an equal, as a brother. As no less than he.

And I placed my hand on my son’s heart and whispered to him what I do every night. “I love you. You are a good and smart boy and I am proud of you. Dream good dreams, be kind and brave as you do.”

The thing about parenting is that we all have the same dreams for our babies. And yet, the thing about parenting is that our experiences can be so vastly different from one another.

For all the families who raise and love brown skinned boys who have worries and concerns that I will never know with my white son, I don’t have words adequate for tonight. I can only promise to raise my children to see injustice and inequality as an offense to all people and to see the value in changing it.

I pray for peace. I understand your rage. Black Lives Matter.

Handshake between races a over white background

 

 

This was written in response to my post by a friend of mine, a mother of a little brown boy, and they had me in tears…..
“As I kiss the sweet curls of my brown skinned child I find comfort in the mothers like you who are teaching their children to be different, to be more. I will teach my son to be different, to be more, and to find your sons in a crowd because they will be strong hearted friends and allies.”

 

Resources for talking to your children about Ferguson, racial profiling, officer involved shootings, law and order, and racial equality:
1. Even if you are not a teacher, check out the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus on twitter.

2. Understanding the grand jury ruling on Michael Brown’s death from PBS gives the facts/timeline of events, links to news stories, and educational videos promoting nonviolent reactions to racial inequality.

3. The Death of Michael Brown: Teaching About Ferguson from the Learning Network of the New York Times offers a roundup of thoughtful ideas (especially excellent/appropriate to explore with tweens/teens).

4. For younger children, this is an age-appropriate guide for letting conversation happen from the Psychological Network.

A Conversation With Barbie: Missteps and Moving Forward

Recently toy giant Mattel received heavy criticism for a book that was part of the 2010 launch of the Barbie I Can Be….A Computer Engineer career doll. As the internet found out this week, much to our surprise, in the book Barbie actually does zero computer engineering. In fact, as the story plays out we see Barbie framed as rather incompetent when it comes to tech. To make matters worse, Barbie calls on two male friends to come and save the day. The fact that the book was written by a female computer engineer makes the situation all the more incredulous.

Things went really wrong with this book, and Mattel did a good job of owning it with this statement posted to their facebook page:

“The Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.” 

Barbie is a lot of things to a lot of people. She’s polarizing and inspiring. She’s a glamorous beauty and she’s a ground breaking career girl. She’s also in the the homes of millions of little girls.

While the internet has done an amazing job of responding to and re-framing  this misstep by the brand I was interested in a deeper conversation. I think the problems were well covered by others so I wanted to focus on a few key points:

  • Do they understand the issues facing girls who want to pursue STEM interests and careers? Do they understand how this book fed into those issues as opposed to fighting them in an empowering way for girls?
  • How did this book get past the review process and make it to print? Where were the checks and balances?
  • Moving forward, how will Mattel work to stay aware of girls’ issues and reflect that knowledge through truly empowering toys and media for young consumers?

This brings us to the perfect time for me to issue the disclaimer that despite being a frequent critic of the brand, I was invited to participate in a play experiment called The Barbie Project. It was a role I accepted, have enjoyed with my daughter, and a role I used to get my questions answered by Barbie’s Lori Pantel Vice President, Global Brand Marketing. There are a lot of moving pieces to such a large brand like Barbie, and each of those pieces is a human being. When we peel back the layers and open a conversation with each of those people in a way that moves the issue forward, we move closer towards the goal of creating meaningful change for our kids.

My interview with Barbie’s Lori Pantel Vice President, Global Brand Marketing:

1. The first question on everyone’s mind is, how did this get past the review process at Mattel and become published? Each time there is a media whirlwind around an offending product that is the one question I see over and over again. We know Barbie is aware of the issues surrounding girls and STEM, but this book does not reflect that. Can you help us backtrack and understand the process for developing a product like this book? And what are the checks and balances? 

When we first learned of this earlier in the week, to be honest, we were horrified & disappointed because this doesn’t reflect our vision for the brand.  We believe that girls can do anything and be anything.  And as a Mom myself, I take this vision very seriously.

To better answer the “How did this happen”? We spent the early part of the week digging in to the how & why because: 1. We wanted to identify where our process of checks and balances broke down.  2. To ensure it never happens again.

Our publishing process has changed since this book was first released in 2010.  

In 2010 our process for content publishing was that we worked with licensed partners around the world and they were given “story starters” and plot themes.  Those themes were then given to independent writers to create age appropriate books for young readers.  While most of the Barbie books do a good job of reflecting the brand values and positioning, we run the risk of misinterpretation and ultimately loss of quality control.  Clearly, we do not want this to ever happen again. Over the past year we have changed the strategy. Today, instead of asking others to interpret our brand, we now concept, write, and approve all stories for publishing here at Mattel. 

In light of this week’s learnings, we have started to audit all of our current publishing content that is available now in the marketplace.

 

2. I’ve been a critic of Barbie in the past, and even during my time on The Barbie Project I’ve talked about the dual nature of the doll as I see both positive and negative aspects. Clearly, I’m not a fan of this book. Has it been pulled?

The short answer is yes, the book has been pulled by Random House. The minute we learned of this title and read the content, we immediately partnered with Random House to pull the book from the market.   

 

3. So, as my daughter says, you are ‘Barbie’s Boss’, which is her understanding of your role at Mattel. For the little girls out there who want to be the boss some day, what would you tell them about being the boss when a fumble like this happens at work and how do you show your team good leadership?

That’s very sweet, but I actually don’t think of myself as “Barbie’s Boss.”  I believe that part of good leadership is taking responsibility – facing the challenge head on and using it as a learning moment. I would tell your daughter that we are all human. And at times will make mistakes – but what is most important is how we learn and grow from them. 

 

4. There are a lot of moving pieces to a large brand, and those pieces are people who are a part of our culture. This book wasn’t too far off from what real girls and women experience in everyday culture. I can see how creators might overlook things they were never taught to question. What I see as I travel and speak to groups is that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’ So, now that Barbie knows better how will Barbie do better in the future?

Over the past few years the brand has partnered with 3rd party experts as it relates to our Career of the Year programs. Whether NASA for "Barbie as Astronaut" or a diverse group of entrepreneurs this past summer for the launch of Entrepreneur Barbie. The brand engages in these partnerships to ensure authenticity in both the doll design and program content. We will continue to explore these types of partnerships when exploring new areas for the brand.

We believe that Barbie unlocks a girl’s imagination. And that through open-ended play, Barbie invites girls to explore the world around them. We know it is critically important to not only listen to girls but also to listen to and learn from parents. That’s what we are doing now and will continue to do going forward.

 

I really appreciate Lori Pantel taking the time to answer these questions. Authentic communication with brands is a best first step in bringing about the changes we would like to see. As I continue to fill my role on The Barbie Project I will use every opportunity to encourage the brand to continue to move in the direction of empowered, diverse play for girls. Here is what I would hope to see the brand take away from this week of negative press and use it as a learning experience and catalyst for change:

  • Rewrite and publish the computer programming book. Just reboot the project and get it done right. Engage with women from STEM fields or groups who teach girls to code. Best yet: Have the girls in these coding/engineering groups team with Mattel to write a new version of the book they know will inspire little girls.
  • Reach out to advocates and experts who work to empower girls. Use our knowledge and consultations to guide decisions during the creative and development process.
  • Truly commit to showing girls all of Barbie’s careers are within reach through interactive web pages and product packing. Highlight women in those careers, much like the Barbie I Can Be…..An Entrepreneur site does. Then replace the two craft projects with a road map to developing a working business plan and a template for business cards. The Barbie Computer Engineer could come with an app where girls can get code from the inside of the doll’s package they input into the app to design the robot puppy they saw Barbie bring to life in the code *she successfully wrote and programmed* in the new book.
  • Pledge to keep Barbie as the protagonist in all of her stories. Let girls see her doing the problem solving, going on the adventures, and saving the day. Introduce new friends along the way, but keep Barbie in a position of power and leadership.

 

And what, dear reader, should your take away be? Let’s remember this is one conversation in what needs to be an ongoing conversation. As you read, think about how you want that conversation shaped, who you want heard, and how best to deliver your messages.

Computer Engineer Barbie

Computer Engineer Barbie

Fathers Count

Guest blogger and PPBB Community Member Eryk Woods shares with us his feelings on being a father and being marginalized by marketers and the media. Fathers and male mentors play a huge role in the lives of children but too often we see their contributions mocked or altogether forgotten. Today, we look at how marketing to parents needs to be more inclusive….and how that will shift perceptions of both motherhood and fatherhood for our kids. 

It’s mid November and my Christmas shopping has been done for a while now.  My almost seven-year-old is getting a couple of science sets and a computer of his very own. His main presents are hidden away in my closet but I’d still like to fill out the tree with a couple of ancillary gifts, so every now and then I’ll jump on Amazon to see if anything catches my eye.  That’s when I stumbled upon their holiday toy list.

Where is Amazon's lists of Dad-selected toys?

Where is Amazon’s lists of Dad-selected toys?

 

The list was divided into categories: Active Playtime, Wood & Recycled, STEM, etc.  But it was the category titled, “Mom Picks 2014” that made my heart sink.  I’m a dad.

Where is the “Dad Picks 2014” category? Of course, it’s not there, and sadly, I’m not surprised in the least.

This is the way dads are systematically excluded from parenthood, and retailers are a prime culprit. Try this: type www.amazon.com/mom into your browser.  You’ll find yourself at a page titled Amazon Mom, where you can get great deals on diapers, formula, baby shampoo, strollers, and all kinds of products for babies and kids.  There are categories here too: For Baby, For Kids, For Parents, and For Mom.  This last category is interesting, containing things like pregnancy books and diapers bags, things no dad will ever need, right?  Why would a dad ever need to know anything about pregnancy and childbirth?  That’s mom’s job!  I’ll be out in the waiting room passing out cigars.

Note that there’s no category “for dad,” even though Amazon’s own billing for Amazon Mom says, “Amazon Mom is open to anyone, whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent or caretaker.”  THEN WHY IS IT CALLED AMAZON MOM?! Wouldn’t “Amazon Parents” work just as well?

Yes, yes, I know all the excuses by now and have heard them many times before.  “It’s just a clever name for marketing purposes.”  Or, “They’re just playing to their target demographic.”  Or, “Well moms still do most of the shopping these days.”  And sadly, those excuses are often true.  Stereotypes exist for a reason, but they’re nonetheless harmful.

I have been what you could call a “father’s rights activist” since the day I found out I was going to be a dad.  I distinctly remember shopping for a car seat, and reeling at the Graco box with the words, “Ask moms who know” printed on the side.  I remember feeling overwhelmed by my sudden awakening to just how anti-dad the world of parenting really was.  The word “mom” was plastered all over everything in the baby aisle.  I instantly noticed how absent dads were from cereal, diaper and laundry commercials.  Parenting magazine’s slogan, printed on the front of every issue, was, “What really matters to moms” and featured articles very much intended for women.

"Mom-tested” toy lists are obviously not new.

“Mom-tested” toy lists are obviously not new.

 

It all felt so disheartening.  I obviously didn’t belong in this world of parenting, and it would have been easy for me to “take the hint” and leave it all up to my wife, but no matter how frustrating it was, it was not going to stop me from being the dad I knew I could be, the dad that my absentee dad was not.

If there’s a silver lining to growing up without a father, it’s that he wasn’t there to teach me the wrong way to be a dad.  The kind of dad who passes the baby off to mom when there’s a diaper that needs changing.  The kind of dad who tells his friends that he can’t go for drinks tonight because he has to “babysit” his own kids.  The kind of dad who only sees his son’s Christmas gifts on Christmas morning when they’re unwrapped, because mom did all the shopping and wrapping and filled out the card, “From mom and dad.”

I have the confidence and convictions to be faced with a category called “Mom Picks 2014” and click on it anyway because I know that’s just marketing slang for “top trending toys.”  But how many dads out there will use this as an excuse to pass the job off to mom?  How many dads will see this and allow it to reinforce their existing beliefs that the shopping and the diaper changes and the doctor’s appointments and the parent-teacher conferences are not his job? None of that benefits moms, dads, or most importantly, children. 

I’ve had this discussion before, and this is the part where someone says, “But it’s his responsibility to be a good father!”  I agree, wholeheartedly!  It’s nobody’s responsibility but his own to be the father that his children deserve.  But does that mean we can’t make fatherhood more inviting?  Does that mean we can’t welcome him in and make him feel included?  Why can’t the target demographic for holiday toy list be all parents?  What is there to gain by deliberately leaving out dads?  We could argue that all the moms out there who are doing all the shopping for their kids can feel a bit of recognition for their hard work, but in truth, this exclusionism hurts mothers as well.  I heard it said that decades ago, men went to work and women raised the kids, and now men and women both go to work, and women raise the kids.  There’s a lot of truth to this.  We’re pushing hard to get women into the boardroom, but what are we doing to push men to be more involved at home and in their children’s lives?

Things are getting better.  Graco and Parenting Magazine have dropped their mom-centric slogans.  Commercials with dad competently pouring cereal and doing laundry are becoming more common.  But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that these changes happened organically.  They happened because people spoke out against the exclusion of fathers in all facets of parenting, including something as seemingly trivial as the name of a category on a holiday gift list.  Keep the momentum going!

Moms, we need your help!  You are our biggest allies in this fight.  Please, reach out to these marketing agencies and tell them that you don’t want to be pandered to at the expense of fathers.  And dads, don’t let yourself be convinced that you are anything less than half of a parenting team.  You’re not mom’s assistant and you’re certainly not a casual observer.  You are dad!  Don’t be anything less.

 

Eryk Woods is a single dad, a former Marine, and a current tech guy living in the great Northwest.

Pitch Perfect 2’s Rape Culture Scene Hits a Wrong Note

Even when we get women behind the camera and a cast full of female protagonists, usually touted as a cure to Hollywood’s ills and missteps, we can still have media go terribly wrong. In the just-released trailer for Pitch Perfect 2 there is a scene that is very troubling because it strikes a chord to a much bigger issue. Perhaps there is more to this scene than first meets the eye. Hopefully it ends with a affirmative PSA promoting consent and taking a stand against college men raping college women, delivered in the hysterical way that only Rebel Wilson can. That would be grand. If not it only serves to mislead the film’s fans, many of whom are teens and young adults, about what consent means and looks like, as well as what girls really mean when they say ‘no’.

Because you know, she didn’t mean it. She wanted it. And she liked it.

In this scene (at 2:11) we see a guy hitting on “Fat Amy”, Rebel Wilson’s very funny character. At a party scene full of alcohol and underage drinking – known contributors to campus and high school rape – we watch a rival singer hit on Amy and ask if she wants to have sex later. She acts appalled and voices a loud “NO!” immediately followed by a confusing wink at the boy. Not understanding, he tries to clarify and we watch the same schtick again. There’s a lot that could have been done with these few minutes in the film, but these minutes don’t pass by in a vacuum. They have meaning to the culture at large.

For a film written by, directed by and starring women this is irresponsible and insensitive. That most of these women have been previously heralded in the media as great feminist role models, this scene is really all the more troubling. If you’re going to be sex-positive, show your character going all in. Go Fat Amy, get some! With enthusiastic consent that better represents most college women’s sexual agency. Comedic sexual come on’s are something Rebel Wilson is phenomenal at. No need to be coy about her desire. She can still make a clandestine lover out of her rival, which actually could have led to some truly funny scenes. No need to make an ass out of a guy trying to understand if consent was there or not.

Media perpetuates Rape Culture and mocks the idea - and neccessity - of consent.

Media perpetuates Rape Culture and mocks the idea – and neccessity – of consent.

This trailer is filling my newsfeed and twitter stream and no doubt yours, as well as any tween/teen social media users you have at home. In fact, this party scene is the final frame of the trailer as it was meant to have lasting impact and influence by the people who want to earn money from this movie. So talk about it with your kids: the responsibilities media content creators have, unpack Rape Culture and how it is perpetuated, the roles young men and women play in Rape Culture, how kids learn to navigate sexual relationships, and how maybe women have a responsibility to each other not to make a joke out of rape.

It isn’t dark or salty humor. It isn’t satire. Much like the rape whistle joke Kay Cannon included in the original Pitch Perfect screenplay, it isn’t doing any of us any favors.

It is SO disappointing to see women in Hollywood be so insensitive to the campus rape crisis by including this scene that only further reinforces the “No means YES!” belief far too many college men (and apparently administrators) hold. Like when they chant outside their fraternities and parties “No means yes and yes means anal!” HILARIOUS!!!

Incredibly irresponsible for a film directed by Elizabeth Banks and a scene starring Rebel Wilson, who have been cheered for their feminism, and who are capable of better comedy. Because if there is anything that is not chuckle-fest inducing, it is the fact that one in five women will be raped while trying to get a higher education, usually by men they considered friends or lovers.

That’s not a statistic I’m in love with. Hopefully by the time the film is released, this scene will be cut or reworked.

 

The Words We Choose Matter

Last night at my son’s basketball practice I was chatting with his best friend’s mom while we watched the boys play. My daughter sat in between us playing Minecraft. The other mom and I were commenting on how good one of the boys on the team is — I talking about a first grader hitting three point shots. His skills, follow through after a shot, all of it – he is crazy good. Either he watches a ton of pro ball and is adept at mimicking their moves (similar to how I learned to ride horses) or someone at home is teaching him.

I turned to the other mom and was about to say, “He must have an older brother at home who is a star player and practices with him a lot.” But I caught myself, and changed ‘brother’ to ‘sibling’. Maybe his big sister is the all-star player. Or his mom.

Because what a crummy message to send to my daughter, sandwiched between our conversation, who is too shy to play basketball right now. The words I choose matter. Why give my daughter one more message that the court is only for boys? The court is for people who play basketball.

Casual references to gender matter when our kids are listening to our every word.

Casual references to gender matter when our kids are listening to our every word.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love. If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” here, at your local bookseller or online.

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