Sexy?! For the life of me, cannot understand why and when it became appropriate for children’s toys to be sexy. From a marketing standpoint I get the historical trajectory, but why did parents allow it? When will we start to fight back? Take a stand for our children?
I hear a lot of parents say, “Well, I played with Barbie and I turned out fine.” That may be, but the toys our children play with today are not like we nostalgically remember them.
Take a look….Here’s a cross post from Feminist Fatale:
(reprinted with permission)
I’m not ashamed to admit, I have a bit of an obsession with the 80’s. I grew up in the decade, spent plenty of time listening to the music of the time, and have seen VH1’s entire I Love The 80’s series more times than I can count. I toted my books to school in my Lisa Frank backpack, wrote on the stationary, used the pens and pencils, all decorated with trippy-neon penguins, polar bears, dolphins. So last week when I read on Jezebel, that Lisa Frank school products have received an update, I was incredibly disappointed to learn that the brand has traded in fushia and purple unicorns for images that better resemble Bratz dolls.
Unfortunately this is just the newest in a string of recent “makeovers” that 80s toys and cartoons have received:
Polly Pocket’s wardrobe now consists of high heels, miniskirts, midriff tops, and knee-hits, and she’s no longer, uh, pocket sized.
Care Bears have been given flat bellies and long eyelashes.
Rainbow Bright was slimmed down and put in a stylish minidress, with long, flowing, model-style hair.
Strawberry Shortcake was slimmed down and made up too.
My Little Pony looks like she just got back from a shopping trip to Sephora.
And of course, the aforementioned Lisa Frank.
Which, of course raises the question – what messages are these toys and cartoons sending to young girls growing up today? I didn’t learn to loathe my body until I reached adolescence. Seventeen would offer diet tips. YM had a hair and make-up section, I began watching MTV after school. It was nearly impossible not to be influenced by this barrage of imagery, to not covet having “Cosmo cover hair” or wish for the body of a Calvin Klein model – I was too fat, I needed make-up, and hairpsray, my hair was too flat, I should diet, and exercise, and get trendy clothes.
However, before that time, it was all watching Family Double Dare on Nickelodeon, playing Sonic the Hedgehog, and Highlights subscriptions. Unfortunately with the “makeovers” these toys have received, girls are receiving these messages at a much earlier age. I’m not saying Rainbow Bright and Polly Pocket were perfect – I am saying however, that I didn’t feel “eyelash envy” towards the Care Bears. Girls today are surrounded by images of made-up, manicured, trendy dressing, model like figures – most of whom are sexualized – their school supplies and toys are covered in cartoons of girls in mini-dresses and high heels with giant heads and tiny little bodies; they turn on the TV and see Hannah Montana working a stripper pole during an awards show. The issue is that the influence is beginning younger than ever. I played with the aforementioned toys when I was in elementary school; we’re talking 2nd-3rd grade.
So, considering all this – is it really so surprising that 7 year olds today want to gyrate on stage in clothes more revealing than Julia Robert’s get-up in Pretty Woman? Everyone needs to step it up. Toy manufacturers – stop sexualizing toys! Let kids be wholesome for like, 5 minutes before they start feeling shitty about themselves. Anyone who buys toys for kids (whether it’s for the classroom, for daycare, or for their toy chest at home) – stop buying it. The less you buy, the less money the manufacturer makes, and if they’re making no profit off of Bratz Babyz, then maybe they’ll stop producing them.
Note: Dora the Explorer’s make-over was not mentioned in the post because she is a 90s doll. But her transformation is note-worthy.