It seems that the theme of this week is my revisiting of blog topics that I’ve already written about because just when I thought I’d finally committed Samantha Brick to the far reaches of my memory never to be disturbed again, along she comes and messes everything up with another ridiculous piece of ‘journalism’.
Just when I thought I’d addressed how stupid it is that Lego are making bricks for girls, that Bic are making pens for girls, and that marketing generally just cannot function if it doesn’t make separate things for girls, then along come Hasbro and piss me off all over again.
Oh, Hasbro. I’m so disappointed in you. I mean, Lego was an insult but Play-Doh?! Is nothing sacred?!
When I was younger, aside from Lego, Play-Doh was the powerhouse of imagination. You wanted a bright purple dinosaur with black spaghetti hair; no problem! A green dog with yellow stars on; why not! A crusty piece of orange Play-Doh irrevocably squashed into the living room carpet; inevitable! A child had endless possibilities and numerous realms at their fingertips with a simple pot of Play-Doh and a little plastic mould to push it through.
What was so wrong with that? What needed fixing, guys?
If you haven’t already heard, Hasbro have decided to launch a line of gender specific Play-Doh sets because apparently young girls all across the land are screaming their heads off at their parents’ inability to provide them with only pink and glittery objects. Lego are already at it and now it seems that no toy will ever escape this ‘girlification’ (to coin a phrase).
I’ve already written about Lego’s tricks and my arguments remain very much the same for Hasbro. Not every girls toy has to be pink or lilac or glittery or pastel-y and if it is deemed absolutely vital to the survival of the Play-Doh empire, then why not add these colours to the ‘normal’ sets for everyone to play with? There are also obvious issues concerning the way in which girls’ imaginations are being corralled into building the same old shit all of the time. I bet if I asked you to name three things a ‘girl’ could make with Play-Doh you’d nail one of the new Hasbro sets straight off. Yep, it’s princesses!! How could it not be fucking princesses. Consequently, this emphasis on princesses raises class issues regarding women’s financial independence and promotes the age-old stereotype of dependency on men. In turn, this educates girls that passivity is what is expected of them and that if they look pretty enough a nice man will ride along on a gleaming horse with a rose between his teeth and sweep them off their dainty, sparkly feet.
However, what Hasbro have really done with their gender-specific toys is bring to the fore an issue which has been irritating me for some time now; the ‘othering’ of women. This is something which has been simmering at the forefront of my mind of recent and Hasbro’s announcement was what brought it to a rampaging slam against my frontal lobe this afternoon.
Time and time again there are implicit examples of women being something other than ‘normal’ and these sneaky messengers of patriarchy are all the proof I need to be absolutely sure that feminism is still relevant. Take, for example, the Aintree Grand National this year which featured one single female jockey, Katie Walsh. Whilst this is an absolutely fantastic achievement in such a male-dominated field, one which is well-worthy of recognition, that recognition was simultaneously undermined by continuous reference to her gender in any context where it might not be entirely necessary.
In the undoubtedly numerous times that Katie was asked “what it’s like to be a female jockey”, she replied by stating that she didn’t feel any different to any other jockey. That she was riding the race as a jockey, not as a woman. She considered herself to be on an entirely level playing field with the male jockeys, something which was more than proven with her third place finish the previous year. That said, references to her gender were plentiful and, when the jockeys walked out onto the course, Katie was the only jockey with a title before her name. So whilst her brother featured as simply “Ruby Walsh” (a name that could arguably be confused for a female name), Katie featured as “Ms. Katie Walsh”.
Whilst this was probably unnoticed by most and seems rather irrelevant to those who did notice, it really annoyed me. The fact that Katie was deemed to require a title before her name simply served to differentiate her from the rest of the competitors and highlighted that there was something a little different about this jockey. The male jockeys were considered the ‘normal’, ‘default’ field whereas Katie was the anomaly, the odd-one-out. If Katie were considered truly equal, the title before her name may not have been considered at all.
The same goes for Hasbro and their gendered Play-Doh. Where the ‘normal’ playset is gender-neutral (i.e. for boys), the ‘out of the ordinary’ playset is marketed towards girls. This ‘othering’ of femaleness may seem fairly innocuous but it is a duplicitous force that constantly works against the equality that feminists are trying to achieve.
No I don’t hate princesses (that much), or think that pink should be banned for all eternity never to be witnessed by the human eye again. Yes, I am aware that these products absolutely fly of the shelves (that is an argument of socialisation that is best left for another time). I am also aware that marketing dictates ‘toys for boys’ and this most likely excludes them from the princesses playset. However, I dont want to accept this continuing male solipsism and I’m calling out this bullshit.
So whilst this is sexism in its daintiest, prettiest, sparkliest form, do not be fooled dear friends.
A glittery turd may be easier to look at, but it’s still a turd.