Some pinkification I can live with… for now

A while back, someone on Twitter pointed me to this GoldieBlox Kickstarter project, excited that finally, someone was doing something to get young girls interested in engineering. In amongst the glut of male-targeted building toys like K’nex and Erector Sets and LEGO, there’s hardly any such thing for girls. None of these toys are inherently boy-oriented (so long as you omit the obvious pun), but all of them are always always ALWAYS advertised for boys with special playsets to build things that boys are enculturated to like, like cars and helicopters and space ships.

There’s often a girls version that is pink, because girls simply aren’t picking up those “boys’ toys”. This offering involves princesses and ponies and none of the things boys “like”. Look at K’nex’ Tinkertoy offering for girls, with its uniquely colored blocks and princess figurines. Or LEGO’s foray which makes the minifigs “pretty” and all the blocks pastel and designed so you can make a French cafe.

These attempts at girlifying this class of toys — let’s call them engineering toys — are often quite maddening in the face of this culture, that has since the turn of the last century wholly entrenched rigid gender roles from the Victorian era. In this culture, where once we looked like we were actually coming out of the woods when LEGO produced ads for their unisex product that were absolutely wonderful and starred little girls as often as little boys, all doing the same things — but have evidently since backslid to an enormous degree. In this culture, where even three year olds can grok the transparent gendered marketing.

So I can totally see why some might lash out at yet another example of pinkification to try to get girls interested in engineering.

But in the case of GoldieBlox, I can live with it.
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Dads to Huggies: “We’re no dummies”.

Huggies Diapers stepped in it bigtime recently, by pulling the same stereotyped crap about single dads you get from every sitcom and movie involving single parent fathers. Dads protested, and Huggies pulled the odious ads.

The “Dad Test” campaign, posted on Facebook and geared towards men, was meant to be funny. The idea behind the campaign, according to Huggies, was to prove that Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything. As the ad’s narrator explains, “We put them to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, along with their babies, in one house, for five days.” They showed hopeless, overwhelmed dads in cliched scenarios (i.e., watching sports, neglecting their babies) as their wives get their nails done and sip tea (how original).

Well, let’s just say that viewers were not amused (and I don’t blame them one bit). They flocked to Facebook with claims they’ll never buy Huggies again, and even created a petition – called “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies,” at Change. org (so far, around 1300 people have signed it). Huggies quickly responded by apologizing, pulling the ads and replacing them with new ones that show dads sitting in gliders and rocking happy babies in their laps.

So now the ads include confident, capable men, and all it took was a campaign to tell Huggies that the “only mothers are parents” bullshit won’t fly. Yet another way traditional gender roles screw things up for men. I’m earmarking this for some hypothetical future sequel to the Disadvantages of Being a Man post.

Yeah, I’m not terribly amused by this either. This is stuff Huggies should be getting right the first time around. Surely they do product surveys, surely they know that men are often buying their products, and surely they know that many of those men are the primary child caregivers. We men are not sports-watchers and beer-swillers by default; we are not incapable of emotions or imbued with toxic masculinity except where we are molded by the same societal gender roles that do so much damage to women. It is in all of our best interests to disassemble these societally enforced ideas, and a diaper company reinforcing them to be “funny” just shows how difficult a proposition it will be.

The Disadvantages of Being a Man

Before I start on this post, nothing I say here is intended to be a slight on people fighting for equality from the perspective of other genders or sexes. I intend this as an acknowledgement of the many ways that men are disadvantaged by the same societal mores that disadvantage women in other, additionally serious (and in many instances more serious) ways. I am a feminist as well as an egalitarian, and I approach these issues with those ideals as my starting point. This is in no way an attempt at drawing a false equivalency between the issues the various genders and sexes encounter.

The patriarchal society we find ourselves in today is a significantly eroded one, where the patriarchy finds itself under attack from almost every angle, but it remains a patriarchy still. Thanks to the monumental efforts of the feminist and civil rights movements, not to mention the recent secular pushback against religious authoritarianism and its adherents’ less than progressive ideals about women’s role in society, what was once a society that prided itself on its white male hegemony is now a more pluralistic one, though far from egalitarian. This patriarchy still exists, and societal pressure for men and women to conform to specific gender roles still has the very inertial effect on forestalling progressive change.

And while these gender roles have many powerful side-effects with regards to women and their sexual self-determination, men are not wholly insulated from the splash damage. In fact, I strongly believe that these gender roles are largely responsible for all of the gender related issues that all sexes and genders experience today.
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