5 Ridiculously Sexist Ways Toy Companies Are Targeting Kids
Marketing products to children isn't particularly hard. Just throw a bunch of skateboards and neon backwards caps into your commercial and kids will want the shit out of whatever you're selling. But for some reason, plenty of companies out there still think that little girls want nothing to do with things like LEGOs or NERF guns unless they're covered in purple glitter and teach them how to get a boyfriend.
Barbie I Can Be a Computer Engineer Book Is About Asking Men to Program Computers for You
Barbie has spent the past several years trying to overcome the stigma of portraying harmfully unrealistic standards for little girls, as most Barbie dolls (even the ones in assertive roles, like Doctor Barbie or Pantsuit Barbie) are little more than skeletal breast mannequins wearing different costumes. One Barbie storybook, 2010's I Can Be a Computer Engineer, showed particular progressive promise, however, as it ostensibly depicts Barbie working in a field that is often presented as aggressively off-limits to girls.
"We were going to include a talking toy, but she would only say, "Have you tried turning it on and off?"
Look at that shit. Barbie is so into computers she's wearing them on her goddamned shirt. She's sharing the body-destroying diet of giant sodas and sodium-laced take-out food enjoyed by most programmers, and there's even binary code on the monitor in the background. This might actually succeed in showing little girls that there is plenty of room for them to work in a male-dominated field like software engineering. Let's see how long it takes for them to fuck it up completely.
"Like pink and ... pink."
So far, so good. Sounds like a pretty simple game, but we weren't expecting Barbie to design the next Civilization on her first go.
Barbie's last name is Jobs, apparently.
Uh ... OK. Maybe Barbie's the project leader and they're just trying to make the point that even the simplest games are typically made by teams of people. We're positive this book isn't just about Barbie drawing a bunch of dog pictures and then telling two other people to turn it into a game. That's not what a computer engineer does.
"Then I did the ears of everyone else in this house a favor."
Neither is getting a virus on your flash drive and immediately spreading it to your sister's computer. Skipper looks like she barely understands that computers aren't powered by magic. But that's still fine, we guess. Anyone can get a virus, even people who spend all day working with computers. Maybe this is where the "I can be a computer engineer" part of the book's title comes into play.
Well, not unless the title is referring to Barbie's male friends, because Barbie takes the laptop to Brian and Steven and makes them do all the work.
We don't think unplugging the monitor is going to help, Brian.
It should be noted that these are the same two guys Barbie was planning to have design her video game. Brian and Steven fix everything Barbie destroyed, and the authors of this book somehow thought that this was a positive story encouraging girls to break into computer programming. It should've been called I Can Make Other People Do All My Work for Me, or Silly Girl Ruins Everything: A Harrowing Story of Being Rescued From Destructive Idiocy by Male Heroes.
LEGO Stops Being Sexist for a "Limited Edition," Continues Being Sexist Afterward
Odds are LEGOs were part of your childhood in some way, whether you used them to build fanciful landscapes that immediately began collecting dust on your dresser or sucked them up in your parents' vacuum after they'd long since ceased to delight you. If you're the type of insane person who thought LEGO caters only to little boys, prepare to be dazzled, because LEGO proudly offers several playsets designed to nurture the creativity of little girls, such as this exciting shopping mall complete with what appears to be a tennis commercial and some kind of dipshit Subaru:
As if anyone would want to shop at a mall with a DJ.
If that isn't enough to challenge them, how about this juice bar? Because 7-year-old girls would much rather play with a Kale-ribbean Breeze Organic Liquid Diet stand than the Millennium Falcon or a fucking pirate ship:
"You too can live the thrill of dipshits asking, 'How local is locally grown?'!"
When consumers pointed out that they'd like their daughters to aspire to more than just hanging out at the mall all day while refusing to eat solid foods, LEGO responded by putting out a "limited edition" research institute set featuring sisters doing it for themselves in the fields of paleontology, chemistry, and astronomy.
The magnifying glass and the dinosaur are not to scale.
So you see, LEGO is an inspiring example of a company listening to their customers and deciding to make a progressive change in their product line- oh, never mind. Remember how we said this was a limited edition set? Yeah, that means you can't buy it anymore. Much like their Ghostbusters and Back to the Future sets, women working in the sciences was an elaborate one-time fantasy.
Despite the set's positive reception and the fact that it completely sold out in just a few days, LEGO heroically decided their good deed was done and went right back to selling girls shopping malls and juice stands, leaving the female scientists of the LEGO Research Institute as a charming collector's item, a relic of a time when women could have careers outside of shopping.
Boys: Be a Superhero; Girls: Marry a Superhero
If there's one thing the worldwide box office grosses of The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy have taught us, it's that everyone loves superheroes. Wearing an elaborate costume and zooming around a major metropolis and/or the galaxy punching villainy in its nefarious jawbone is something that appeals to people of any age or gender.
Wisely looking to capitalize on the nearly universal appeal of heroes like Batman and Superman, Walmart and Target decided to sell T-shirts proudly reminding young girls that if they work hard and believe in themselves, they could someday grow up to be Batman's wife. On the scale of motivational clothing, this ranks somewhere between a blouse that says "Future Alimony Payment" and a pair of sandals with a bottle opener in the heel.
It originally said "Side-Piece When Catwoman and Talia Aren't Available."
We're not entirely sure what training to be Batman's wife would involve outside of being hyper-aware of any bookcase in the house that might actually be a secret door and to never open any mail with a question mark as the return address.
To be fair, the wearing of that shirt requires a conscious decision to advertise as many uncomfortable truths about yourself as you can in five words. But infants wearing these onesies from Target have absolutely no say in choosing the poop-catching garment their parents stuff them into:
When asked for comment, Superman just did this.
So, if you're a little boy, you could possibly grow up to be a photosynthetic alien, but if you're a little girl, the absolute ceiling is leaving a toothbrush at Superman's apartment. Also, announcing your child's dating preferences before she's even old enough to ride a roller coaster seems more than a little creepy.
Are there really no superheroes for little girls to look up to? Guardians of the Galaxy features the tough-talking assassin Gamora, an intergalactic ass-whooping machine. Surely Disney had the foresight to put her on a T-shirt or something to reach out to their female audience through the sea of white-male-sameness that is superhero movies.
If this children's birthday party pack is any indication, the answer is a resounding "nope." Gamora is conspicuously removed from every single item except for the napkins, which is almost more insulting than not being included at all. Disney apparently believes that 1) girls do not have superhero birthday parties, and 2) the sight of a female character would instantly ruin any little boy's birthday, unless he is using that female to wipe sweaty ice cream goop from his terrible face.
But at least we can always count on Spider-Man:
"We've made sure there is literally no part of this franchise that won't leave you disappointed in us."
Those are Happy Meal toys for Spider-Man's latest feature-length action-figure commercial, which for some inexplicable reason are gender-specific. Yes, if you ask for a "standard" or "boy's" Happy Meal, you get a cool car, toy, or Spidey mask. If you're one of the unfortunate bastards who has to endure a "girl's" Happy Meal, you get a bunch of pink office supplies or a headband.
NERF Thinks Girls Want Sparkly Guns
NERF recently decided to unleash a line of foam weaponry specifically for girls, because for some reason the thought of a giant dart machine gun appealing to females without being painted pink or named something involving the word "unicorn" was inconceivable to them.
If only there were some current, badass, female archer character they could have based this line around ...
This glittery crossbow, the Diamondista, is part of the Rebelle line of NERF guns, fun dart guns for the girl who appreciates being constantly reminded of her social responsibility to be pretty and sparkly regardless of what she is doing. There's also the Dolphina, in case you've ever wanted to shoot your friends with a Lisa Frank binder, as well as the Heartbreaker and Sweet Revenge, which comes with a pair of Sonny Crockett sunglasses.
To help hide the disappointment in your child's eyes.
Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with packaging sunglasses with NERF guns. We believe that you should wear sunglasses while doing any activity that involves a high potential for action-movie puns, and diving into a dart-gun melee with your friends is firmly within that category. However, let's take a look at the product description for the Sweet Revenge:
This "chic kit" has everything you need for "high-style missions," including a "fashionable blaster," because "who says you can't look stylish while you suit up for Rebelle action?" Put that all together and "you'll be the sassiest warrior on duty," because, as we all know, sassiness is a high priority when you're shooting your friends in the face.
NERF says the Rebelle line is intended to connect with today's fashion-conscious and socially connected girls, citing recent teen film heroines like Katniss Everdeen as inspiration for the toys. This makes total sense, as those of you who have seen The Hunger Games no doubt remember the white-knuckle action sequence wherein Katniss pelts her adversaries with a sparkling purple compound bow.
Department Store Thinks Girls Want Money and Anorexia
Dillard's department store has the perfect gift for the special little girl on your list who isn't quite sure what to ask Santa for this year -- a shrine to hollow vanity:
Maybe the guy described as having a belly like a "bowl full of jelly" isn't the guy you want
to be advocating fat-shaming to.
Children don't really understand ironic self-hatred, yet this fanciful gift item was found in the girls' section of a Dillard's. Perhaps more confusing than the negative body image the sign encourages is the fact that somebody at the store thought there were children out there who would enjoy getting a sign for Christmas.
In fairness, a spokeswoman for Dillard's claimed that the sign was supposed to be in a different department (presumably the "things that your insufferable co-workers will buy for the office" department), where adults who enjoy terrible jokes and the comic strip Cathy do their shopping. But, for whatever reason, it was stocked right next to the dolls and stuffed animals. After the backlash, Dillard's went ahead and removed the sign entirely from all of their stores, presumably realizing that no one, regardless of age or gender, would be excited to unwrap that fucking thing on Christmas morning.
You can read more from Mark at his website.
For more playthings of the damned, check out 27 Famous Childhood Toys That Are Terrifying in Retrospect and 10 Old Toys That Made Sense in Their Era (and Nowhere Else).