It’s Not Fair

Oops I meant to publish this months ago. Oh-well here’s a look back from August.

Tonight my 8-year-old son experienced blatant gender discrimination and I was helpless to stop it. One of his best friends (who happens to be a girl) had her birthday party today and although he was invited to the daytime party all the other guest (who happened to be girls) were invite to sleep over and he was not. When I told him it was time to leave the party while all the other guest were allowed to stay he protested “but they are just about to start the freeze dance contest.” “I know buddy but we need to get home.” I replied. When we got home he went to his room and began to sob “it’s just not fair, everyone gets to have a sleepover but me.”

I feel horrible because he’s right, it’s not fair! I have  no problem with co-ed sleepovers at his age. The birthday girl’s mother feels the same way, but she doesn’t think all of the other guest’s parent’s would be comfortable with the idea, and she’s probably right. Before we left the party we made plans for him and the birthday girl to have a sleepover, just the 2 of them, before the summer’s over. Although that helped a little, now we are home and he is sitting on his bed sobbing.

So I sit sown next to him and say “I know it sucks and your pissed off. Your right it’s not fair, but that’s the way it happened this time. So go ahead and be pissed off, cry for as long as you need to, and when your done go brush your teeth and go to bed. Because there is nothing else we can do about it tonight.”

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The Rules of The Game

This morning my 5-year-old son brought me a new board game, he got for Christmas, and asked me if we could play it. I started pulling out the game and his brother and sister joined us at the table, to play their new game. As they started to set it up I found the instructions and started to read them out loud. I didn’t get very far before I noticed a problem with the language used to describe the game play. Luckily I was able to adapt and make the necessary changes while I read the instructions aloud to my children. “Pop N Hop The popping, hopping race ‘n’ chase game. Object of the game: To be the first player to get all of his their playing pieces “HOME”. Set-up: Give each player four playing pieces of the same color as his/her (they managed to do it here, why couldn’t they continue through the rest?) corner of the board. These are then placed in the four corner spaces. Each player in turn pops the die. The player popping the highest number will begin the game with all the other players following in a clockwise pattern. Playing: Before a player can move a laying piece out of his their corner he they must first pop a “6”. He They then move a playing piece onto his their “arrow” space, immediately take another pop and may move this or any of his their other playing pieces already in play. A pop of “6” always entitles a player to another pop. If a playing piece ends by landing on a space already occupied by an opponents playing piece then the opponent must return his their piece to one of his their corner spaces. This playing piece can only then be brought back into play with a pop of “6”. A playing piece cannot end its move on a space already occupied by a playing piece of its own color. Another pop of the die must be used, even if this is to the player’s disadvantage. When a playing piece has made one full rotation around the board it enters its own colored “Home”. The opponents’ playing pieces are not permitted on this path. An exact pop is required when moving into “HOME”. Winning the Game: The first player to get all of his their playing pieces “HOME” is the winner.”

After I read my kids the modified rules of the game we proceeded to play. All three of them, including my daughter, had a lot of fun playing the game. Once we finished playing and they were otherwise occupied I began looking into the company that makes the game. I went to their website in preparation for alerting them to my concerns about the noninclusive language used in the games rules. I typed “rules” into their search engine to see how the language used in their other games compared. The search yielded 346 results.  I skimmed the rules of the first 20 results in the search and all but 3 of the “rules of the game” results used gender neutral language to describe game play. The “Green Lantern Dominoes” rules even used the phrasing “her/his” when describing game play. Unfortunately the “Green Lantern Who’s Who” game used only masculine pronouns when describing game players, as did the “Disney Mastermind Towers” game. The third was the “Disney Fairies” game, which used only feminine pronouns in the rules.  I did not read the rest of the 326 results, but it is my hope that someone at the company will. There is no reason for these games not to use gender neutral and/or inclusive language. When they refer to only one gender playing their game, at best they exclude part of their customer base and at worst incur the wrath of an angry feminist (I guess that’d be me), who will bring their company bad publicity. I wrote the company a letter and I encourage anyone who shares my concerns to do the same, their address is: Pressman Toy Corporation, 3701 W. Plano Pkwy STE 100, Plano, TX 75075. I will update this post if and when I get a response from the company.

A letter to the Pressman Toy Corporation

This is the letter I wrote to the Pressman Toy Corporation, 3701 W. Plano Pkwy STE 100, Plano, TX 75075.

To whom ever is in charge of overseeing quality control,

My child received the “Pop N Hop” board game as a Christmas gift and I was very disappointed that the “Game Rules” referred  to players, playing the game, using masculine pronouns. For example, “The first player to get all his playing pieces “HOME” is the winner.”  I went to your company’s website and typed “rules” into the search engine to see how the language used in your other games compared, the search yielded 346 results.  I skimmed the rules of the first 20 results in the search and all but 3 of the “rules of the game” results used gender neutral language to describe game play.  The  “Green Lantern Who’s Who” game used only masculine pronouns when describing game players, as did the “Disney Mastermind Towers” game. The third was the “Disney Fairies” game, which used only feminine pronouns in the rules.  I did not read the rest of the 326 results, but it is my hope that someone at your company will. I see no reason for these games not to use gender neutral and/or inclusive language, since if you refer to only one gender playing a game you exclude part of your customer base. Also there are many organizations that will help to bring good or bad publicity to a company based on how they handle concerns, their customers have, about gender representation. It is my hope that receiving this letter will put this issue on your radar and that your company will take steps to ensure that the person, who is writing the “Game Rules”, will use language that is inclusive to whomever may end up playing the game.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Nancy

The New Goldie Blox Doll

Today my social media feeds have been filled with opinions of the new Goldie Blox doll.

 Here’s the ad parodying Apple’s ad featuring a 1984 theme.

So many critics are crying “It’s not enough! She’s white, thin and pretty, so this is just more of the same.” Now I agree that the doll could do more to be more inclusive of difernt body types and minorities .  To the company’s credit they have included characters from different races in some of their previous products, so I suspect that if this first doll takes off then there will be more from different backgrounds to follow.  However I couldn’t disagree more with the “more of the same” claim, for one simple reason… SHE HAS TOOLS! I have never seen a fashion doll with a tools, have you. I decided to find out how hard it would be to find a doll with  tools. So I typed “doll with tools” into a search engine and got lots of Handy Many.  Well I guess that’s something. If you look closely you can see Kelly, a female hardware store owner, in the window.

hm

I decided that searching the entire internet would be too daunting so instead I conducted a search on Amazon.

I searched under the category “dolls and accessories” for “tool” and  yielded 59 pages of results, at least that’s slightly more manageable.  As I began skimming the results I saw many of them had absolutely nothing to do with tools, things like bottles of milk, cloths and for some reason adult sex dolls came up in this search. There were also a lot of fashion and beauty tools for dolls in this search, but very few examples of things resembling actual construction tools. One interesting thing I did find quite a few of, were accessories for hobby doll houses, that could in theory be purchased as accessories for a fashion doll. But  toys that are constructed for hobbyist they might not hold up in the hands of a child playing with them. This horse grooming tool set did catch my eye as it resembles an actual tool box.

horse

It’s from the Breyer horse collection so I decided to look more into these toys to see if I could find a doll that came with tools. I found only one:

bs

 

By the way here’s a picture of my own sons watching a female blacksmith in action,

they thought she was awesome.

2014-10-05 12.35.41

 

The Breyer doll was not the only “tool man” I found.

There was this porcelain doll titled “Tools Make the Man”

tools make the man

 

I also found the “Caring Corners Dollhouse Fix-It Fun – African American”handy man

 And then there was this gem from Barbie

ken

Of course the tools are meant for Ken and even included this product description; “This set contains all the tools Ken needs for Barbie’s “Honey Do” list and Tommy’s toy project!”

Nowhere in my search did I find a female doll, with tools, ready to build something. So in that regard I’d say the Goldie Blox doll is not more of the same. goldie

I realize that my search on Amazon is not the final word on whether or not there are any other female dolls with tools but I think searching through 59 pages in hopes of finding one is more effort than the average person, looking to buy a doll for a kid, would put forth. Most will just walk down the pink aisle at a store, or search for “girl toys” on a website. It is here that the need for this toy is seen, because it has the potential to come up in one of those searches. If anyone reading this is aware of another doll that has her own set of tools please let me know. Not only will I put effort into promoting it, I’d like to buy one to play with for my kids to play with.

If you asked one of my kids ” Who builds things, a mommy or a daddy?” they would answer “a mommy” because this is the norm they have been exposed to in our home. Carpentry is one of my favorite hobbies (that I wish I had more time and money to put into) and because of this, in our home, I’m considered the fixer. This is one gender role that I love to see my kids mirroring in their play. My kids have always had toy tools to play with and my oldest (8) has his own set of real tools, he uses when we do projects together. I wholeheartedly believe that becoming comfortable with tools in hand, should be a part of growing up for every child.

So tools have always been a popular play theme here. Since my daughter (2) will probably take an interest in fashion dolls as she gets older (when she sees all of the other girls playing with them), it’s obvious why I would love to see them combined. However I see this as being bigger than my own family. Right now there  is a big push to get girls interested in STEM fields, and although I think it’s wonderful,  I think that there needs to be more tools for our girls to use other than Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Our girls need exposure to actual tools! Working in STEM professions often requires working with tools, but also not everyone will become successful scientist. Realistically speaking some of them will enter the workforce as blue-collar workers or skilled laborers.

When these people find themselves entering the work force, relying on the talents and skills they already have, what professions will those skills lend themselves to? How many female auto mechanics have you ever seen? I’ve never met one, yet I know they exist, so I looked it up and found numbers ranging from 1% to less than 2%. Women construction workers are  only slightly more common, making up 2.6% of the total. “The construction industry offers a growing number of well-paying jobs for individuals without college or graduate school training. According to an article on high-employment-growth firms by the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, among 20 different industries, construction is the nation’s fifth-largest contributor to job creation, generating more than 300,000 jobs from 2009 through 2012. Construction jobs often represent a means of entry into the American middle class.” Why are so few women doing these jobs? One reason may be that they don’t want to deal with the sexism that is prevalent in male dominated professions, but I’m sure the majority just never saw themselves doing a job like that.  Most people in these professions can recall childhood memories of working with tools, memories that far too few girls have.

So yes I think this white, thin and pretty little doll holding a wrench in hand is a good first step, towards getting the image of a girl with a tool, to be seen as less of a strange concept. Hopefully if their sales are good the company will put out more Goldie dolls (hopefully with more elaborate tool boxes) along with some of her more diverse friends. Unfortunately products that are drastically different from what’s out there don’t experience the kind of growth that Goldie Blox has seen. This company has managed to go from a Kickstarter project to being on Toys R Us shelves in less than a year. I think they have managed to do this by being just different enough from other toys marketed to girls while reaming familiar to what people are used to. After all the toy with the perfect ratio of diversity, encouragement and empowerment is useless to the child who doesn’t get to play with it.

 

NEWS FLASH: Feminist Feels Torn!

fbom

This viral video, put out by FCKH8, has left me feeling torn (I know, it’s a pretty natural state for most of us). Many advocates of women’s rights have spoken out very harshly against the ad. Personally I found the ad cheesy and forced. The video relied  heavily on it being shocking to hear little girls swearing. I didn’t find anything about the ad shocking, but it didn’t say anything I haven’t heard many times before. So, for me, the conundrum this ad leaves me pondering is; Where is the line. I don’t think this ad crosses it, but somewhere there is a line between successfully promoting your cause and losing sight of it. It’s sad that so much of the media, that has catapulted women’s issues into the forefront of public consciousness, dances so close to this line. Reel Girl Says in her blog post about the video “..in order for the world to change, people other than me have to ‘get it.’ If it’s just me with my ‘original’ idea that I’m going for, all I have is my ego, and that is a lonely, static, boring place to be plus nothing much changes at all.” There are so many wonderful and empowering pieces out there, but if they aren’t seen they can’t serve their cause. The only thing I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, is if the goal was to get people talking about it then mission accomplished.  

Tangible

By now you have probably heard (or at least heard about)  Emma Watson’s UN speech on feminism and gender stereotypes. If you haven’t I would highly recommend you take a few minutes to listen to it, it’s quite inspirational.

emma watson

I love how she uses the word “tangible” in her speech. I think coming up with measures that have the best shot at success is such an important, and often overlooked, part of what needs to be done.  We can scream about and gather all the statistics on domestic abuse, wage gap, street harassment, rape, STEM fields and may other parts of women’s everyone’s lives that are negatively effected by sexism. But until we can come up with tangible steps that can be taken, not much will change. Unfortunately every time we yell about a problem facing us some one else, with hate in their heart, yells back. Every time we post one of those statistics they post reasons why they are invalided. Every time we try to lead others down the path to equality they try to put up roadblocks. In fact in response to Emma Watson addressing the UN, they have unleashed death threats, rape threats, and website counting down the release of nude photos.  To achieve a truly equal society than we need to do more than just want it. We need to do what those spewing hate can not, we need to take action.

Here is what Melissa Atkins Wardy, Author of “Redefining Girly” has to say on the matter, “Our energy has to be spent on truly empowering our girls, which extends beyond facebook memes and movie characters and cleverly-marketed toys. It is the daily, sometimes grueling work of instilling in our daughters an unshakable knowledge that she has worth. Everything else in the world will tell her otherwise.”

“Our energy must also be spent on our sons, which is an often overlooked yet absurdly obvious answer to the problem of a culture of men who threaten through internet comments unspeakable sexual crimes against women, who create a color-coded system to give girls date rape drugs, or who fail to take a stand against other men who beat women senseless. And that’s just this week’s headlines. Our energy must go into expanding the current definition of what it means to be masculine, so that our boys can grow into men who are allowed to be full human beings for whom having emotions and feelings is acceptable. We can teach our sons that violence is not a path to power. We can instill in our sons an unshakable truth that girls and women have value.”

“…as a society of mothers and fathers who take responsibility for our collective children turning out to be good people.”

I have made myself a promise that I will take action. This has been my motivation behind advocating for Women’s Empowerment Week. I know this can be a tangible measure that can be taken. I will not just sit back and shake my head. I will put what ever I can into this cause . If I give it my all then, even if I fail, I will be able to look back some day and say “I tried”. If I never tried then I would only be able to look back and say “maybe I could have”.

Sight Words

As part of the reading curriculum at my children’s school, they need to learn to instantly recognize all of the words on their “Sight Words” list. This is a list of the most common words they will encounter while they are reading in class.

This is the “Sight Words” list that came home with my 5-year-old son.

scan0002You’ll notice the list contains “his” and “he” but “hers” and “she”. At face value it’s easy to see the unfairness in only teaching the children masculine pronouns and not feminine ones, but this list represents a much deeper issue. Since the words on this list reflect the words that the kids will be reading the most often, you can conclude that stories about girls are under represented in the curriculum.

I know it’s not the teachers fault. They get this list and well as much of the required reading materials from the district, but again that represents a much deeper issue.

 Update 8/28/14: It has been brought up to me, by members of the Pigtail Pals community, that this list may be just the first in a series and the feminine pronouns may be coming later on. I appreciate all the feed back I received and when I talk to the teacher I will definitely lead off with asking if there are more list coming home in the future. When I talk to her I will use the lack of “she” and “hers” as a jumping off point to inquire about how often they read about female characters in class.