When I was a girl there was a popular board game called Pretty, Pretty Princess. Players would move around the board trying to collect jewelry for their royal chest. I don’t remember adults freaking out yet that princess ambitions were destroying little girls. Barbie was the toy in the hot seat and adults quite seriously debated if her exaggerated doll like proportions were causing eating disorders. I just knew I wanted one, and wasn’t allowed.
Now Barbie has revamped to include more body types and more skin tones, and princesses reign supreme. Disney’s marketing choice several years back to have a Disney Princess pantheon was more successful than even they probably imagined. Nearly every young American girl has a princess costume and a tiara. It’s what’s popular these days.
Princesses are often seen as part of a broader “pinkification” trend. That’s what we’ve decided to call gendering toys and marketing some to boys and some to girls. LEGO markets most of their products to boys, but created the pink heavy Elves and Friends lines to market to girls. Toy kitchens come in gender coded pastels. The girls toys aisle is a narrow path beyween towering walls of pink.
But excessive product gendering is nearly as common among adult products, usually coddling the fragile masculinity of grown men. “Manly” TV dinners and soap and hair dye. We probably don’t spend enough time asking if “masculine” packaging encourages hatred of women in men who use them. Little girls are expected to pass up a toy made to appeal to them and choose a toy designed to exclude them. Men are not.
It’s rarer for us to police the actions of men and boys. Generally speaking, we think boys being boys is good, and girls being girls is a serious social issue we should find ways to stop. I’ve always known it was shameful to be a girl, so I played GI Joe and little green army men far more often than I really wanted to. I favored action movies over romances, which I derisively called “chic flicks”. If it’s meant for girls or if girls like it, we will find ways to make them self conscious over it.
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