November 21, 2013

Girls: A Rant

I'm sure you've all seen this beautiful video circulating around the interwebs at the moment:
First of all, let me highlight just how awesome this video is. Yes, thank you, finally! Not only has the song been stuck in my head all day, the video has also really got me thinking about something that has always been nagging at me: someone wants me to want dolls, and I don't like them.

Not that I have anything against dolls, per say. It's the gender stereotyping that I have issue with, Something I think pretty much everyone can agree with me on. The fact that the christmas catalogues have already arrived, and the "girls toys" look the same as every year... and don't seem to have very much range. From the kitchenette to the play house set, along with the princess costumes, and last but not least the pink "computer" (that plays songs about being spechal and dainty and darling), while the boys have all the awesome lego kits and chemistry sets. Sure, of course you're trying to make it even over those gender lines - so long as guys are alright playing with pink, right?

I think the worst culprit by far is TV. Not having Tv at home growing up, my sister and I received gifts from our parents (telescope, trampoline...) and gifts from family back home (dolls, barbies, play tea party sets...) which were lovely, but not our type.
Not that we complained (if we did, I cant remember). Our barbies went on intergalactic voyages to save creatures from evil super villains, and our dolls developed superpowers and fought for justice and peace. We got into playmobil - great variety in playmobil - and found our father's legos, and created cities which were fighting to remain sustainable with their refusal to run on oil. I even remmeber my dad had something called a marble maze, a game made up of stackable wood blocks you could set up so that a tiny marble would roll from point a to point b.

Today I'm enrolled in a university so that I can study Astrophysics and astronomy. My sister is considering going into 3D animation.

Living in the house with a 7 year old now, I see a side of TV I never experienced growing up. The TV that lures you in with fun and flashy shows only to try and sell you something you don't want or need until they tell you that you do. These advertisements have one goal: getting the kid to nag. To beg their parents for this toy.
The people behind these ads want to make something that sells. They generalize their audience (girls = pink future homemakers) and decide what they're going to want. And then they tell them what they want.
And some of those shows are no better. Only a third of animated characters are girls, and something like 10% of those girls are actually leading characters in a show. The rest of the time, the ladies are in the background, being, well, the background. Infusing this stereotype that girls want to shop, shop, shop; that we want clothes and shoes and hats and tiny dogs. No wonder so many of us grow up just like them: they're the people we see, and look up to. Isn't it strange how kids will watch a show with characters just over their age group? It's always easier to sell to a market you've created.

And then we have our science shows - wonderful, inspirational educational shows... hosted by, you guessed it, men. I have no problem with the men hosting those shows: as a matter of fact, I look up to them. Carl Sagan; Bill Nye; Neil deGrasse Tyson. They are some of the people that encouraged me to go into science. But man, I sure wish there was a girl in there.
Of course, there are many programs that are trying to encourage women to go into STEM programs. (Natalie Portman is doing fabulous things, check her out!) Their intentions are pure; but they're missing one key factor. Once the kids have reached middle school, it's going to be tough to tell them that their TV personalities have told them wrong. That they're cut short. That they can be the pretty girl, and the scientist at the same time!

I don't call myself a feminist. I'm just expressing a fact: those young girls aren't going to fell the freedom to ask questions, to be curious, or to be creative if we're telling them to spend their time focusing on something else.
I would point them to Hermione Granger. I would point them to Violet Baudelaire. I would point them to Katniss Everdeen. These women are heroes, and not defined by their sex, but by their actions. Smart. Women.

Until that day when every girl can grow up knowing that she can engineer that, I will keep making noise.


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