One of the oddest reactions I see on a regular basis is the laughter elicited when I tell people that I'm a feminist.
I can only guess that it seems like a joke to them because their prototype of a feminist is a ranting woman holding a picket sign, or a female politician attempting to point out why her appointment is historically significant. It saddens me to think not only that someone would laugh at my identification as a feminist, but also that others wouldn't immediately follow suit.
In order to determine whether you're a feminist, you need only answer this simple question: "Do you believe that women should be valued without regard to their gender?" If you answered yes, congratulations! You're a feminist. (If you answered no, please click here.)
With this in mind, you'd think I would spend most of my time battling people who think that women aren't of equal value to men, or who think that women should be treated differently. Sadly, that's not the case. Gone are the days when most people could get away with expressing those ideas, or could even comfortably possess the mindset that brings them about. Instead, the pendulum has swung into a whole different kind of crazy...one that means well, but is just as destructive as outright misogyny. And it calls itself feminism.
A few months ago, the Internet exploded with posts about a "stupendously awesome" new toy company called GoldieBlox that offered toys that supposedly challenge gender stereotypes, and that provide little girls with "toys from a female perspective."
In the ad, a group of little girls (note: one Black, one Asian, and one White) is shown being bored to tears over a television commercial about "pretty little girls." Suddenly each jumps up and begins running around the house after triggering a Rube Goldberg inspired contraption leading throughout their house and yard, all the while singing about how they don't want "pink and pretty," and lamenting that people buy them "dolls," as well as that all their toys "look the same."
The products actually sold by GoldieBlox are barely shown in the video, and when they are, it's only as props in the Goldberg-style set up (which a behind-the-scenes video shows wasn't even set up by the girls in the video, but instead by adults). So far as I can tell, they offer only three toys. One is the original "Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine," which consists of a flat plastic peg-board, several large blocks with peg bottoms, and some little plastic animals, along with a pretty pink ribbon (I'm not kidding!). How such an item is supposed to encourage little girls to become engineers isn't immediately clear, but given the fact that the toy is made from pastel colored materials and includes cute little animals, it's not exactly what I'd call "a challenge to gender stereotypes."
In an act of what can kindly be referred to as contradiction (and, not so kindly, as hypocrisy), I've noticed a rash of online complaints about other products being marketed toward women, these taking a different approach and using gender-based marketing to sell their wares. These include entire sets of tools, carrying bags, gloves, and even tool belts (the latter in smaller sizes that actually fit many women better than the industrial type at your local home store) whose only sin seems to be that they're made in animal prints, and/or pink and pastel colors.
Clearly, these have a market or the companies would have gone out of business, and others wouldn't follow their business model. But that hasn't stopped criticism from the same folks who went gung-ho for the "pink and pretty" toys by GoldieBlox (which seem pretty useless in comparison to a good Erector set, or even some Tinker Toys). Instead, they are castigated as being stereotypical, insulting, and unrealistic. One prominent female skeptic actually said to me, "I've never seen a pink microscope in a lab," when criticizing the set below.
My response was, "Well, I've never seen a building made out of primary colors, but I'm sure the bright red, blue, green, and yellow of Lego attracted more than a few budding architects." (Of course, that was a much stronger argument back before Lego and all the other "creativity" toys came in sets with instructions for making ONE toy, instead of just a bag of squares and rectangles that invited you to invent your own toys.)
At any rate, all this controversy is much ado about nothing. The point of selling products is not to indoctrinate girls and boys, it's to make money. If you don't like the toys being sold, don't buy them and those companies will have no choice but to change their business model or disappear. If your goal is to make your little girl feel she's of equal value to boys, then let her decide whether she likes "pink and pretty" or "rough and tumble," and don't shame her for that choice. It would also be less annoying if you stopped trying to pretend that you know something about gender development; anyone who decries pink and pretty is engaging in misogyny, and sending the message that "it's better to be like a boy." And anyone who does that isn't a feminist.
Now, if you're still convinced that all gender based preferences are learned, CLICK HERE and watch a video that might change your mind.