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My Pink Heaven

By Alice Bradley

Ladies, I have the perfect gift for the young, unformed girl in your life: Hasbro’s Rose Petal Cottage. The Rose Petal Cottage is advertised as part of the “Dream Town collection,” although there’s no other part of this “town” for sale. There are no other homes, no post office or fire station—just a yawning abyss outside your flimsy fabric door. Welcome home! Don’t bother leaving!

The Rose Petal Cottage “help[s] little homemakers feel right at home,” according to Hasbro’s website. When it’s time for your little mama-in-training to bake her plastic muffins, she can enjoy an oven that really opens and buttons that really turn! Which is good, because nothing make a girl reach for Pretend-Mother’s Little Helper like a piece of crap toy stove that won’t even open, damn it. While her “muffins” are “baking” and she’s staring out the window pondering the soul-sucking monotony that is her daily existence, she can soothe her invisible fake-baby, just as she’s always dreamed! “I can wash the baby’s clothes!” chirps the unfortunate star of the Rose Petal Cottage’s “open house.” IT’S THE BEST I COULD HAVE HOPED FOR MYSELF!

Not queasy enough? Watch the “Dreamtown for Kids” video. Did the helium-voiced child voiceover artist just trill,”I love when my laundry gets so clean/taking care of my home is a dream, dream, dream!”? Why yes! Yes she did! There, there.

Let it all out.

It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with children imagining homeowning (and, okay, homemaking.) If anything, its what this particular “home” lacks that shows its true intent. Is there a computer in there? A book? A phone? No, just the home-tending and baby-caring accoutrements that our mothers-in-training need to be exposed to. And the Rose Petal Cottage’s pink frills and flowery bits all but shriek NO BOYS ALLOWED. No home-making play for you, boys! Now go kill some insurgents and leave us in peace.

I wish this kind of product was the exception, but alas. Henry and I see more loathsome commercials these days then I care to think about. (I wish Henry had stuck to PBS, but at some point he discovered Nicktoons, and then it was all over.) Usually they glide right over him because they’re interrupting Jimmy Neutron and don’t deserve his consideration. But after watching this commercial, Henry made a disgusted noise, turned to me and said, “Girls’ things are stupid, right?”

Great.

The thing is, I know he likes to play with so-called “girls’ toys.” But if these kinds of products don’t guarantee that he’ll feel totally wrong about exploring his nurturing side, the commercials surely will.

By the way, Henry tuned out as I explained to him in great detail what I felt the difference was between what toy companies believe “girls’ things” are and what girls might actually want. He roused himself from his stupor to observe that “maybe I like some girls’ toys. Whatever.” Then I loudly decried marketing along gender lines and he went away to teach himself how to read. I think we both learned something, that day!

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

...

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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dregina
Guest

Amen. I saw the same commerical a couple of days ago and was similarly horrified. Back in my Head Start teaching days, I felt like I spent 1/2 my time trying to counteract this type of marketing. It amazes/horrifies me that kids as young as 3 and 4 pick up on TV as The World’s Ultimate Cultural Authority. Anything I had to say that ran counter was suspect, at best. I would love to have the opportunity to make some kid’s toy commericals – if for no other reason than to give Mom and Dad something healing to watch in… Read more »

Mary
Guest

Wow..this Rose Petal Cottage is really stirring it up! I also posted about it a few days ago and it’s great to hear your take, Alice. As a lover of cabins and cottages and all things “home”, I thought it was adorable, until I saw the commercial. Yikes.

Her Grace
Guest

Amen.
Having a son, you likely haven’t read the book “Packaging Girlhood,” but I think it’s a must read. The authors also have a blog packaginggirlhood.typepad.com that I stalk regularly.
Awesome review.

Sonja
Guest
Sonja

I’m always surprised at how very much invested in gender people are. I have next door neighbors with a 4 month old boy who gave us a pair of sandals (we have girls) because they thought they were too girly. These are bright red sandals with bright yellow, blue and green buckles. Too girly? Huh? Because they don’t have camouflage print with machine gun snaps? The really crazy thing about these sandals is that I can see the parents of girls getting rid of them because they were too boyish (no pink or lavendar! shun them!) People are crazy.

Marisa
Guest
Marisa

Is it just me, or have toys/clothes gotten less “gender neutral” in the last ten or fifteen years? Maybe I’m paying more attention now that I’m actually buying these things…

Heather Caliri
Guest

Perhaps the next part of the “Dream Collection could be the “Feminine Mystique Mansion.” Or the “Second Sex Shack.”

superblondgirl
Guest

Wow. I thought we were supposed to be moving forward on this gender stereotype crap. Thanks, Hasbro! We so wanted to take things back to 1950. Let’s polish that glass ceiling instead of breaking it.
In the retail sense, girls’ toys really are stupid – I mean, dream house? Bratz? You’d think girls were like small pink apemen or something.

jenB
Guest

This makes me want to kill someone. Do they have a Rosebud Homicide set?

Aurora
Guest
Aurora

Holy moley! I hate TV! wait, I guess the issue is a bit larger than that! Can I just wrap my kid in bubble wrap for a while? grrrrrrr……

lizneust
Guest
lizneust

I’m the mother of two girls coming up on their 4th and 2nd birthdays. We try really hard to control the TV they watch – PBS and Noggin are great. But it’s everywhere. Try walking through Costco or Target, and the gender-defined stuff leaps off the shelves at them. This seems particularly egregious, but then again, so is the fact that my oldest learned all the names of the Disney princesses based on the pictures on the Pull-Ups. On a related but somewhat different beef. Has anyone seen the commercial for the baby doll that swims? The BABY Born, Look… Read more »

Vikki
Guest

Last year at Christmas, my 5 year old son asked for a doll. His little sister was really into dolls and wasn’t great at sharing so he thought he should have his own. My lesbo feminist heart nearly exploded right then and there. He even picked out a doll at Target one day. He didn’t notice that the doll was called Mommy and Me. Did I say he didn’t notice? I meant he didn’t notice at the time of choosing. No, he saved his revelation for Christmas morning when he opened the doll, read the packaging pitched the baby with… Read more »

Liza
Guest

It boggles the mind. God forbid that your child either be the least bit gender non-conformist, ie a tomboy or a boy like William from Free to Be You and Me.
Also? Any child interested in playing laundry can help with the real laundry. Even a toddler can “fold” and preschoolers can sort by color. My son loves “LAWN-REEEEEEE!”

Jean
Guest
Jean

The fact ever fails to baffle me that so many intelligent, educated people have no problem recognizing that TV is polluting their children’s minds but they’re still completely powerless to turn it off.

JennyM
Guest

Holy mackerel.
We don’t have kids, but happened to flip past a morning cartoon block last weekend during commercial time and spent the next few minutes (it seemed like the commercials went on for a super long time… hmmm…) in slack-jawed horror at what was being peddled to the kids. And agreed that we’re glad we’re not actively trying to navigate that minefield right now!
(also — camouflage print and machine gun straps made me laugh. hollowly.)

Nell
Guest

While the house itself is kind of horrifying and the commercial is even more horrifying, I can’t help but think that all of this homemaker marketing for girls and Rambo marketing for boys is no accident, that from somewhere, by someone, it’s all being orchestrated, which is really, truly horrifying. But I’m probably just paranoid, right? Right?

Jean
Guest
Jean

Typo:
…never fails to baffle me… they’re still completely powerless to turn it off.

Lizabeth
Guest
Lizabeth

I think we’re informing the little laundress’ plight with our awareness of women’s past oppression. But we don’t have to worry that she’ll grow up to be made to stay home and tend house. In an age when Hillary is our most likely next-President, our daughters won’t be oppressed as women were in the 50’s. Other factors were present those days beyond women’s affinity (or not) towards homelife. We don’t need to ply our girls with toy Blackberries. Most likely our daughters will have to work. If they can afford to stay home, our daughters may actually be happy doing… Read more »

M
Guest
M

Alternative to plastic toys – learn origami. My kids love it and use our left over Christmas wrapping paper to make their own toys. Gender neutral and really cool too.

kim
Guest

Ugh. I saw that commercial and my first response was “Welcome to the 50’s little girls.” I’m mortified. I don’t mind some of the gender specific stuff – I have b/g twins that are 18 months old and they honestly show a preference for certain gender infused toys that they both have equal access to. BUT this is so blatantly obvious and horrible.
That said, I’d like to argue that it’s not television which pollutes our children’s minds, it’s the use of it as a babysitter rather than a discussion point.

Megan
Guest
Megan

I think “house” toys, like kitchens, fake phones, all that stuff, is totally fine, because the little ones love to imitate us. There is nothing wrong with playing house, cooking, cleaning, caring for small fake children and/or animals. It’s the marketing that is irritating, and the lack of modern/educational things in these toys that is wrong- like a computer, or bookshelves. Also, why does it have to be so pink and frilly? If they’d make toys and dolls that were more gender neutral they might find they have a larger demographic to sell to. Little boys would probably enjoy playing… Read more »

Catherine
Guest

Hasbro got my knickers in a knot a few weeks back. They’re the parent company to Tonka. And apparently, Tonka trucks are built for boyhood. I actually emailed Hasbro about it and did get a response that the advertising was intentional. That the built for boyhood theme spoke more to mothers of boys. I blogged about it here http://barelyenough.org/notablog/2007/09/25/tough-trucks-and-sparkly-ponies/ and here http://barelyenough.org/notablog/2007/10/01/appropriate-play-experiences/.

melissaS
Guest

I wonder if they stock the linen closet with a flask. I hope so.

momdotcom
Guest
momdotcom

Alice, I can totally relate to this post. My son is 11 now, but when he turned 2 I bought him a Fisher Price pastel-(ugh) kitchen with pots and pans, dishes and tons of fake plasic food. Two years later our daughter was born and that toy was, seriously, the BEST, most played with toy we ever purchased for either of our children. I recently told my sister in law who has 2 boys, aged 1 and 3, about that kitchen for my son and she widened her eyes in surprise. I don’t think there is any way she will… Read more »

Elizabeth
Guest

What the heck is wrong with Hasbro? I just blogged about the “Tonka:Built for boyhood” commercial too, at http://table4five.net/2007/10/19/tonka-trucks-built-for-boyhood/ Why not just say Tonka trucks are built tough, and leave it at that? My 23 month old daughter loves Hot Wheels and trains and trucks, and dolls and stuffed animals. If she wants to pretend to bake, I’m happy to let her stand at the kitchen counter on a chair and stir the dry ingredients for cookie dough. If she wants to help with laundry, she can help toss the wet clothes into the dryer. I don’t need a pink… Read more »

Jen
Guest
Jen

This sort of advertising just irks me. I have two sons, 6 and 3 1/2 years old. They love to play with their kitchen set and their doll AND with their footballs and baseballs. Of course some of their friends make sure to tell them that “boys don’t play dolls or house”. So not only do I have to keep them away from TV I also need to keep them away from the other kids in the neighborhood. ugh.

Flydaddy
Guest

Here’s a crazy thought…pull the plug on that garbage! We don’t have cable, and our kids watch zero commercial television for just that reason. Never forget: television’s purpose is selling. Are you sure you want people selling to your young son? It creeps me out, personally.

Kate C.
Guest

Williams Sonoma has a toy kitchen set available (or, so I saw in the window at the Mall of America) in both pink AND brushed steel and red. Guess which little child commercial actor went with which product in the photos? [also? It cost eleventy million dollars, plus the price of a college education. But whatever.] Lizabeth: I appreciate your optimism. However, I am not willing to let the oppressive past and encultrated ideas about gender off the hook yet. For one thing, I think we’re in trouble if we can name all the influental women in politics. Hillary. Condi.… Read more »

Kylie Boot
Guest
Kylie Boot

Totally agree with you Alice and comments from Elizabeth. This evening’s news carried a chilling piece on the growing inability of the earth’s carbon sinks to continue absorbing green house gases – and this is partly to do with our rampant materialism. Why do we need to devote ever-increasing loads of non-sustainable and polluting resources to generating more plastic crap – let alone such sexist plastic crap. Much better and more fun for little homemakers to mix real muffins with mum or dad, and sit on real sofas with mum or dad reading together, build a cubby house with the… Read more »

geminimama
Guest
geminimama

Wow! I wish my kitchen was set up like that–if the sink, oven and washer were lined up right in a row, it would cut down on so much unnecessary walking around the house.

Angie
Guest

It doesn’t stop with small children. I have an 11 year old girl, who is a tomboy, which brings along all sorts of issues….but more importantly, try finding her clothes that aren’t in the boys section. All the girls stuff is pink, purple, covered in flowers and says really great stuff like, “hottie” or “10” or some other sexist statement. Don’t even get me started on the shoes……She is constantly saying to me, “mom, don’t they know that some girls don’t like pink?”

Sherry
Guest

Certainly I’ll be unpopular for saying so, but I can’t get over why pink for girls is such a bad thing?
My daughter loves pink…she also loves playing in the mud with her twin brother’s trucks, too. Should I crucify (or mock) a company for not taking MY kid’s preference into consideration?
I’d rather not.
As for the blanket statements others have made about ALL girls clothes are pink, purple, etc…are totally false. Go to any department store, and you’ll find pink boys shirts and blue girls clothes. If you don’t, you’re just not looking hard enough.

kjirsty
Guest
kjirsty

I truly feel that things have gone backwards in the last twenty years. I swear that when I was a kid/teenager in the 80s that I had far more non-pink options to choose from. and we were the “free to be you and me” generation, and girls could play with trucks, etc, etc. now I want to weep when I play “free to be…” for my daughter because IT HASN’T HAPPENED. instead of “mommies are people” we have “trucks are for boys” and “kitchens are for girls”. ugh ugh ugh.

RiceWenchie
Guest

Egads, talk about taking female strides back a few decades! I refuse to buy my nieces anything deliberately girly. I have always felt that boys toys were much more fun and preferred the real cooking equipment to the play stuff…

amypt
Guest

Last night I saw a commercial for a kitchen for babies/young toddlers. There were 2 little boys and a girl playing with it. My husband did not grasp the joy. I said I’d write to thank them. Now I have to remember which company it was. Hope it wasn’t a cold medicine induced mirage…

Genevieve
Guest
Genevieve

Step2 has play kitchens that are much more gender-neutral — some have some purple, but they’re mostly neutral colors and don’t look, as someone said above, “like a fairy puked on them.”.
And they put boys in the ads, too. Makes me happy. We had one of their kitchens when my son was 2 or so, and he played with it for years.
http://www.step2.com/product.cfm?product_id=1154
http://www.step2.com/product.cfm?product_id=1359

Debbie
Guest

Sherry comented that people aren’t looking hard enough if they can’t find gender neutral clothing in the girl’s department. I’m afraid I must disagree. My daughter is now 15 and I have raised her and her 13 year old brother in the most gender neutral way possible and finding clothes for her in our town or on the web that were actually in our budget, has been a huge issue. She wants to try things on before buying so getting things off the web is always dodgy and in our town of 80,000 people, we don’t have any clothing stores… Read more »

StacyC.
Guest
StacyC.

It’s a play house for kids…what’s the big deal? I am lucky enough to stay home by choice and the things I do during the day are represented in the toy house. I appreciate my job being represented in a positive way. I just don’t understand how a toy house brings up so many ugly feelings?

cathetel
Guest

Well, that certainly stirred up a hysterical hornet’s nest. Why not just imitate world events, with its acceptance of female soldiers, and just get the kid a plastic machine gun, then she can grow up wanting to erase those pushy Hasbro toymakers.