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oliver monster for a less gender stereotyped youth

Browsing the FAO Schwarz website, I found a section called “make my own monster.� It has a lot of green and blue in the design so it looks like it’s geared towards boys, and there is even a little boy advertising it. But on the bottom, there are monsters that have been made by other little children that can be purchased. They don’t look as gender specific. There is a black and yellow one and a yellow and pink one and a blue one. I was drawn to the pink one because of the color association with girls. It was named Oliver Monster and when I clicked on the picture, I was offered more information about the monster. It was designed by a four year old boy named Niko, and there was a quote from him, and I was taken back by this quotation.

oliver.jpg

“Oliver loves pink and really wants to grow his hair out long when he gets big and be a princess. Oliver has no arms and legs, but that's ok. Everyone is different.�

This statement broke the gendering of this toy. This is a little boy that made a boy monster that loves pink and wants to be a princess. This is saying that it’s okay for boys to like pink and have long hair. The acceptance that everyone is different is a great message for little kids. I couldn’t believe that I found this statement, the epitome of nonnormative gendered thinking, on this website.

Pricewise, the site is aimed at those who are privileged enough to have a lot of money and a lot to spend on toys. The custom made monsters cost $249, which is outrageous but the already designed ones are only $18, which isn’t that bad, but are most likely the cheapest toys on the website.

I think this website does a good job of not gendering the toys and not dictating which toy is gender appropriate for children other than by preconceptions of what a "normal" girl or a boy will like. There is not a boys’ aisle or a girls’ aisle, a girls’ section or a boys’ section to steer the child into an area of predetermined gender appropriate toys. Also, generally, the toys are advertised by themselves with no indication of which gender it is aimed at, and it is through this style of marketing that gender limitations or gender stereotypes on which toy a child should buy are able to be broken.

There is a section of playhouses and they are very expensive, not for the average buyer. What one house costs is equivalent to a house payment on a real house, if not more. In the first couple pictures, there are both boys and girls playing what looks like a game of “house.� A house titled “the princess cottage� has no children outside of it and says in the description that “princes and princesses alike will love climbing the ladder that leads to the cottage's loft� making it a toy for both genders though it is classified as a girl house. Under arts and crafts, the main picture is an easel with a boy and a girl painting on either side both wearing the same outfit, neither gendered off in pink or blue, but both are in red. Another advertisement features a little boy and little girl a playset, and another has a little boy and girl not dressed in pink and blue, playing with building blocks.

When one clicks on science and exploration, a category that is typically associated with boys, there are no little boys that come up, there are only the toys advertised and then under “our favorites� there is a little girl advertised with a spelling chalk board. Under electronics, there is a lazertag set that features a little boy and a little girl playing together. Under the vehicles category, children size cars are advertised. The main picture is a little boy driving a red mini cooper but right underneath, there is a little girl driving a yellow Mercedes. I was surprised to see her there especially in a gender neutral color, not just in some pink Barbie jeep. Also under this category, there were two trikes, a “hot rod retro trike� and a “pink Pegasus trike� and these could be easily associated, the pink for the girl and the racing stripes for the boy, but there is no child demonstrating this so it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way so if a child wanted the one that has not been normalized for him or her by societal standards, that child wouldn’t feel “weird� based on the context of the site.

They have a “dress up and accessories� section, which when one sees that category, one would generally think of little girls in dresses, but a little girl in pajamas comes up. They have a firefighter and an astronaut costume but they have little boys wearing them but they didn’t have any princess ones or very ultra feminine costumes to really emphasize girls in the opposite direction. But it was interesting and unexpected for anything for little boys to come up in that category, even if they were in more gender stereotyped professions.

Under dolls, a Harry Potter doll came up, so there was at least one male doll that strayed from the typical female doll. Under action collectibles, there were no children displayed so there wasn’t an image present to say this is for boys only and there was actually a girl action figure, Princess Leia, but she was only in a swimsuit. I’ve never seen the Star Wars movies but I’m sure she wears more than a swimsuit, so it was disappointing that the one female action figure was inappropriately dressed to accentuate her female parts.

One strong feminist critique was the “become a fashion designer� feature. The opening of the explanation starts off with “every girl dreams of being a fashion designer. Now she can actually design her own clothes.� The harsh generalization and direct assumption that only little girls dream of doing this cuts little boys off from partaking. If there were boys that wanted to do this, this advertisement makes it quite apparent that this is socialized as a girls’ activity and is not normal for a boy to desire to design his own clothes. Throughout the description it says “for her� and “she will choose�, automatically generalizing that a girl will be the one doing this. It is also terribly pricey, for it costs $800.

Under luxury gifts, a fashion design party came up for $25,000. Wow, this is not for under-privileged people. There are also gift cards for $50,000 and $100,000, very much assuming that these people are high spenders with money to burn. This website is not for families of lower income. The toys are outrageously priced in the hundreds and even the thousands so that even upper-middle class families might not even consider purchasing these items. I was shocked at the ridiculously high prices for children’s toys and playthings and wouldn’t dream of spending that much money on something that wasn’t more applicable to real life and issues of importance.

The site represents children of different races; however, the dominantly presented race is Caucasian, with the homepage displaying white children. But there are appearances of other races throughout the website to offer a range of ethnicities. There was a little Asian girl, a little boy with dark skin, and several African-American children.
There were also two children that struck me as gender neutral and this idea was also reflected in their choice of toy. In the advertisement for hand painted stacking pyramid cubes, there is a baby wearing red that has long hair that could either be a boy or a girl, and playing with a Noah’s ark set, an African-American child with long curly hair and tan clothing offers ambiguity as to the child’s sex.

There are obviously more stereotypically feminine or masculine toys or items, but they are not categorized that way to limit the buyer. There are stereotypes that a traditional toy store wouldn’t be expected to break such as a little girl playing with a baby doll or some of the stereotypical gendered toys that are being sold but I think that for the giant toy conglomerate that FAO Schwarz is, the company does a fair job of limiting gender stereotypes and not adhering to gender roles for children through their use of marketing. There is no gender dichotomy for categorization for toys “girls’ toys, boys’ toys� other than the toys themselves. I do see negatives in this website but I also see some good, which signifies some progress, some hope that gendered scripts of normative roles for children are slightly diminishing.

Comments

wow! this is the first toy that i have never seen or heard of. i'm definitely going to get my son a pink monster to play with. much cooler than army guys with guns targeted at small boys.

i'm off to check this site out! great find!

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