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Toys That Need an Egalitarian Makeover

Toys That Need an Egalitarian Makeover

By Tim Butcher

Those of you who keep your ear to the ground when it comes to all things toy will have been as happy as we were recently when Lego released a line of female scientist figures. "Right on!", we cheered, "About time the decades-old patriarchy of the lego-verse got a little mud in its eye!" Seriously, though, it's a nice gesture and it does get one thinking: how many toy lines are there out there actually encouraging progressive ideas and values in kids? Not that many, as it turns out! We've come up with a list of some popular lines that we think could do with updating.

Barbie

Well, heck, if we’re going to start somewhere, let’s start here. It’s no secret that Barbie dolls aren’t the most progressive dolls on the market when it comes to representing women, so much so that The Simpsons devoted an episode to the topic way back in 1994. And, although the makers of Barbie have made some attempts to modernize over the years (namely by releasing a series of ‘career’ dolls over the years, including Dentist Barbie, Architect Barbie and—genuinely—Ambassador For World Peace Barbie), it’s hard to deny that there’s still something distinctly old fashioned about the way the doll looks. Despite it being over half a century since the first ones came out, Barbie still embodies a very narrow stereotype of wholesome American femininity—blonde, blue eyed, curvy figured. How about Barbies with unconventional looks, huh? Or nerdier attire? Or even—gasp—a gay Barbie? You’ve still got a ways to go, Mattel.

Vanity Cases for Toddlers

Did you know that there are toy manufacturers out there marketing vanity cases for toddlers? Well, neither did we till we started writing this post, and we’ve gotta say, it’s kinda creepy. While these aren’t actual vanity cases with makeup in them (that would be, it’s safe to say, totally creepy) they are toys shaped like them, where the baby plays by pretending to doll themselves up with blusher and lipstick. Is it unfair to say that three might be a little young to be narrowing down kids' ideas of what counts as pretty? Ironically, we’re struggling to come up with a way of giving this toy an egalitarian "makeover." This shouldn’t exist at all!

McDonald's Snack Maker

What’s a good way of ensuring that your child develops healthy eating habits later in life? Easy! Teach them to love fast-food from as young an age as possible. While they don’t actually make this toy anymore, it’s still worth highlighting just for its sheer evilness (plus, there are still a few floating about on Ebay). This is a toy that puts your kids in the role of patty cook, cheerfully frying up all things high-in-fat in preparation for growing up to be someone who hates vegetables. To correct the damage, we think McDonald's should release a "Make Your Own Sushi" toy post-haste. And we know they don’t actually serve sushi, but that’s kinda the point.

Nerf Guns

It wasn’t so long ago that Nerf Guns were just vaguely gun-like pieces of plastic from which you could harmlessly launch a low speed felt dart while shouting "pew! pew!" But now they resemble something closer to heavy artillery. Something that, were you not aware it wasn’t actually a real gun, would have you diving for the nearest available piece of cover and improvising a white flag by tearing up your t-shirt. When you remember that the target demographic of Nerf Guns isn’t actually you and your late teens/early twenties buddies, that starts to feel like a bit of a concern. Were not asking for them to totally wimp the things out! Just maybe make them a tiny bit less terrifying.

Hot Wheels

Right, Hot Wheels. It’s all very well glorifying the love of muscle cars and people driving off gigantic ramps and all that, but what about the environment? We’re willing to bet that the mileage that those kind of cars get—were they real—would be atrocious. Do you know what you’re doing, Hot Wheels? You’re raising a generation of children who won’t give two hoots about the increasingly prescient problem of peak oil usage. The solution? Just create a line of Hot Wheels Priuses. They’ll be just as fun, but will also encourage kids to take our natural resource supplies seriously.

How would you change modern toys for the better?

Tags: toys, sexism, egalitarian, playing, pretend

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