Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where have all the kick-arse chicks gone?

The other day, I ducked into the Boutique de Circle Rouge (Target) for my month for my monthly toy top-up. You know what I mean; the harried whip around the  brightly lit toy section of the department store; looking for presents for the birthdays, christenings, thank-you for coming to play, sorry you couldn’t come to play and bribes- for-good behaviour for the upcoming month.

If motherhood has taught me anything, it is never to bring my child along to these excursions lest we all end up in tears. So I was spending forty-five minutes of peace ambling up and down the toy aisles looking, in relative peace; comparing the relative merits of one toy against the other, marking off the list of children for whom I had to buy for.

And toy shopping is not child’s play either; a subtle code of etiquette governs the fine art of procuring gifts for children. Firstly, is the family pro- or anti- plastic? If they are anti-plastic, the gift will be proportionately smaller as the cost of purchase is significantly higher. Then are they a TV or no-TV family? Allergies?  Age appropriate? Toys of violence (and one strange mum classified little plastic dinosaurs as toys of violence!!)?  Trust me the list goes on!

So I was ambling up and down the aisles, looking at the latest offerings from Mattel, Vtech and the like, making my way down my list when I came of short. What? A girl on my list? How did that happen?

For the record, I have a son. And his friends, by and large, are boys. And a large number of my friends have sons too. By default, my toy shopping has restricted to automobiles, blocks and sporting equipment. I occasionally try and mix things up with a bit and buy cooking sets (Junior MasterChef anyone?); but my default position is automobiles, blocks and sporting equipment. However, as of late, a few girls have started appearing in our Tonka-toy, testosterone filled midst, so girl-toys it had to be.

With a jaunty little spring to my step, I skipped over the girl’s section and started hunting. I must confess to feeling an unmentionable sense of glee; after all I do love my son and his mates, even if I do have to live through the pirate wars every weekend – but I was dying to buy a girl’s toy after many years.

I steeled my eyes against the garish candyfloss pink and went into the fray. I immediately dismissed all the twee pink and purple unicorns, baby dolls and freakishly misshapen Bratz dolls. I also then dismissed Barbie and her colleagues, although it took me a while to figure out what I was looking for.

I was looking for the Thomas The Tank Engine equivalent; but for girls. I hunted high, I hunted low, and all I came up with was -Dora the Explorer.

Really? I mean there are some great boy-toy heroes. Thomas the Tank Engine is one. Chuggington (again a boy), the Wiggles (boys..ahem..men..ok..boys..whatever), Charlie Bear (boy), Giggle and Hoot (both boys), Waybuloos (who knows what they are?), Elmo (boy) and all girls have is Dora the Explorer?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the pint-sized Latina explorer who never uses violence, but is that the only female hero in little girl land?

I drove home with a distinctive sense of unease that afternoon. When I cast my mind back to my girlhood (ok – no need to point out that it was looong time ago), my little girl land was filled with a bunch of amazing kick-arse female characters.

For crying out loud, I gave myself a nosebleed by spinning around and around to be like Wonderwoman. I even convinced my dad to buy me a tiara with a star on it for my fourth birthday. My brother and I spent endless hours trying to come up with the faux-metallic sound of Bionic Woman while trying to jump off the couch in slow motion.

And as I grew up, the great female characters in TV programming kept coming. There was Murphy Brown who appealed to the tween feminist in me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (need I say more?), Agent Dana Scully from the X-files, Xena the Warrior Princess and even the three witches from Charmed. These women taught me that I could do anything, aspire to anything, challenge anything – and that woman could be a superhero too.

These women, characters in sitcoms I grant you, represented more though. The embodied the female archetype of Diana, the powerful huntress and protector. Brought to mind characters rarely talked about today – women like Bodicea, Joan of Arc and Marie Curie – who are women who are powerful in their femininity.

And in an age where TV and mass media is almost the only purveyor of information, I cringe at the lack of strong female archetypes. And I think these archetypes are important; so that little girls have role model and characters they can draw on for inspiration and strength.

There are those who will argue that we have some great female role models here in Australia; our PM is female as is our Governor-general. However, most media discussion about the former is currently so derogatory and when it is halfway complimentary, it is purely about her clothes and hairstyle! Huh?

What characters are there for little girls to aspire to today? Am I missing something?  

1 comment:

Paisley said...

Upsy Daisy?
Princess Fiona?
That cowgirl from Toy Story?

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