Can somebody please tell me if this is progress?
At first glance, if you ignore the fact that it is a freaking SUV, this Polly Pocket car seems like it might be progress. After all, the LA Times via the Chicago Tribune calls it "a gender-bending move" that puts "girls in the driver’s seat." That’s got to be progress, right?
But then, oh, then, we learn that the cars come in candy colors, have tiny removable Polly Pocket dolls, and frosted plastic covering the metal chassis. And if you can hold your breath long enough, they are soon going to come with color-coordinated scents. I’m not sure how that will work, exactly. Maybe you get a tiny doll-sized bottle of perfume when you buy the car?
But they saved the best for last because, in a move the LA times dubs "the ultimate melding of traditional boys’ and girls’ play" Mattel is offering a track set for the Polly cars called Race to the Mall.
Yes, you read that right. Race to the Mall. And the prize for the winner? A magnetic shopping bag that "jumps" into the car.
As the mother of three boys, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to mother a girl. It was a challenge I really wished I had been given the chance to tackle. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys, and relish the opportunity to do my part to contribute to the worldwide supply of that currently endangered species, The Conscious Male. But the world is set up for my boys – from the default pronoun on – and girls have so much to work against.
To wit, I cannot think of an example of a toy where boys are marketed to in such a way as to so blatantly reinforce their development as consumers. With boys, the goal of the race is being the fastest, running the smarter race or being lucky enough to pick the car that still works. Someone wins. Everyone else sucks.
But for girls, the goal is apparently not simply to win. The goal is to win so you can get to the mall and shop. You don’t play to win, you play to shop.
So I guess I answered my own question. If this is what passes for progress in the movement toward gender equality, then I think that movement has pretty clearly run out of gas. But it is possible that my vision is clouded by my own deep dislike of shopping, and from years of living with men of various sizes who have to be dragged by the scruffs of their necks through the automatic doors of any mall.
I wonder if I am I reading too much into the whole thing. It’s only a toy, after all. Conversely, my outrage could be awfully late to the party. Maybe there have been hundreds of toys like this that I, in the blissful ignorance that living with boys conveys, just missed.
Or maybe I should stop thinking so much and, you know, just go shopping.