Thursday, October 25, 2007

Letting her dreams take off?

Rose Petal Cottage, targeted toward girls three and older, is a new toy from the kids' company Playskool. It is a playhouse (the website says "more than just a playhouse") deemed "the house of her dreams." And what do girls get to make-believe in this dream house? Why, that they are doing laundry, of course. Is that not what every girl dreams of doing when she grows up? Each "cottage" has an accompanying play-stove, and Playskool also sells a (pretend) muffin-making kit, rose motif lounge chair, "nursery set," kitchen sink, and--you guessed it--washing machine to accompany the house. Would anyone ever market the opportunity to pretend to do a load of wash to boys?

The website has an option of viewing an open house to explore the possibilities within the playhouse. In it, a girl demonstrates the various tasks possible within the dream house and its accompanying accessories. Basically, it seems to show the activities of the very stereotypical image of a "dutiful housewife." Many know that the stereotypical image of a woman whose work is at home does not fit AT ALL with what the media tends to portray. While childcare, cooking, and yes, even cleaning for some, are wonderful pursuits if that is where your heart and passion lies, it simply does not work in my mind to assume that all girls must be exposed to the Rose Petal Cottage as the "house of her dreams." It is sort of like saying, "Here girls, limit your image of your life to within these four walls." What about girls' creativity? I would like to know what young girls would have come up with as their ideal houses and seen a product that resulted from collaboration with that information. A product that would have been flexible, changeable beyond which appliances you choose to purchase. What about multiple products, different houses geared toward different girls?

Now, I have to diverge here and talk about my own personal dream house. Although I would truly appreciate some nice appliances in this image of mine, the washer just never comes up when I picture myself there. (You can tell I am hung up on the laundry bit. It is one of my not-so-favorite activities. I have been recently encountering some laundry appliance challenges.) I picture myself out in a beautiful garden, and to tell the truth I really would not mind the whole rose petal effect on the roof and chimney. I like pink, always have, love floral patterns, and did very much used to enjoy taking care of dolls. That is just me, though. Anyway, within the house, I would love a great big desk for writing, a nice big open space for moving around, a sewing room (Again, just me. I happen to love sewing, but that does not mean any other female should or should not.) The whole gender-geared thing is tough. I remember attending a joint birthday party when I was about five of a brother and sister. For the girls, the party favors were princess hats, I believe. For the boys, something like castle buckets. I adored both of these party favors and lobbied hard to take both home. I seriously thought that everyone was going to take home one of each. I was surprised when I encountered a challenge as I tried to walk away with both. Growing up girl is all about finding the voice within and fending off the world's expectations while you do that. Then making that voice heard.

The feminist world has recently experienced a new craft wave after listening to women's voices. First, society made it the status quo and basically the necessity for most women to knit, sew, and craft in other ways. Making the family's clothes, manifesting handkerchiefs, and many other tasks were just part of a woman's world. Then, as feminism hit, women began dropping their needles in protest to what was defined as a "woman's work," and in general the sentiment was that an inclination for crafts and a feminist outlook on life contradicted each other. No more forced tasks that only women had to do. Now, the general consensus seems to be that women should be free to choose about everything in their lives. No more fitting a certain image of either a traditional woman or a feminist. Just being a feminist woman, and defining that individually. A self. An expressive, empowered, and celebratory inner voice showing up on the outside.

All this makes me think about a favorite recording of mine. It is from Free to Be... You and Me. The segment I love is called "Housework," and the actress Carol Channing narrates it. In it she recites such pearls of wisdom as, "Children, when you have a house of your own,/Make sure, when there's house work to do,/That you don't have to do it alone." It is truly a stellar piece of work, in my opinion. (I listened to the CD repeatedly when I was eleven. I am going to have to diverge again to extol its virtues. I played the CD for my younger cousins, I listened to it to help me go to sleep sometimes, I sang along to it quite a bit. There's one song on the CD, "It's Alright to Cry," that I truly treasure. I choreographed a dance to it when I was fourteen. The album, which is from the 1970s but still applies today, challenges gender stereotypes and celebrates children's freedom to be themselves. OK, my ode to Free to Be... You and Me now over. I could go on, though.)

Back to Playskool, though. By now, you have gotten my opinion of Rose Petal Cottage. I would have liked to see some flexibility with it, some insinuation that girls do not have to conform to this image whatsoever, and some realistic input from a range of girls. I think it would have been pretty cool if they had thrown in a pretend tool set or maybe a science lab add-on. I would have liked those when I was younger.

What do
you think? Please, please, please, share your opinion! It does not have to go along with a thing I have to say. All you have to do is express yourself from your gut. Do you think that the toy world markets fairly to girls? Do you wish toys were more gender-neutral? What kind of images do you think young girls should be exposed to in the media?

I want to know. I will be waiting excitedly to hear your responses!

Sending you a heap of empowerment, Elizabeth


piglet said...

Well, I do disagree with you on some things. It's teaching girls life, I think that is good. Mabye it could be a little more flexible, but think about this. Rose Petal sold this product for young girls. Many girls like pink and flowers. Sure, mabye they could also make a product where girls could chose how their house was and mabye they could even make a product for young girls.

So, hey! I don't think this product is too bad. Little girls will LOVE learning about housework and such and it will help them get ready when they are older and they will have to do a lot more housework and chores.

Anonymous said...


Devin said...

Here's the thing. A mother is a woman. Their daughter is a girl. They are both females. Yes, that's obvious, but the point is that a girl probably wants to be "just like mommy." Most toddlers and babies have mothers who are stay-at-home-moms (Most, not all) and what these little girls see their mommies doing is cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc. It's no question that these "jobs" would be amazing to little girls, so I think that this product is fine. Daughters can be doing "laundry" as her mom cleans the REAL house. I agree with Piglet: these projects WILL prepare these girls for the future, for, unless they are spoiled brats, they will be doing chores and housework for the rest of their life.
The whole argument about the name of the toy "dream house" is, in my thoughts, over the top. Girls want to be like their moms who are, most likely, cleaning the house. The title of the toy is just too much to argue about.
I DO agree with the post when saying that the pink and flowers is not always okay. Some girls DON'T like pink. But it's a toy, I mean, buy it if you want to.
And THEY MIGHT make a toy like this for boys, being "just like daddy" and stuff like that, but that's not the point here.
Oh, I just thought of an idea: The point of the house is not the "dreaming" part. The point is that the little girls are cleaning, like their mothers.

Hmm. Okay. I hope it didn't seem that I hated that post, i really liked it. It brought up some good points and I DO believe that, in the long run, girls and boys toys are steriotyping, but I just wanted to say that......


ps. I don't know how to spell steriotyping, bear with me!

hi piglet! (-:

gnomes said...

Well, what is wrong with housework? I think that the stereotype of women and housework isn't bad. Does every feminist have to be a successful businesswoman? Being a mother is a hard job, and I respect mothers a lot! I am one of four girls, homeschooled, and we are (at least my little sisters) are extremely active. NOW THAT is a hard job!

I think that Rose Petal is very cute, sweet, and it is very good if your little girl likes that.

New Moon said...

Thanks for weighing in! I absolutely agree that being a mother is a tough and valuable job and housework is a necessary part of life for everyone. I, too, was the homeschooled child of a stay-at-home mom. I have the greatest respect in the world for my mom, and I don't think she could have had a harder job. I, too, think that women and girls should get to celebrate whatever they like. Your comments have really helped me, because I will try to be clearer in the future--I think feminists can be and do whatever they darn well choose that makes their hearts hum.

piglet said...

thanks for agreeing with me devin!

: )

Anonymous said...

I think you have a right to your opinion, however, I am a mother of two little girls and yes I will be getting them the cottage for Christmas. I have been a mother who has held down a full time job and now I have the great opportunity to stay home with my kids. I don't think you are correct in saying that this is a bad toy. Most little girls love to play house and I think that teaches them about life and how to have resposibilities. Let's face it, not everyone in this world can afford to have full time housekeeper and cook. There is nothing wrong with a little pretend housework. Little boys pretend just as much as little girls. DO you have issues with little boys prentending to fix up a car in the garage or build something out of blocks? Or does that mean that all we teach them is how to be a greasy mechanic or manual labor worker? Ponder this for a moment and see what the outcome is.....

Annoyed said...

I wish this girls mother would have bought her a writing desk at a young age, because honestly I got so bored with this writing I couldnt even read it all (just skimmed). Blah Blah Blah. I think this person is very confused about who they want to be. First of all everyone needs to learn how to do all of this anyways or else they are just going to grow up complaining about how they hate doing laundry. And I can almost bet this woman doesnt have a little girl. Did it ever occur to you that this is probably not the only toy that a little girl would be allowed to play with. My daughter loves this thing. She also loves her paint and art supplies, her baseball glove and bat, her bike, her hot wheels her daddy bought her. I think you are sterotyping that all mothers pump into their daughters head is to cook, clean, and stay at home...RIGHT! We are just trying to raise well rounded children obviously something you know nothing about!