Phoebe got a cool toy as a gift for Christmas. (Actually, she got lots of cool toys, but I’ll spare you the details. For now, at least.) The toy I’m talking about is actually more of a set of toys: it’s the Fisher-Price airplane with Little People.


The set came with 3 people: the pilot and 2 passengers. You have no idea how thrilled I was to see that the pilot is a woman. How cool is that? I mean, seriously. The small step of representing a woman as a pilot in a miniature toy represents a giant symbol: a woman is shown matter-of-factly in a prestigious and traditionally male-dominated pilot.jpg job, and this mass-produced representation is being sold as part of a mainstream popular toy. This is huge. (I once wanted to be a pilot, by the way, but that is a story for another day.)

So there we were, Christmas morning, looking at Phoebe’s new toys (once we finished wrestling to free the toys from their elaborate packaging). And I saw the pilot, and felt my thrill. And when I looked at the other two little people figures, I said to John “hey, the passengers are women, too. They must be a newlywed lesbian couple heading off for a tropical honeymoon.” I was joking when I said it, but honeymoon was what came to mind when I saw the two passengers all decked out in their Polynesian-inspired garb. I live in Massachusetts, one of only a few US states to have legally recognized same-sex unions, and apparently the only US state to recognized such unions as marriage. (By the way, when working on my wedding anniversary post, I discovered that the definition of marriage was under dispute on Wikipedia. That in itself tells quite a story. But I see now that the flags announcing the dispute have been taken down. I’d be curious what the changes made were…I found one older version in Google cache but haven’t had a chance to look.)

So here’s the thing. I’d like Phoebe to grow up accepting diversity in people: diversity in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Ideally, she would get to know people of such diverse backgrounds and beliefs in person. And hopefully she will. But the reality is that we live in fairly rural Massachusetts. In a town where there is not a whole lot of diversity. It struck me that toys and playing games offer opportunities to supplement the exposure to diversity she might get through school and the media. We don’t actually particularly know any married same-sex couples. But we can matter-of-factly say that pat.jpgthe two women figures in the play set are married. Just as the set matter-of-factly depicts a pilot who is a woman.

Of course, John now has me half-convinced that one of the passengers in the set is actually supposed to be male. I still think of her as female. Just possibly a less girly female than the long-haired lei-wearing obviously female passenger. She, who is wearing shorts and purple sandals, and has a moderately short haircut, is at the very least of somewhat ambiguous gender. We have agreed to call her Pat. Just Post Jan 2007

6 thoughts on “opportunities

  1. I love it! It is so hard as they get older to maintain a sense of gender neutrality in toy choices, but don’t let it scare you. My now very tomboyish 11-year-old went through a phase where she was obsessed with Barbie and said she wanted to be just like her when she grew up. Yuck.

    Pat, the ambiguous air passenger would love this…We live in a Austin, Texas where diversity is definitely celebrated. The girls and I have a refrigerator magnet of a local celebrity cross-dresser named Leslie. We dress him up in his UT cheerleading outfit on game days. See more on the magnet here: http://www.news8austin.com/content/top_stories/default.asp?ArID=177440.

  2. Regarding old Wikipedia entries: Wikipedia is under revision control, which means that all changes made to a page are saved. If you check the tab at the top of an entry’s page, you’ll see that a “History” pane is available, which details every change that’s ever been made to that entry, and gives you complete access to any older version. You can even generate a page that directly compares two versions.

    The marriage entry has a rapidly changing history. There have been at least 50 edits in the last four days.

  3. Alice-
    It is pretty frightening the way there is such a strong gender division in toys (and all else marketed for kids). I’m glad your daughter passed safely out of the Barbie phase. What a relief! And I love the Leslie magnet and story. Thanks for sharing the link.

    Thanks for the info on Wikipedia. I’ll have to check it out. And wow. 50+ edits in 4 days. I wonder how that compares to other entries. I expect some don’t really change much even month by month.

  4. I could be convinced that Pat is male. It’s really a toss up. At least Fisher-Price doesn’t discriminate against ambiguously gendered obese purple-sandal-wearers. Very nice!

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