Usually I enjoy browsing through the Sunday paper. But this morning it was like a splash of cold water in my face. And I’m not talking about the depressing headlines in the front section, nor the regressive editorial positions that the Seattle Times continues to spew.
Nope, today it was the Target ad.
I don’t shop much at big box stores. But for some reason I am inexplicably drawn to the colorful ads each Sunday. I like to imagine wantonly spending my way through these stores. Then I take a look around my house, which is full of lovely and useful items. There’s really not room for more and we don’t need anything. So I finish my little spending-spree fantasy and move on to better things like painting my new bee hives.
But today, before I even opened the Target ad, I was stopped cold by a coupon affixed to the front:
What the heck century are we living in? And since when did boys have the exclusive right to playing with action toys? Especially Star Wars action toys?
Return of the Jedi came out when I was in sixth grade and my sister in third. It was our Favorite. Movie. Ever. And we played Star Wars like nobody’s business. Usually we were both Princess Leia taking on storm troopers, Darth Vader and the Emperor himself.
My kids still play with my Star Wars action figures, which I remember having to beg my mother for that Christmas. She didn’t see the attraction but I loved them. That year, my parents bought us matching Endor speeder bikes that blew apart on impact. My sister and I had some rollicking good times crashing those things and sending hapless storm troopers to meet their doom. I lived and breathed Star Wars for about two years, before I crossed into the moody, weepy high school years in which my journal, the Cure and my nom-de-plume “Tiers” became more important to me. But I digress.
Today I am the mother of a son and a daughter. Like many modern parents, I have worked hard to raise my children without too many gender expectations. I think that having a child of each sex makes this a little bit easier, but still it is an endeavor. I want my son to love the ballet. I want my daughter to know at least five Aikido throws. I don’t want either of them to think that there is a “gender” assigned to these activities. I just want them to discover what they enjoy and don’t enjoy for themselves.
So it really raises my hackles when I see such blatantly sexist language in the Target ad. Star Wars toys are not exclusively for boys. Legos are not exclusively for boys. Fairies and elves are not exclusively for girls. Parenting baby dolls is not exclusively for girls. These are all activities that any child can enjoy and any child is free to hate. Seeing phrases like “Star Wars boys’ action toys” make it into print and wide circulation makes me wonder if the last 40 years of consciousness-raising, feminism, post-feminism, and the rest of it have really happened. It makes me want to find a primal scream therapist and shout myself hoarse.
But I know that instead my family will simply continue to play Star Wars together. Sometimes we will play the duel scene between Anakin and Obi Wan. Sometimes we will play Anakin and Amidala get married. Sometimes Anakin and Amidala will be kidnapped and forced to play with the Disney Princesses. Sometimes they will be exploded out of the pirate ship cannons. You just never know.
But what I do know is this: Star Wars action toys belong to us all.