Tag Archives: boys

What Color Is Your Piggy Bank?

Debbie says:

Sociological Images posted this photograph of two piggy banks.

piggy banks in a store window. The blue one is wearing a graduation hat and "School Fund" is written on its side in letters that look like block hand printing. The pink one has a hairbow and "Shoe Fund" is written on its side in a cursive (handwriting) font

On the face of it, this is another in the never-ending stream of commercial images which remind us of who we’re supposed to be and what is supposed to be important to us: if you’re a boy, you are saving your money for college; if you’re a girl, you’re saving it for shoes. Sociological Images reports on these messages frequently, and you can see them everywhere you go.

This one struck me, though, because of the ongoing furor and worry among educators and advocates for boys in college. In the U.S. at least, more women than men go to college, and more women than men finish college (roughly 57% to 43%). In an attempt to close the gap, colleges are making choices that may violate women’s rights.

These piggy banks don’t say “Football Fund” and “Shoe Fund,” but instead they contrast a behavior which has been consistently proven to affect income level and some aspects of “quality of life” with a frivolity. (Yes, everyone needs shoes, but not the kind of shoes which are implied by the pink piggy bank.) So the image is that boys or (as Sociological Images points out at the link) “neutral people” who are somehow not girls have a future and a purpose while girls care how they look.

Second, while this is in line with most pressure on girls, it is not in line with most pressure on boys. In these times, the pressure on boys is not to be serious, not to think about anything but fun, while the pressure on girls is to look perfect. While clothes and make-up are marketed mostly to girls and women, the products marketed to men are usually not books or classes but things like beer, video games, and spectator sports gear. So, the piggy banks are in fact not reinforcing the most popular social pressures on boys; instead, they are bringing a different pressure to bear. Was someone worrying about the gender gap in colleges when they designed these?

Babies? or Baby Women?

Debbie says:

In the 1970s heyday of the late 20th century resurgence of feminism, a very famous Doonesbury cartoon showed feminist Joanie Caucus proud and happy because one of her daycare charges describes a newborn sister as a “baby woman.”

I don’t think cartoonist Trudeau was thinking 35 years ahead to these two products for “baby women”; I certainly wasn’t.

Let’s start with “Baby Bangs Hairband”before and after pictures baby with hairband

“I’M NOT A BOY,” the site proclaims proudly.

Our patent pending HAIR+band accessory combination allows baby girl’s (with little or no hair at all) the opportunity to have a beautifully realistic HAIR style in a SNAP!! … our Baby Bangs! come to you pre-customized & size appropriate, cut, styled and ready for immediate wear. The wispy hair strands have been arranged in the cutest most adorable elfish coiffure!

(Being a fat activist has made me a connoisseur of “before/after” pictures. Not all the pictures on the site show this dramatic a contrast but, just like weight loss pictures, they all have something that makes the “before” picture dorky or unattractive.

Then, there’s “something for the evening”:

toddler t-shirt with tassels

Yes, folks, it’s a baby t-shirt with nipple tassels, available in 6-month and 12-month sizes.

So which is worse? At first glance, the second one, because it sexualizes infants, which is indubitably repulsive. However, the more I think about it, the more I am even more offended by the first one. A baby (of any gender) in a tassel shirt would think the tassels were toys–as, in fact, they are. The distance between the baby’s own perception of the shirt and the adult meaning of the shirt is so great that it can’t be crossed in baby terms: some adults will probably think the shirt is marvelous and coo, others will think it’s shocking and giggle, still others will think the shirt is repulsive and try to hide that reaction from baby and parents. None of these reactions will get significantly through to the baby, who will be too busy pulling on the tassels and finding out if they’re edible.

Meanwhile, the hairband is actually going to affect how people relate to the baby. Again, the baby could be any gender, but any baby in that get-up is going to get treated like a “little lady” by most family, babysitters, and passersby on the street. That’s the kind of connection babies can make: “people really treat me differently when I have this silly thing on my head.”

And here’s the point: babies are extremely hard to truly sexualize, because they’re so far away from the adult version of sexuality. But it’s easy to teach them that the gap between boys and girls is essential to their identity … and teaching that so young makes it easy to sexualize toddler girls and kindergarten-age girls.

“I’m not a boy; I’m not a girl; I’m a BABY!”

Thanks to Lynn Kendall for pointers to both products.