If I said “Transformers and Superheroes are for boys and your little girl is weird if she watches it” you’d probably be pissed. I know I would. As a little girl I watched tons of X-men, Batman, Spiderman, and Transformers. Heck, anything with a -man at the end was okay with me. I also watched some She-ra and a few other cartoons that were specifically for girls and the boys would shun. But not a lot of them.
Honestly, I have to admit that a part of me thought “if this isn’t good enough for boys then why am I watching it. They think it’s gross, so maybe it is.” Even today there is a small hint of shame when I say I liked She-ra as a little girl.
The dilemma: Programs are still marketed for girls or boys. They still encourage a specific gender norm. Boys like cars and superheroes. Girls like make up and fashion. But what if they don’t? Is that wrong?
I could care less about fashion and makeup, the things that are marketed to girls. I like the way I look without those things, and I buy my clothes off the discount racks because I’m not spending $300 for a pair of shoes or a dress. I like to look pretty like any other girl, but I don’t like wasting my money on “fashion”. Does that make me less of a woman? Hell no!
Society won’t tell a girl that she is wrong for watching superheroes, but they will definitely tell a boy he is wrong for watching My Little Pony’s. Why? My Little Pony’s has catchy music, nice animation style, good morals and themes, and most of all it focuses on how important friendship is. Something many children have problems with add they are distanced from one another with computers and tech. And for boys who learn that showing emotions is “girly” and makes you weak this is even better. Finally they have a role model that lets them know it’s okay to tell people what you’re really thinking/feeling.
I think the stereotype of what girls and boys like (or rather what can be sold to their parents) has been shifting for a while, and toy companies are slowly being dragged along kicking and screaming. Take the #wheresrey hashtag that’s been going around since the release of “Force Awakens”. People were PISSED that the main character of the show was no where to be seen in any of the merchandise. Because Hasbro, who had the contact for merch on Star Wars, believes that little girls don’t buy merchandise, and little boys don’t buy toys with girl dolls in them, she was no where to be seen. And it wasn’t the first time they did this. They also left out Black Widow from the Avengers set, and Gamora was left out of the Guardians of the Galaxy set and t-shirts. The Black Widow issue is so annoying they have a whole tumbler for it.
That’s why there is a difference between dolls and action figures even if they look the same. An action figure of She-ra is a doll. A doll of GI Joe is still an action figure, even if it looks a lot like a Ken doll in camos. Girls get dolls, boys get action figures, right? That’s been how it was for decades, but we’re also breaking down that stereotype. My son had a baby doll when he was two years old. He carted it around all over the place, and he loved it. I had no issues with it. I’ve seen other little boys holding dolls as well, and there are some great reasons to let kids, boys and girls, play with baby dolls. Why wouldn’t you want a boy to grow up thinking that it’s okay for him to hold a baby? Or would you rather stick with the idea that it’s “women’s work” to take care of babies?
The biggest problem is that cartoons are made to sell merchandise, not to get kids to watch them. When the creators of My Little Pony came to Hasbro with the new format (which was geared to a more modern and slightly older generation) Hasbro would not give them the go ahead unless they made the show about fashion and makeup, two things that weren’t suppose to be in the show at all when first developed. They had to make Rarity a pony with her own fashion studio to satisfy the requirements. So imagine their surprise when teen boys became their biggest demographic.
Trying to perpetuate age old stereotypes has not helped the toy industry, which is sad. The movie industry is starting to break free with movies like Frozen and Force Awakens with women playing prominent, strong roles. Why shouldn’t it be the same for boys who are allowed to watch My Little Pony’s?