Rose Petal Cottage
I have to thank one of my students for calling this to my attention: there is apparently a "toy" being promoted on television right now called the "Rose Petal Cottage" -- it's supposed to be a play house for girls. So what's in it? A laundry machine, a dishwasher, and a baby in a rocker.
As NOW president Kim Gandy says:
Honestly, if I didn't know better, I would think they were beamed in from 1955, via some lost satellite in space. Or maybe it's a deeply subversive parody that a clever (and rich) band of feminists snuck onto the airwaves in heavy rotation.
According to the makers at Playskool, the Rose Petal Cottage is "a place where her dreams have room to grow." And what might those dreams be? Well, baking muffins, arranging furniture and doing the dishes. The voiceover even declares that the toy house will "entertain her imagination" just before the little girl opens the miniature washing machine and says – I kid you not – "Let's do laundry!"
Now, I'm not knocking the important work of housekeeping, but this commercial is aimed solely at females (there are two versions -- one designed to entice little girls and one targeting their moms). Products like the Rose Petal Cottage and the marketing campaigns that accompany them perpetuate the notion that cooking and cleaning are women's work, and girls might as well start getting used to that fact at an early age. C'mon Susie, this scrubbing and ironing look like fun!
Unlike her, I would like to "knock" the important work of housekeeping: not that it's unimportant, but frankly, if I could buy a robot to do all these things, like the one that cleans my floors, I would. I want a laundry basket that auto-sorts and send them to the wash when the basket's full, folds and returns them to my drawers. I want a slot built into my kitchen counter into which I can drop all dirty dishes, and see them miraculously appear back in the cabinets, super-clean. I don't think this is work to inspire the "imagination" of anyone, girl or boy -- unless that girl or boy is the one who designs and builds the robots!
Toy manufacturers may be working hard to discourage that as well; Gandy again:
Imagine my surprise when NOW received an email from a woman alerting us to the fact that even the Discovery Channel's online store organizes toys by gender beginning at age five. As the email writer explains: "Since the store is a major one for science and technology toys, I worry that it is just another way women are being discouraged from pursuing interest in science and technology at an early age."
Our lives are a war, and we have been traitors every one of our born days. Spies in the enemy's country. Sometimes we forget that. And then we see something like this.