Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ty Girlz: teaching gender stereotypes to children  

Has anyone ever heard of "Ty Girlz"? They were introduced to the market about a year ago, but I wasn't aware that they existed until recently. Made by the same company that makes Beanie Babies, Ty Girlz are stylish female dolls that come with codes to allow children to access a Ty Girlz website. The slogan for Ty Girlz is, "It's a Girlz World!" Not so bad, right? I thought so too until I explored exactly what this "Girlz World" entails.

Putting aside the fact that this website sports more glitter and pink sparkles than I have ever seen in my life, the Girlz World features four main activities that its inhabitants can partake in: games, chatting, decorating a house, and shopping. There is no option to sell products - only to buy them. In fact, there are absolutely no career opportunities in Girlz World. There are also no schools. Just a mall. You have the option to eat meals in between shopping sprees; the tour guide in Girlz World proudly states, "Remember: the healthier foods you eat, the more energy you'll have for fun things, like shopping!"

As for the games? One particular game that caught my eye was entitled "Makeup Mishap!" Other games involved playing dress-up and helping a girl get ready for a "big date."

Now, they do allow you to travel to other countries in "Girlz World," but once in these countries, you don't have the option to sightsee or take pictures. What do you do? You shop.

The dolls themselves are not much better. Their names are: Bubbly Britney, Totally Trish, Supercool Serena, Lucky Lindsay, Cute Candy, Pretty Patti, Classy Carla, Jammin' Jenna, Sizzlin' Sue, Dazzlin' Destiny, Lovely Lola, Punky Penny, Rockin' Ruby, Sassy Star, Cutie Cathy, Happy Hillary, Precious Paris, and Sweet Sammi.

What about a Brainy Betty? Or an Independent Isabel? Artistic Amy? Career-Woman Carrie?

They have short descriptions for all the dolls on the website. Out of 18 doll descriptions, only two mentioned school or work. But all 18 of them provided a description of the outfits the dolls wear. A sample:

"Lovely Lola is here to show you that blondes really do have more fun! She's decked out in a fluffy pink jacket with a white belly shirt undernearth, and we can't forget to mention her pink leggings and matching high heels!"

I wish more people would understand that this is why people think boys and girls are inherently different. The "differences" between men and women don't lie in genes - they come from gender stereotypes being pounded into the heads of children. From this Girlz World where shopping is a full-time job, to the fake tool kits and monster trucks that are marketed to little boys. Of course females are going to grow up to love shopping, and males are going to grow up to learn how to fix leaky sinks. It's all they know. Do we really want to teach our daughters this?

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14 comments: to “ Ty Girlz: teaching gender stereotypes to children

  • March 31, 2008 at 11:15 AM  

    while I undertsand your concerns and see how these dolls do exemplify the stereotypes of women it is not the company's sole fault. For instance, what does this say of the mother or grandma who buys the doll for her daughter or grand daughter?

    to some extent we are part of the problem, and, one may suggest, sexist ourselves. If women are still buying these products they are still consenting to conforming the next generation.

    on that note, where do we stop? It is true, MOST girls enjoy shopping. If we have to include other options, where do we draw the line? If they can play lacrosse or field hockey, will we demand that they play baseball or football ("men" sports) as well? there is no clear brightline for the country of what is correct enough.

  • March 31, 2008 at 11:16 AM  

    company* not country

  • March 31, 2008 at 12:16 PM  

    The only reason we are "part of the problem" is because these stereotypes and ideals have been pounded into our head from birth. Mothers and grandmothers who buy these dolls most likely are not aware that they perpetuate rigid gender norms and send a negative message to little girls. Why is this? Because the mothers and grandmothers most likely played with similar dolls when they were children. It's a cycle that can only be broken by awareness. And I don't necessarily think that the makers of these dolls were too conscious that Ty Girlz set a poor example for young girls either. Although I feel like they should have given more consideration and thought to these dolls - perhaps they could have hired outside help or conducted studies about what parents want their daughters to learn from toys - before mass producing them. I think that the company has just as much of a responsibility to abstain from perpetuating stereotypes by producing dolls like these that mothers and fathers do in abstaining from buying them. But a lot of them do not realize that they are "consenting to conforming the next generation." Too often, people make the argument that boys and girls are inherently different and everything can be attributed to genes, but these same people fail to look at childhood influences. The bottom line is that these gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that it seems natural to buy girls little pink dolls. It never occurs to us that we actually have the power to abolish these gender constraints, simply by examining toys like these.

    Even if "most" girls do enjoy shopping, should that be the only activity that we should promote amongst them? I wouldn't object to including a mall on the Girlz World website, but making every single thing about shopping is ridiculous. The games involve playing dress-up and doing makeup, and travelling just means shopping in different countries. TY could have EASILY made these dolls more educational by allowing girls who access this website to learn about the culture of other countries when they visit them - instead of solely about fashion. They could have also created virtual career opportunities (see: Neopets) and virtual schooling. Games could have included trivia, word games, etc. I'm not saying the company has to include ALL possible options (i.e. every possible career, every possible sport, etc), but a mere ATTEMPT at being more inclusive would have at least been acceptable. These Ty Girlz are role models to young girls. What kind of message does it send when they all spend each and every minute of their day at the mall? I agree that this company will never satisfy everyone with their products, but "Girlz World" as it is right now is not even close to being "correct enough." If only they could replace some of the makeup with soccer balls, and one or two of the malls with schools, then at least there will be some sort of positive messages intertwined in there. I think that we should teach our daughters that females can aspire to be anything they want, rather than promoting the idea that shopping and putting on makeup is a full-time job. And believe me, I enjoy shopping and putting on makeup just as much as the next person, but I'm incredibly glad that as a child, all my dolls had the option to pursue careers in between playing dress-up.

  • March 31, 2008 at 6:31 PM  

    all right, fair enough. but to play devil's advocate, you claim that the mothers purchuasing the dolls are not aware of the damage they are doing but are remembering their own childhoods.

    couldn't the same be true for the person designing Ty Dollz? could the be innocently remembering what had attracted them at young ages?

    last, i would be very interested if you knew the gender of the person who came up with the idea of ty dollz.

  • March 31, 2008 at 6:45 PM  

    Gross. I really think we are moving backwards in many ways. Even Barbie had various "occupations" lol. I find the role models, images etc that young girls are bombarded with are very scary, even more so than in past generations.

  • March 31, 2008 at 9:17 PM  

    No worries, I really don't mind someone playing devil's advocate :)

    It's absolutely possible that the makers of Ty did not realize what they were doing. Most likely, they didn't fully understand the true effects these dolls could have on little girls. And I don't particularly fault them for that because only those that embrace radical feminist ideas can truly grasp that concept.

    I do believe, however, that a company that is going to mass produce toys to impressionable children should conduct extensive research before doing so. I can't imagine that Ty consulted a broad array of people before making these toys. I can understand that they weren't able to view the world through the eyes of a radical feminist, but I believe that they could have given it more consideration. If anything, they could have looked at the infamous case of the "Talking Barbie." These toys were recalled because of enormous outlash due to one of her phrases being, "Math class is tough!" I feel that Ty Girlz, in another way, discourage education in young girls. I just wish Ty realized that.

    You know, I haven't been able to find who is the brains behind the Ty Girlz. I would be interested to see what gender this person is as well. It's most likely a committee of people that conducted the idea for Ty Girlz together, but who knows how many males and females were involved.

  • April 1, 2008 at 2:24 PM  

    The dolls could be improved vastly just by adding a little bit of education to them. If you're going to go shopping in Paris, why don't you learn about Paris' currency or fashion style? It's ethnocentric to teach kids people all over the world are just like Americans, because they aren't.

    Also, that video? Why don't we spend less money on perpetuating stereotypes and more on someone who can actually write a decent song.

  • April 1, 2008 at 3:14 PM  

    My jaw literally dropped when I played that video.


  • April 1, 2008 at 3:36 PM  

    Katie, MINE TOO! It's bad enough that they all talk like valley girls, but a tour of all the shopping malls around the world? Seriously?

  • November 22, 2009 at 3:08 PM  

    Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

  • November 23, 2010 at 8:50 PM  

    Ty Girlz sux!
    I've just find your blog while I was looking for pictures about gender stereotypes and I must say It's a great sample of a woman who thinks instead of shop every minute.

  • January 12, 2012 at 2:19 AM  

    Military pilot faggot who paid a CHILD to allow him to suck his dick:::He was 17 and the boy was 11!!
    "I'll let you drive my car if you let me suck your dick."
    HE wanted to be the prostitute.
    Military piliot, male prostitute.
    How long did "Military pilot::Male prostitute" masterbate and think about homosexuality? A year? "Into his 20s."
    After he enlisted in the military? Into his flight training?
    He was 17 and the boy was 11!!! He needs to be on a list the community can reference.
    His wife looks like a man and he stongly prefers copulation, a testiment to his younger years as molester.
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  • October 28, 2017 at 2:00 PM  

    I just found this article almost ten years later, and for anyone who happens to find this article too, I would like to add my two cents. I loved this game as a child and have fond memories of shopping online for virtual clothes. And while that was pretty much the only thing you could do, I turned out fine. Playing this game didn't drill anti-feminist ideals into my head at all. The best part of all: I rarely ever go shopping in real life. While this game is stereotypically girly, 2000s kids were also exposed to more balanced games such as Webkinz which included educational minigames, a doctor's office, and a classroom. These games balanced out what children took in through the Internet. Although Ty Girlz was ridiculously girly, it didn't have that much of an impact on female stereotypes in young girls' minds.