Linking Black Friday with Male Privilege
For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be re-posting older content as I work to finish up my literature review, due December 12th. This post was originally published on November 19, 2012. Enjoy!
The Holidays are upon us! In fact, this week we celebrate two cherished American holidays, Thanksgiving and Black Friday. You know Black Friday of course; it’s the yearly post-Thanksgiving consumer orgy that last year generated some 11.4 billion dollars. That’s “billion” with a “B.”
Because of this, slowly but surely Black Friday is morphing into Black Thursday. I noticed the other day that Walmart will open at 8pm on Thanksgiving for their “family specials” and 10pm for “gadget die-hards.” Then, doors open at 5am on Friday for, evidently, the non gadget-loving single people.
Why am I talking about Black Friday and American consumerism in a blog dedicated to the topic of male privilege?
Because with the arrival of Black Friday, the season for introducing and reinforcing the reality of male privilege for the next generation is upon us.
One way to answer the question of where male privilege comes from in our culture is to point to the way we enculture our children through the toys we buy them. Think about this with me:
For the most part, toys that cater to boys present a traditionally and stereotypically masculine image marked by power, strength and control. Toys for little boys include things like superhero action figures, building sets and water guns. By contrast, toys marketed to girls communicate an image of femininity marked by softness, humility and passivity. Toys for little girls include things like tea party sets, princess dolls and jewelry.
Can you see in this the seeds of male privilege?
Make no mistake about it, the toys we buy communicate a lot. Specifically, we communicate a view of the world where men possess power and women do not. For girls and young women, the results can be devastating.
In her excellent (and disturbing) book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, journalist Peggy Orenstein details some of the fallout:
“According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture’s emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase girls’ vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior. In one study of eighth-grade girls, for instance, self-objectification—judging your body by how you think it looks to others—accounted for half the differential in girls’ reports of depression and more than two-thirds of the variance in their self-esteem.”
So what’s the bottom line here?
In American culture, boys are taught at an early age that they intrinsically have more power and privilege while girls need to figure out other, often more destructive, ways to make their voices heard.
So what’s the solution here? How do we push back against this biased system? Here are some of things we’re talking about in my house:
Don’t buy toys at all. Maybe a puzzle or board game instead?
Buy toys according to how our girls are wired. Our oldest daughter is clearly an artist, so for her it’s art supplies over princess castles. Our middle daughter loves sports. That new soccer ball looks better than the costume jewelry.
Or, if we do buy some of the more traditional toys, we will aim to supplement or offset that with lots of intentional conversation about how our girls can grow up to be whoever God has called them to be.
Lastly, here’s another thought: when it comes to buying toys, forget going to Walmart this week and instead buy your little girls something like this. It’s the story of Goldieblox, and it’s a great story.
What about you? How do you identify the roots of male privilege in our culture?