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Byron and SkyeIf you have a kid between three and seven and don’t have an utterly screenless existence, you probably know that the current rage is Paw Patrol, a TV show/toy franchise about a team of rescue pups who… well… let’s just say that whenever there is trouble around Adventure Bay, Ryder and his team of pups are there to save the day.

Our boy’s favorite non-Lego toys over the past few months have been Paw Patrol pups that come with badges and backpacks that open up and do stuff. One is Skye, the only girl in the original pup line-up of six (they’ve since added another to the show). We found that while the other pups weren’t too hard to find, Skye was nearly impossible to find. And the reason was obvious: Girls love Paw Patrol as much as boys. Girls want Skye.

But Byron also loves Skye. And he wanted use to round out the set. So for months we were regularly and fruitlessly checking the ransacked shelves at Target and Toys R Us, where, for reasons that can only be explained by recent news and public opinion, we would find only piles of unpurchased Chase toys (Chase is the police dog).

Byron also noted that most of the merchandise featuring all the pups never had Skye. She wasn’t on the shirts, or the party plates. He was confused, and the message must have started sinking in: Skye isn’t on my shirts because as a boy I’m not supposed to want her on my shirt. Skye isn’t on the paper plates because she is less important than the boy pups. And that’s where we have to intervene, affirming for Byron that it’s OK to like Skye and the companies are dumb for leaving her off.

Byron also likes Lego Friends and Lego Elves. He likes the unicorn girl minifigure almost as much as the alien trooper. He likes Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black and Bratz and some show about a fairy tale high school with mostly girl characters. But he isn’t a feminist superkid just yet. I can see the culture taking its toll, his occasional grimness when offered a book about a girl, especially if she’s not an animal. He will opt for the space robot action figure over the big-eyed kitty every time at McDonald’s, and the fact that eyes are on him and one is described by the cashier as a ‘boy toy’ certainly influences him. And he’s not even in school yet, where other boys will surely coach him on despising girls and things for girls.

The gender splitting I’ve complained about in books is extreme in toys and television, so appalling I really can’t believe how passively parents accept it. Why must any mixed-gender franchise be 5/6 boys? Why did all the superheroes from my childhood go on steroids? Why do all of the Lego girls come in slimmed down from the classic, sturdy, Lego minifig body? For that matter, why do you have to paint a six pack on the male figures, on top of their uniforms? I don’t mind that the girls in that fairy tale show talk about dating and dresses, but why can’t boy characters ever show a little vulnerability, be a little smitten, be a little concerned about how others perceive them?

There’s lots more I want to say here, so I’ll have to come back to it. Suffice to say that kids are sufficiently assaulted with gender role expectations before they reach Kindergarten, and it’s maddening. Books are the least of the problem. The bigger part of the problem is everything else: clothes, toys, movies, TV, even breakfast cereal boxes.

Incidentally, Byron did not want to be photographed with Skye, and seen playing with a girl toy, but his mother told him that it’s important for the world to see that boys can play with girl toys. That’s what convinced him. Good work, B.

5 thoughts on “The Skye Saga

  1. To be fair (to B) it wasn’t that he didn’t want his picture with Skye, he just didn’t want to stop playing and endure the process of a mommy photo session. (Hold still. Look at the camera. Look at the camera. Honey, look at the camera. Smile please! Look at the camera again! etc)

    But he was totally cool with showing boys it’s ok to play with toys that are girls.

  2. Donna Trump says:

    Was waiting in Macy’s infant clothes the other day. 6-mo boys clothes–functional 1-piece, primary colors. 6-mo girl clothes–ruffles, skirts, pastels. Good God.

  3. ChristineSarmel says:

    Stopped in the card aisle this week to buy a pack of birthday cards to keep around the house for the young nieces and nephews.

    Pack #1 – pink, sparkly, unicorns and flowers
    Pack #2 – orange, green, trucks and space aliens

    Really? Really?!

    No, Hallmark, I’m not gonna buy 2 packs so I can send the “appropriate” card. I bought #2 and sent the monster truck card to my niece who adored it almost as much as she does karate and archery.

  4. This kind of thing reeeeeeally bothers me as a parent. I can’t even get my kid a Happy Meal without getting into it with the poor drive thru person about why my kid wants to know what the “girl” toy is and the “boy” toy is before she decides which she wants. And the change in physical appearance of toys from my childhood to hers? It’s disturbing. If I see too many more slimmed-down, large-breasted, scantily-clothed, heavily-make-up’d toys (and yes! the animals wear make-up too!) for my 6-year-old, I’m going to have to build a bunker.

  5. carrotplease says:

    I JUST wrote an email to nickelodeon about this. My 4 year old loves paw patrol, and I think really likes Skye (primarily because she FLIES! WHICH IS AWESOME!) but NONE of the stuff has her on it. He wanted the bedding, we got the bedding. No Skye. The shirts? Forget it (unless you want frilly pink stuff).

    He keeps asking me why, and I effing hate having to explain that the people who make that stuff think boys wouldn’t want the girl dog on their stuff. It’s stupid. He’s smart enough to declare that “stupid” but it really has been bothering me. It’s a show about a TEAM, so the merch and other crap (that the show exists to sell us) should include the whole TEAM, no?

    I am so irritated by this (and it’s such a small thing, seemingly, but the more I think about it the more annoyed I get)

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