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Dora Explores…Domestic Labor! December 1, 2009

Posted by FCM in entertainment, gender roles, kids, pop culture, WTF?.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

whats next? dora "exploring" domestic violence? or the sex trade?

i saw a commercial for this one lastnight, and i admit that somehow this has flown under my radar for at least the last 2 christmases.   

see the commercial for yourself here.  its really a must-see.  now, i know there are many variations on the pink plastic kitchen out there for little girls to unwrap at birthdays and christmas and play with.  i had an easy-bake oven when i was 7 that was a blast (until i left the plastic spatula in the oven and it melted). but “dora the explorer” is supposed to be an adventurous girl that goes on, you know, educational adventures…that are almost (but not quite, of course) like the fun stuff little boys get to do. you see, dora is supposed to be different

heres the product description from toys r us

Dora’s Talking Kitchen brings Dora’s adventures into kitchen role play. Children can go on Dora recipe adventures with the help of the 5 recipe adventure maps and 28 play pieces. Also included are bilingual phrases, music and sound effects. 

oh goody!  kitchen-role play for children! see how they attempt to follow the patented dora “adventure” theme by having “recipe adventure maps?”  how exciting!  why not just have a detailed map of the aisles at the supermarket?  at least that would be educational (excuse me, but where is “butterpat island” exactly? wait, its the boring old dairy case!? dora fucked me!)  now, tell me truly: are they really talking about “children” here, or almost exclusively little girls?  the commercial tells you all you need to know about the gender of fisher-price’s intended target. 

and its just plain creepy to call anything dealing with children “role play.”  kids play, they use their imaginations, but they are not role-playing.  okay?  role playing is for grown ups getting their skank on in the bedroom, or purging their emotional guts out on the therapists’ couch.  unless…could fisher price really be admitting their true intention here: to groom little girls for the “role” of domestic laborer?  why admit it?  so called “girls’ toys” have been doing that for centuries,** but theres something so not right about calling this scenario “role play.”  for real, thats weird.

there are several youtube clips of little girls playing with their new dora the explorer kitchens, but the thought of embedding videos of someone else’s little girls on my blog creeped me out.  but by all means, take a stroll over there and browse around.  i felt like kate winslett in the dining room of the titanic, watching the little girl getting socialized into proper womanhood by her mother. much like that little girl, i cant help but think we are all very much on a sinking ship.

** in “researching” this article, i found an example of a toy thats gender-neutral, and doesnt groom its wee consumers into either tarzan or jane.  put down your drink before watching though, seriously.  h/t to “the babble list” for footage of what just might be the most idiotic invention, or at least the dumbest idea for a toy, ever.


1. Loretta Kemsley - December 2, 2009

Every birthday and every Christmas, I got dolls and tea sets. Hated them. Never played with them. Mom wouldn’t let me get rid of them because “they are gifts.” So they sat on the shelf in my room, staring down at me and creeping me out. Never, ever bought a doll or a “domestic” anything for my daughters.

factcheckme - December 2, 2009

did you have a problem finding “gender neutral” gifts for your kids, that didnt result in whiplash? (hehe) or did you have to give them “boys-toys”?

2. akibare - December 2, 2009

I never had any toy ovens – my mother was of the opinion that if I wanted to cook, I might as well make real cakes on the real stove.

I wouldn’t mind so much kids cooking (or playing at it) if the stuff wasn’t ONLY marketed at girls, constantly and always. Recipe adventure maps? Haha. “Chocolate and lemons? Sure why not! Could be good!” or maybe “Can this stew be saved?”

Hands down my worst gift was at a class Xmas exchange in third grade. Of course the class was split so that girls bought gifts for girls and boys for boys. I can’t recall what I brought in, but I know what I took home – a Barbie outfit. Problem was, I didn’t own a single Barbie, nor did I have any interest in getting any.

I think I would have preferred the Swing Wing.

factcheckme - December 2, 2009

I think I would have preferred the Swing Wing.

this made me LOL. and i like your idea of “can this stew be saved?” thats news you can use right there. i remember when i first went off to college, i was so broke, and i thought it would be a good idea to make a HUGE pot of lentils because it would last me for 2 weeks and cost like a dollar. well, i ruined the whole pot by adding too many carrots. apparently, the sugar from the carrots and the starch from the lentils combined to make something unholy that was eventually discovered by scientists and used as the main ingredient in splenda. it was so sweet i couldnt even eat it, and i used my last dollar on the lentils. no shit. where were you then, dora the explorer? all i was exploring after that was crippling gas pains, and ways to sneak-eat my roommates food without being found out, til my next paycheck.

3. faemom - December 2, 2009

My problem with the Dora the Explorer kitchen is that it’s just another marketing piece of crap that they stuck a character’s face on to sell. Like they do with soccer balls, sleeping bags, or some other random toy. Most kitchen sets do have both girls and boys playing with them in the commercials or on the side of the box. Unfortunately it’s only boys that are pictured working with the tool sets. Advertisers and marketers always insist they do loads of research kids and always find that boys like “boy” toys and girls like “girl” toys. While I’ve notice boys tend to move towards cars and guns, they also love playing house and dress-up. Just like girls enjoy playing cars and guns too. Present a kid a toy, and it becomes gender neutral as the child plays with it.

4. thebeardedlady - December 3, 2009

Forcing children into gender roles starts before they’re even born. A pregnant friend of mine insists on painting the spare room pink because they’re having a girl. The whole thing makes me want to scream, to be honest. The idea that gender roles are natural is just a sickening twist on reality – in fact, they are IMPOSED and FORCED on kids. And then when young children show a preference for a toy that is within their gender role remit, it’s considered as proof of nature – not the fact that we’ve been pumping them full of this nonsense every moment since before they even took a breath.

Anyway! Ranting aside, Dora is a bit after my time, but it’s sick that they’ve turned an ‘explorer’ into a kitchen slave. Sick, but not surprising.

5. factcheckme - December 3, 2009

Dora is a bit after my time, but it’s sick that they’ve turned an ‘explorer’ into a kitchen slave.

yup. well put. did you watch the video at the end? i highly recommend it. its so hard to even find an example of a gender-neutral toy, it was difficult to wrap my mind around this one, when i saw it. its absolutely gender-neutral, as far as i can tell. and it looks really boring, and dangerous, to boot. besides the “swing wing” the only other toys i can think of that arent M/F are games like chess and checkers…but i am sure those were boys games at one point cuz they involved, you know, thinking and strategy.

6. thebeardedlady - December 3, 2009

Board games, like Monopoly (monotony) and Scrabble are reasonably gender-neutral?

I grew up with four boys and I used to have to share my one dolly with all four of them, until suddenly one day they decided that everything that girls liked was stupid and pathetic. The day I realised I was a ‘girl’ and no longer just a kid along with the rest of my siblings was fucking heartbreaking.

factcheckme - December 3, 2009

yeah, the only things i could think of were games, and not toys. although i imagine that board games were originally for boys, because they involved thinking? and thats interesting about you and your siblings. you had no concept of gender at all, either yours or theirs? now that i think about it…i think my realization came when i was assualted by 3 older neighborhood boys, when i was 5. i described that experience in the cis-priv article, where they trapped me in a camping tent and wouldnt let me leave, unless i either kissed each of them, or let them look inside my underwear. that was really confusing, and traumatizing. i think part of it was the striking *suddenness* of the realization and the heartbreak of it, when you realize that you are a girl, and they are boys, and what that *means*. wow, i hadnt thought about it like that before, but you are so right.

taking a trip down memory lane here…i remember pretending to breastfeed a doll when i was like 4 years old. i remember clearly that i didnt even have breasts (nothing even remotely resembling them at that age) but that i always assumed that i would have babies. WTF? that was even *before* the traumatic realization i experienced above, and before i really got the meaning of being a girl, and being a girl surrounded by boys. i dont even think i realized that my breastfeeding my doll was gender-specific, and i seem to recall my brother doing the same thing when he was really young, like 3 or 4.

some of my favorite memories of “playing” as a kid and young person were with boys, or a mixture of girls and boys doing boy-things like swimming, climbing trees and playing football. my grandma got my sister and i fake “barbies” at one point, that we played with once in awhile, mostly when it was raining and we couldnt go outside. ah, the memories!

7. thebeardedlady - December 3, 2009

I think I knew I was a girl from quite young, because I was always ‘the only girl’ – but it didn’t mean anything to me, except that my grandma bought me tapestry kits and knitting dollies which me and my brothers thought were boring. I also enjoyed riding bikes, climbing trees, running around and fighting. It wasn’t until we were all a bit older that the fun started to be leeched out of those things, when I kept being referred to as a ‘tomboy’ and when arguments with my brothers started to involve references to my sexuality (slag, bitch). Yeah, I remember going from being pretty carefree and feeling like I was part of the group, to feeling that if I joined in, adults were critical of that, and I could be excluded at any time for being a girl, and that if I didn’t join in, all my activities were bound to the house, to playing with dolls or in the kitchen, etc.

Memories of being human, of feeling like a whole human being… it is heartbreaking when you realise what it means that you’re female. It means you will never, ever, be the same again. You can always be left out, belittled, ignored, hated, just because of that one fact.

I always knew I was just as clever, just as funny, just as streetwise, just as brave as any of my brothers, or any other boy. In fact, I knew I was cleverer than most boys! I knew that being a girl didn’t make me any less – but according to everyone else, it did.

Female privilege, eh? Lucky me, and my lifetime of heartbreak.

8. akibare - December 3, 2009

Thing is, even IF there were some biological reasons for the interests of the sexes to diverge (be it overlapping bell curves or whatever other shape is in fashion among people arguing that) – even in such a world, why on earth should there be a need to prescribe the toys that kids are given? Why bother with the prediction to start with?

If 90% of girls end up wanting the mothering doll toys and 90% of boys end up making toy guns, falling neatly into boxes, so be it, but let them choose their OWN boxes, already!

But we don’t see that – we see people saying “well, due to biology girls will want dolls, so we must provide them with dolls. Boys are adventurous, so we must give them toys that encourage them to play outside as explorers.”

For whatever reason, I was never into dolls as a kid. I didn’t much like the entire game of “playing house” or much pretending in general, really. I liked board games (still do!), I liked running around outside, and I liked art.

As a result, when my friends played house, I always happily offered to play the role of Dad, which no one else wanted. Why? Because I could “be at work” and sit there doodling at an easel while the rest of them played house. Sneaky. 🙂

factcheckme - December 3, 2009

Why? Because I could “be at work” and sit there doodling at an easel while the rest of them played house. Sneaky.

LOL that *is* sneaky. reminds me of mike brady on the brady bunch, always doodling in his den and letting mom-n-alice take care of all the heavy lifting. sneaky indeed!

9. faemom - December 3, 2009

Trust me. Nature and nurture overlap. My mom always tell people how when I was born they gave me whatever toy they could to amuse myself, but I all I wanted were the dolls. I didn’t start playing with “boy toys” until I had brothers to play with.

I personally think that all toys are gender-neutral. What makes a car a boy toy? What makes a doll a girl toy? Other than frilly princess dresses and high-heeled shoes, all toys will entertain children. (And I’ve known boys perfectly content to play dress up with other girls.) It’s up to the parents to accept the child’s decision on what he or she likes and not to push a child in established roles if the child doesn’t want to.

I wouldn’t even jump the gun and say that board games were originally targeted to boys, since we do have written accounts of chess being played by women and men. Monopoly was invented by a woman.

10. thebeardedlady - December 3, 2009

With all due respect, faemom, I’m not just going to trust you on that! Gender is a pernicious meme, a powerful illusion which destroys women’s lives, so I’m not going to accept that it’s partly natural just on the basis on an anecdote or two. There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest that there is any biological component to gender roles.

I do agree that you should let kids play with whatever they want to. But a lot of parents push their children into gender roles without being aware they’re doing it, because such ideas are pervasive and infect all of us.

11. polly - December 3, 2009

Really, Faemom cos I know little boys who love to dress up in dresses? Ok, this gives me a chance to move sideways and bring up the issue of pink boys. Yes really. I discovered recently there is whole blogging movement on raising so called ‘pink boys’ie gender non conforming boys. I’m not going to link to anyone in particular but google ‘raising pink boys’ and you will be horrified. Curiously enough there don’t seem to be any blogs however dedicated to raising “tomboys.”

I appreciate that parents of gender non conforming children can have concerns about pressure to conform and bullying etc, but these blogs really make me go WTF? Speculation on, is my boy gay, is he transsexual etc etc. How about you just RELAX and let your kid do what they want and stop interpreting it in traditional gender role terms people? Believe me it happened in my family and we’ve only turned out ONE homosexual AFAIK.

Faemom: I’ve observed that most small children, boys included, like dolls, probably because most small people are fascinated with small people, most toddlers love babies too for the same reason. But dolls are frequently snatched away from boys.

factcheckme - December 3, 2009

yeah, i am not going to “trust” faemom on this issue either. and my brother liked dolls too when he was like 3 or 4. i seem to recall him pretending to breastfeed one, just like i did when i was his age.

12. faemom - December 4, 2009

Well TBL and FCM, I wasn’t aware that the scientific community dropped the nature in the debate of “nature vs nurture.” No wonder you wouldn’t trust me. Would you mind sending me the article of this monumental announcement? I feel horrible that I missed that. I’ll have to do my own research and see what I missed.

Polly, I wouldn’t agree with any of those blogs about raising pink boys or tomboys because it’s trying to condition a child. I think it’s adults who force the gender issue on children, whether it’s the parents, relatives or advertisers.

I picked dolls as an example because most people believe dolls are a “girl” toy. But I know several boys that love playing with play kitchens, playing house, dress-up (though I don’t know one family that hands their boys dresses for it, but maybe cloaks). Heck, my own boys use their lawn mowers to vacuum rather than mow lawns. Many of these activities are “girly” in the eyes of many people, but I think this just natural role playing all children go through.

factcheckme - December 4, 2009

just as an FYI to my readers, faemom is friends with femspotter. the sarcasm is apparently a shared trait, although i dont think they are the same person.

13. femspotter - December 4, 2009

LOL – Yes, we are friends and not the same person. We’ve never met, but we share an intense emotional and intellectual bond. She is my pretty doppelganger.

14. faemom - December 5, 2009

FCM~ I didn’t realize it would bother you or your readers that someone would recommend your blog because she found it interesting. I’ve been reading you for quite awhile and decided to comment on this post because I have a plastic kitchen in my own family room, though defiantly not Dora as that is just full of commercialism. As for the sarcasm, I didn’t realize that bothered you either. I won’t use it again, but I assure you I’m much more sarcastic then femspotter, perhaps funnier too.

15. thebeardedlady - December 5, 2009


factcheckme - December 5, 2009

whats FFS TBL?

UPDATE: never mind. got it. LOL

16. akibare - December 5, 2009

I suppose my main wonder is at the people (not here) who will take a position of “BECAUSE there’s some biological inclinations toward traditional gender roles, that means we must reinforce those gender roles and make sure that no one transgresses the line.”

Related to those people are people who will claim that “because boys and girls learn differently[1] we must from the outset put them in different classrooms based on their genitalia, no actually letting them try both styles and self-divide.”

I just don’t see that the one thing follows the other, at all. “Because something has a natural tendency to divide a certain way, we must step in and make SURE that it happens”? (Note: I’m not claiming this natural tendency, I think the logical link has a problem whether such a tendency existed OR not.)

If it were true that girls will naturally prefer dolls, then it wouldn’t hurt to let them play with trucks, right? Because they’d reject them anyway, so no harm? If boys supposedly inherently won’t “really” like dolls, and will always want guns, then how can it hurt a boy to encounter a doll? He’ll be bored and move on, right? And the few who “transgress,” in such a reality, would be a minority anyway, so no harm no foul?

But no, they’re supposedly SUUUUURE that naturally, things will divide a certain way, but not trusting enough, or sure enough, to actually just let what happens, happen.

[1] There’s quite the popular pop psychology about this making the rounds, often in religious circles, portrayed as “the feminized educational establishment’s attack on boys,” etc. The few studies most of the stuff cites have been rather hilariously debunked in a few places.

factcheckme - December 5, 2009

If it were true that girls will naturally prefer dolls, then it wouldn’t hurt to let them play with trucks, right? Because they’d reject them anyway, so no harm? If boys supposedly inherently won’t “really” like dolls, and will always want guns, then how can it hurt a boy to encounter a doll? He’ll be bored and move on, right? And the few who “transgress,” in such a reality, would be a minority anyway, so no harm no foul?

akibare, thats a good point. if gender were really so stable, it wouldnt need so much outside “support”! people are fing stupid when it comes to “genetics” and the implications of same, and deliberately fing stupid as far as i can tell. this reminds me of the infertile couples seeking donor sperm/eggs wanting the donors to be educated for example. WTF do they think is going to be passed down in that biological material? if intelligence is innate (and they seem to be saying that it is in this context) then whether someone was educated would be completely irrelevant wouldnt it? all that seems to be screening for is someone who was wealthy and the right race, religion, orientation etc to be likely to get through college. completely different thing than “intelligence” isnt it?

17. Whir - December 8, 2009

Re: “pink boy” hysteria, dear god. My little brother used to love borrowing my nightgowns to sleep – probably because it just looked like a fun thing to sleep in – and I distinctly remember – back when we were going through a years-long stage when we made ridiculous Christmas lists – that he asked one year for “all the Barbies in the world” and a bunch of American Girl stuff. We played with dolls, we played house, we played with Tonka trucks, we played Stratego, whatever. My parents never worried about any of it, as far as I could see, and he grew up into a sports-playing straight guy. Goodness knows there were plenty of socializing forces at work, without my parents’ help, to make him start denying the nightgown-and-Barbie episodes by the time he was 8 or 9. Just, um…wanted to share?

As regards the egg donation – is it just “educated”, or are they looking for graduates of specific colleges? I went to an ivy league school where they were constantly advertising in the campus paper for donors, and I think the assumption was that being at a college that US News and World Report put in their top 3=undoubtedly, full of native intelligence. Or maybe there’s hope that, with biological material that came from a graduate, they can argue for a technical legacy admit once Junior gets old enough to apply to said institution? I don’t know. Neither of those things make a whole lot of sense.

18. polly - December 10, 2009

People are TERRIFIED their boys will grow up to be gay Akibare. That’s what it is. So they think that if they display interest in a doll, rigorous intervention will put the male child on the path to heterosexuality.

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