Browsing articles in "Community Blog"

Why I Let My Boy Play with Barbie

Oct 21, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  No Comments

I grew up in the South some time ago (I’m not dropping any more hints!), and my best friend was a little boy who wore Harry Potter glasses and loved to play with my Barbie dolls.

When our moms would arrange playdates, I knew if the rendezvous point was my house, there was only one thing Liam was going to want to play with: my small collection of Mattel “girl toys.” Liam’s mom always made us play with the door open so she could keep him from playing with anything girly. There were a few times I took the fall for “forcing” him to play house, but in all honesty, Liam just enjoyed Barbies more than Legos.

My personal love for Barbies was always minimal—I liked to cut their hair off, give them tattoos, and see how fast I could destroy them. Liam was a fan of playing house. When I went to his house, he shared all the Legos, so when he came over to mine, we pulled out my stash of Malibu Dreamhouse characters.


“STEM for Girls” Doesn’t Mean “Make STEM Pink”

Aug 26, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on “STEM for Girls” Doesn’t Mean “Make STEM Pink”

Considering some ethics in marketing Children’s Media…

The past few years have seen a drastic increase in the amount of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs, products, and especially toys targeted towards girls. As a girl who studied life sciences in university I couldn’t have been happier. This was perfect! What a time to be alive! …at least, that’s what I thought at first.



Now before you shoot me I AM ALL FOR GIRLS IN STEM. Like I said before I was ecstatic at first with all the emerging efforts to bring more inclusion into the field I always had great interest in myself. But as I tend to do, I thought about the issue more and more, and as I tend to do, I began to have some doubts. My doubts aren’t from the idea of making STEM accessible for girls through toys, but rather how we seem to be doing it.

There is a significant under-representation of women in STEM fields. This is not new. It has been repeatedly reported that there are far less women working in STEM fields or even holding STEM-related degrees. The distribution of women actually in STEM is also heavily dependent on the field, with women being more prevalent in biology and heavily lacking in engineering and computer sciences. This pattern has become of great concern in recent years and both the Canadian and American governments have conducted research studies that confirm this disparity.


Poly-Platform Relationships

Aug 19, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  3 Comments

One’s relationship with social media is just that: a relationship. Be it friendship or love affair, each one plays an important role in how we, in this brave new world of technology, navigate our careers and personal lives. The closer you get with each platform, the deeper your understanding of its personality.

Facebook icon

Facebook is your sweet, supportive, long-term boyfriend. Creating an account is love at first sight. Before you know it you two are gossiping almost every night, being invited to events, and sharing intimate personal details. Facebook doesn’t even mind if you creep your ex-boyfriend and gawk at his tacky wedding photos and babies that – yep! – inherited his oddly shaped skull. Facebook is confident and easy-going. He makes the act of giving and receiving love as easy as the click of a button. He understands that sometimes you’re busy, and he never holds a grudge – he’s more than happy to catch you up over the weekend. He gives you plenty of attention when you change your hairstyle, and he never forgets your birthday.

Twitter icon

Twitter on the other hand, is the classic bad-boy. You flirt with him every once in a while, but it doesn’t turn into something right away. His hashtags are too cool and you don’t quite understand them. They’re jarring and political, hip and often ill-informed. However, there’s still an attraction there. All it takes is being paired together on a school project and something starts to click. As you spend more time together you slowly start experimenting with hashtags. You find they’re actually quite enlightening. After some digging you find he has stances on politics that really align with yours. You start bringing things up Twitter has said in every conversation and suddenly it’s “hashtag this” and hashtag that.”

Then you go away for a few days – you’ve earned some time off. You come back to Twitter happy and refreshed to find: nothing. Silence. No notifications, no messages, nothing. He gives you the cold shoulder for a day or two until you can ease back into a routine together. He holds a grudge if you ignore him, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with how needy he can be. While trying to stay on top of his ever-changing trends and you start to think, “maybe we should just be friends and only see each other on special occasions.” But then in a lovely and surprising gesture he puts you in touch with your favourite author, (he knows how much her first book meant to you) and you just can’t let go of this complicated, fickle, misunderstood man. Read more >>

Dolls Want To Play With Diversity

Jul 22, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Dolls Want To Play With Diversity

In the midst of feminist empowerment and diversity movements growing among teenage girls and women all over the world, an army of dolls are also getting in line to expose these issues to the younger demographic. Love it or hate it, Mattel and Netflix are on the forefront trying to make little girls and boys play with different body shapes and skin colours.

The most heated debate is centred on the Barbie Fashionista line. Fans of the blue eyed and blonde haired doll can now play with a tall, curvy or petite Barbie as well as seven skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hairstyles. A big discussion on social media, many think this is an “adult hang-up” – an issue too soon to be showed to young girls, while others congratulate the initiative, as shown in this article from Daily Mail ( Mattel calls it an “evolution of the doll” previously known for unreal waist and body proportions.

“We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand — these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them — the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice-president and global general manager for Barbie, in a press release back in January, when the news about the launch came up.


Cinderella Needs to Grow Up

Jul 8, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Cinderella Needs to Grow Up

Even classics need to change. Having grown up knowing only the cheerful 1950 Disney Cinderella cartoon, I fondly remember my confused and horrified reaction to reading The Grimm Brother’s recording of this tale originally known as Aschenputtel.

Cinderella (1950):

How could Disney have forgotten to mention that Cinderella’s abuse started while her father was in the house, that praying to a tree that represented her mother would get a bird to produce anything she wanted, that she twice tried to convince her evil stepmother to let her go to the ball before giving up and asking for help, or that she hid from the prince despite having no time limit? But that was the point, wasn’t it? Aschenputtel was based on a religious moral lesson that outweighed its practicality, and was neither suited for children nor for the 1990 culture. Thus, Disney turned it into the musical that we remember.


Bait and Bury: Queerbaiting in Teen Media

Jun 17, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Bait and Bury: Queerbaiting in Teen Media

The internet erupted on March 3rd with outrage over the death of Lexa, a lesbian character on The CW series The 100. Emotions have ranged from fury to misery, but perhaps the most upsetting aspect is the feeling of fatigue. The LGBT community is sadly accustomed to being pulled into a series with the promise of representation, only to have it sent away or worse: killed off. For teens struggling with their sexual identity, this practice of queerbaiting could have potentially devastating consequences.

The 2015 GLAAD report of “Where We Are on TV” shows 4% of TV characters are LGBT+, compared to an estimated 10-20% of the actual population. With so few characters to represent the community, the weight of responsibility is heavier on the writers to give meaningful depictions of queerness. However, due to many factors including network restrictions, lack of queer writers, and a tendency to rely on tropes, queerness is often handled poorly or merely used as a tool to gain a queer following.

Queerbaiting is not a new phenomenon. One of the earlier examples in the teen sphere is the band t.A.T.u.’s 2002 music video for “All the Things She Said,” in which the 17-year-old female singers share a kiss, going on to affirm their heterosexuality in interviews. This is echoed years later by Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” (2008) and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” (2014), both of which use homosexuality (in the titles, no less) to draw the listener in, but within the same song reassure them of their heterosexuality. This turns queerness into a gimmick to be exploited to attract attention, yet all are songs are massively popular both in and out of the LGBT+ community. With so few sources of representation to choose from, it’s unsurprising that queer communities rally around even the slimmest examples of queerness, and those marketing to teen audiences are definitely aware of this.


Attention, Parents: Violent Video Games Are Not Marketed to Kids

Jun 3, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Attention, Parents: Violent Video Games Are Not Marketed to Kids

It’s been the same argument for over 20 years.  Ever since complaints over the hyper-violent Doom and Night Trap led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in 1994, parents and advocacy groups have complained about how the video game industry supposedly markets inappropriate titles to minors.

The National Rifle Association implicated the sector in facilitating the shootings at Sandy Hook, condemning it as “a callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people.” It should be noted that the specific video game they believe provoked the murders, Kindergarten Killer, is a user-created mod, and not an ESRB-approved title–the industry didn’t market it at all.

ESRB Mature 17+ rating

The ESRB Mature 17+ rating is found on all mature-rated video games.

Many of the deaths in this Criminal Justice Degrees Guide article were perpetrated by people who were demonstrably too young to play the discussed games.  Their parents allowed this, despite the ESRB’s ubiquitous rating system clearly denoting, on every box and every download screen, when a game is designated Adults Only (18+), Mature (17+), Teen (13+), Everyone 10+, Everyone, or Early Childhood.  Each rating comes with specific indicators as to the content of each title, such as ‘intense violence’ or ‘nudity.’ contains lengthy descriptions of thousands of commercial games.

There are strict industry regulations about how, where, and to whom games of higher ratings can be marketed.  At some point, parents need to take more responsibility for the kind of content their children experience.

Almost 50% of boys surveyed in a study listed an M-rated title as their favourite game.  Most stores won’t sell the games directly to minors, but they’re getting them somehow.

Case in point: the amount of parents who bought their children the M-for-Mature-rated Grand Theft Auto V.  A person going by ‘Video Game Retail Veteran’ wrote about the situation in a Kotaku article titled ‘I Sold Too Many Copies of GTA V to Parents Who Didn’t Give a Damn.’


Body Image Issues Affect Boys, Too

May 20, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Body Image Issues Affect Boys, Too

“Do you even lift, brah?”

Yes, you’ve heard it before. It’s a familiar phrase that has made the pop culture rounds. Maybe you’ve heard it at the gym, maybe you’ve seen it on a meme…the two of you have certainly crossed paths before. Oft used in jest, the expression is a colloquialism of condescension – implying illegitimacy in one’s supposed fitness expertise. Poking fun at a lifestyle so imbued with discipline and commitment, is there anyone who could actually take the question seriously?

News Flash: There is. And he’s only seven years old.

On average, 30-34% of American boys aged 6-8 feel some sort of dissatisfaction with their bodies. As most studies surrounding body image issues are female-centric, this alarmingly high number may surprise you. We as a society generally consider the boy psyche to be impenetrable of such ‘vain’ concerns. Turns out, boys are just as susceptible to negative body influences as girls are, but somehow the concern for them fell between the cracks


Shopkins: Not Completely Harmful But Not Completely Harmless Either

May 4, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Shopkins: Not Completely Harmful But Not Completely Harmless Either

There is no doubt that digital media is certainly casting its imprint in the kids market. Just think of all the apps designed for kids, not to mention all the online content that is available to them. Despite this, however, “traditional” toys (aka, toys that aren’t on screens) are still very much present in the marketplace. Perhaps one of the most popular toys for ages 5 and up right now is Shopkins.

Shopkins was launched in June 2014 by Moose Toys, an Australian company that specializes in developing, designing, and distributing toy and lifestyle products for kids all around the world. The company found previous success with their collectible figurine toy line for boys called the “Trash Pack”. They decided to make a collectible line that was geared towards girls and the result? A toy line whose motto is: “Once you shop, you can’t stop!” and whose characters live in Shopville.

Shopkins are small figurine-like toys that depict anthropomorphized objects like food, household items, and clothing/accessories. Just imagine a purse with a cute little face on it and you have “Handbag Harriet”. A cookie with a cute face? “Kooky Cookie”. There are also three female human characters, named Bubbleisha, Jessicake, and Poppete. Shopkins can be differentiated by seasons. For instance, the first season of toys features grocery store items like “Fruit & Veg”, “Health & Beauty”, “Bakery”, and “Dairy”. The latest season launched in December 2015, marking the fourth season of the toy line. While the toy line was originally designed for girls, it has also found appeal from boys.


Singing Builds the Bond Between Parent and Child

Mar 28, 2016   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on Singing Builds the Bond Between Parent and Child

Nostalgia plays a role in each of our lives. From TV shows, movies, songs and celebrities, there are pieces of our earliest memories which cling in our thoughts well into adulthood. I grew up in a very busy home. I participated in piano lessons, gymnastics, lacrosse, painting and sculpting each week from early years until the end of elementary school. This means that I associate certain events, sounds, or even colours with things plucked directly from my early childhood. My parents, both artistic and sporty in their own ways, made sure to raise my younger sister and I in an environment that would challenge our developing minds.

It was not until recently that I was put on the opposite end of this spectrum: I had the opportunity to play the adult watching young children take part in activities which would surely affect their development and their nostalgic memory. At the boutique baby store that I work in part time, we have a weekly group session led by Sally Jaeger and her daughter Erika Webster of Lullabies and LapRhymes. Their sessions consist of teaching new parents songs of their own creation to sing to and with their babies or young children. The songs span on a variety of subjects: there are songs for getting to bed on time, songs for cleaning up your toys, songs for helping out around the house and even songs for mom or dad to sing to help their babies fall asleep. This session boasts a group of varied parents with children spanning from newborn to pre-school.


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