Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Never OK

Off-Topic Rant

I don't watch the Oscars and I don't follow The Onion so it wasn't until this morning when I saw what they had tweeted last night, when someone shared an article about it.
Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013
An hour later, they deleted it, but it had already been seen by a lot of people.

Miss Wallis was the nine year old nominee for Best Actress. NINE! Some wretched ass at The Onion called a nine year old girl a cunt. It's not funny, it's not satire, it's not appropriate. When is it OK to call a child a name like that?! (Here's a hint: NEVER!)

I can relate, on a much smaller scale. When I was a couple years older than Miss Wallis, I had a huge crush on a boy who was a few years older than I. One summer day, he was playing basketball with friends when I walked by. Everyone knew I liked him, and he got razzed about it, though probably not to the extent I was (he was popular, you see). I may have pestered him that day, I don't remember, but I do remember the name he called me: twat. I didn't even know what that word meant, but suddenly everyone was laughing at me harder than ever. It was humiliating and hurtful. I knew it wasn't nice, what he'd called me, but I had no idea just how bad it was. I still cringe at the memory, and that was more than 30 years ago.

While that was awful and mean, at least it was only said in front of a couple dozen people. More than  four million people follow The Onion on Twitter (not sure if people stopped following them after they posted that, but as of this morning, 4,668,043). Plus it got retweeted and mentioned in articles online, shared and passed around in outrage and probably support (freedom of speech, yada yada, can't take a joke, blah blah), so the vile name that they called Miss Wallis was seen by millions of people. If she didn't know what that word meant before last night, she almost certainly will today.

A young girl, the youngest actress ever nominated for Best Actress, was called a name that would be hateful and nasty if she were an adult, but it's inexcusable to call a child that. A few people have called on The Onion to reveal who was responsible for sending that tweet, throw them under the bus as it were. I think he needs to be fired, after he makes a public apology to that girl. (Yes, I am assuming that the person who said that was male.) If you'd like to contact The Onion and let them know what you think about that offensive tweet, email them here:

Steve Hannah, the CEO of The Onion, has issued an apology for the offensive tweet. And that's great! Miss Wallis was owed an apology, without a doubt. The person(s) responsible should still be fired, in my opinion, but at least she got an apology.

The young man who called me a twat 30 years ago wouldn't apologize to me, even if he could, and he can't. He's dead. (No, I didn't do it.) I've been sick and upset all day, triggered by this thoughtless and stupid thing that someone working at a satirical publication said. So thanks for that. If I could go back in time, I think I'd kick that boy in the 'nads; he earned it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bots with Boobs

Why does it have boobs? No, really -- why?

The purpose of the human breast is to provide nourishment for infant offspring. (And if you believe my husband or my dog, to act as a comfy pillow -- so nice to be useful.) A robot, being inorganic, incapable of sexual reproduction, and gender-neutral, has no need of them.

OK, so you're uncomfortable with a robot that has no gender. We like our binary gender pronouns, don't we? "It" seems impolite, so we must use "he" or "she," and if the 'bot is female, it must have breasts to visually identify its artificial gender. Right? I can follow along with that logic, I suppose.

But this thing, Femisapien (yours for a mere $100), has more than just breasts to make this less of a robot, and more of a gynoid. Oh yes! This expensive toy is feminine in other ways:

Intelligent and interactive, RS Femisapien™ speaks her own language called "emotish" which consists of gentle sounds and gestures. There is no remote required; interact with her directly and she responds to your hand gestures, touch, and sound.
"EMOTISH"??? "Gentle sounds and gestures"??? Are you [&%$@] kidding me? "She will slow pose, be your back-up singer, introduce herself, dance with you, and even blow kisses."

I found her over in the boys section of my local Toys R Us. Mostly what caught my attention was the bustiness of the robot. Then I looked it up when I got home, and found that. *sigh* The Robosapien has "Fluent international 'caveman' speech."

I have to admit, this sounds like it would be an entertaining toy. She has three different modes: Attentive, Learning and Responsive, and might be interesting for kids to play with, since she can respond to you. Read RobotsRule review of her. I think it would be funny to see what the dog thinks of her, but not $100 curious...

All this is certainly cool, but I still don't know why she's so busty! She's about 14 inches tall, and the most entertaining thing I read about her was in the PC Magazine review:
In the end, my 10-year-old daughter offered the best description and summation of this unusual and somewhat endearing entertainment bot, "I bet 90 percent of the people who will buy this will be men—very, very lonely men." 
Ten years old, people! And she gets it!!

UPDATE: Anita Saarkesian of the Feminist Frequency has also covered the fembot. You should absolutely watch that video. I remember the Heineken ad, and was horrified by it all over again.

Blue is for Boys

My daughter had bowling practice after school the other night, but we had time to kill so I popped in to my local Toys R Us, and started looking for any missing ladies for my collection. On this particular trip, I was able to pick up Barriss Offee and Tauriel.

I noted again, as I always do because it bugs the hell out of me, that the action figure aisles are marked in blue and labeled as Boys. Across the aisle are the pink signs labeled Girls, where one finds dolls.

The way the store is laid out, this side goes from Electronics - Action Figures - Cars & Trucks - Sports. Electronics and Sports are not marked in blue (sports is green), but the implication is pretty clear. The center of the store is Dolls - Learning - Arts & Crafts. Learning and Arts & Crafts are signed in orange, but again, the implication is clear, and the green/orange of those signs are analogous to the blue/pink, so it's even a VISUAL relationship that any child who isn't colorblind can recognize.

I went back today to get photos. [cue The Pink Panther theme] Retailers do not want people taking photos inside their stores. I don't know why, exactly, possibly because they fear pricing wars. (It was the same when I worked at the bookstore, company policy: No Photography.) However, neither this morning, nor last night, were any employees interested in my shenanigans. Near as I can tell, no one noticed what I was up to.

The boys toys aisles are marked with blue signs, and the shelves have blue headers (see below).

Obviously, only boys build stuff, right??
Even the football and the soccer ball are blue on the green sign, reinforcing the message of Blue = Boys
Not entirely certain why the doll on the girl's sign is blue. Perhaps it's a coincidence that
the sports balls are blue, since blue is the main color for TRU... call me skeptical.
It SAYS "kids' cooking" but the signage is pink as are most of the packages.
(None of the silver/black "unisex" Easy-Bakes yet.)
Even the website has a division:

The lists are identical except for (girls') Bath, Beauty & Accessories and Dolls, and (boys') Action Figures and Vehicles, Hobby & R/C. At least it's not pink and blue...

Upon checkout, I mentioned my gripes to the cashier (stressing that I was not upset with her, because she wasn't responsible), and she actually came back with "the manufacturers tell us where to stock things," the first time someone had ever responded intelligently to criticism instead of just saying "thank you, I'll let my manager know." To that, I replied that it's TRU deciding to make the signs pink and blue, marked with "Boy" and "Girl" -- not Mattel, Hasbro, et al. (Surely, the influence of gender-specificity doesn't extend that far... She didn't contradict me so, hopefully that's the case.)

I received a "how are we doing" survey with my receipt, and the potential to win $500. One of the last questions was an essay opportunity to tell them how they can improve, with 2000 characters to do so. And I did.

I told them that the pink/blue signs were unnecessary, that "boys/girls" was unnecessary, and that just Cars, Dolls, Sports, etc. was sufficient. Just because the manufacturers insist on using color to tell kids who should play with it (I'm looking at you, Hasbro, of the girly Easy Bake Oven -- by the way, McKenna Pope, you rock!), doesn't mean that the retailers must goose-step along with it. Yes, I know Barbie Pink won't be going away, and no, GI Joe won't be ditching the red, white and blue, but why does a retail store have to follow suit? I pointed out that, as a girl, I played with cars with my brothers, we built stuff with LEGOs, and I had dolls. I noted that stores abroad were opting for gender-neutrality, and there was no reason they couldn't do the same. In fact, a Swedish TRU ad showed boys and girls playing with toys on both sides of the aisle (the pages were still pink and blue, but at least they're making an effort). I said that, by not steering children to only half the store, they could make more money -- because let's face it, they're there to make money, not cater to my dreams of gender-neutral toys. I honestly expect nothing to come of it. If someone from TRU replies to my comments, I'll be astonished. But at least I had my say, even if it's going straight into the trash.

Interestingly, a different TRU had the same pink and blue signs, but they were not marked as Boys/Girls.

This is what you see walking in the door. The pink signs are first, then the blue, then sports in green,
and electronics is back in the corner. The (orange) learning toys, games, and arts & crafts are in the center.

Blue: remote control cars
Pink: beauty, baking and princess dress-up
I'm a little baffled at why one store has signs marked with gender and another does not. My husband suggested that the other store store was newer/recently renovated, but honestly, I don't know which one is the newer. He thinks it's the one without "Boys/Girls" but I'm unconvinced. The signage in our local store (with the genders on them) looks newer. When it's not so bloody cold outside, perhaps I'll widen my investigative circle, and see if I can figure out if the gender-specific signs are a new thing, or something they're phasing out.

What are you finding in your local toy stores?