Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Politics of Lego and gender inequality

What it is, is a child who does not differentiate between a girl's toy or a boy's toy. (Like most kids). 
I love this picture, it keeps cropping up in my twitter timeline and it's truly awesome. Here you have a little girl who has lovingly created the sort of multicoloured Lego model that Princess C likes to make. She's probably around the same age, dresses in much the same way as The Princess does when she's having a scruffy stay-at-home day, and she's as happy as heck. So she should be.

It seems a bit of a shame that this image is being used as a crux pin and point of argument to try and convince Lego to stop producing gender-specific ranges in their current lineup.

"Lego Friends" seems to be the range that causes the major bone of contention. It's girl-friendly Lego with a whole host of girl characters who live in a slightly pink-hued world where their cars don't feature laser guns, caltrops or chainsaws but are funky little roadsters for zipping around town. The characters career aspirations are a constant source of scrutiny. One girl wants to be a rock star. Another is like a little mini-Lego Zatana and wants to be a magician while still others are scientists or karate champs.

We've written a few things about the range before, specifically the Lego Friends "Brickmaster" book available from Dorling Kindersley. Princess C loves them but by the sound of it we're horrible evil parents who should instead be encouraging her to leave those alone and play exclusively with the huge mix-and-match box of our old lego (which of course she also does, what kid wouldn't want a gigantic tub of interesting bricks and bits to build stuff like the uber-cool little girl in that photo has?)

What's quite interesting in the different ways children play with lego is that some (like me) are clearly builders, more interested in the process of making something out of a seemingly random collection of pieces that - eventually - ends up being something cool to play with. Some also like lego purely for the end result, either having something tangible to play (and role play, as Princess C does) with, much in the manner kids play with the brilliant Playmobil toys they have access to these days (again another hotbed of gender-divisional political incorrectness, apparently).

Lego are a multi-million pound toy business who know their various markets very well. It's not accidental that Lego Friends is one of the company's most successful ranges ever, selling like hot cakes to girls - and even to boys who rather like the fact that the Lego Friends buildings look a lot cooler than some of the drab stuff they get in the Lego City range.

It's also not accidental that Lego still produce their traditional building sets (yes, they do one in a pink box for 'girls' but they also still do the awesome types of set I had when I was a kid and before Lego started machining all those cheaty bits, and just made bricks). Parental ire is better reserved for toy companies who seem to think dinosaurs are a boy's toy exclusively, or that boys shouldn't be allowed near craft or art stuff.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

5 words to chill the spine - "She's Been In Timeout Today!"

Doesn't look very safe that, does it?

Of all the days to misbehave on, Princess C chose the very day we were due to go in for Parents Evening to play up at school. Not just play up, but answer her teacher back - something that she's never done before, and behaviour that is so unusual in her that we were slightly taken aback by it. 

Her teacher beckoned to me at hometime and said "She's been in Timeout Today!" and after drawing out the reasons, that age-old chestnut - not sharing - seemed to be the root cause of the incident that led to Princess C being stuck in timeout for a while. 

Naturally, the bravado and cheekiness soon evaporated when Teacher (the real boss in the classroom) made good on her word and stuck C in the corner. C broke down in tears, started to hyperventilate (this happens at home too, she basically gets herself into such a state we think she's going to stop breathing and it seriously scares the crap out of us!) A slight distraction or a return to normal and it's all over and done with. 

Thankfully the parents evening report was a good one, she's as bright and as smart as we thought she was but even princesses 'play up' sometimes, it seems. 

My reaction was slightly different to @thestrollingmums - I was quite stern. Not shouty, not angry but stern with enough seriousness in my voice that she knew she'd done wrong and didn't try to gloss over it. We made her apologise to her teacher (which she did very timidly) and that was the end of it. 

Not pleasant though. She's such a good kid most of the time but every now and again the rebellious streak we can well imagine developing further as she gets older bubbles to the surface. 

That whole "Sponsored Post" thing...

You might as well write "Treat like Sky or Domino's Pizza Flyers" at the top of your Blog Post rather than 'sponsored'
So the whole Sponsored Post thing has reared its ugly head once again. Don't get me wrong, I can fully understand that some Bloggers have mobilised and monetized their scribblings but, well here's the thing, no matter how transparent you are about being 'on the take' for what you've written, it has the effect on me described above in the header image. The exact same effect junk mail and junk that comes through the letterbox has. More work for our gallant recycling teams (or email filters).

Why? Well put it this way, you're being paid to say something that is effectively someone else's opinion of their product. They're not going to point out its flaws, they're not going to tell you a tale of woe about that time their flashy new mobile phone had an upgrade or security patch and bricked overnight, or the pitifully short battery life, or the fact that its bluetooth won't talk to any other bluetooth device despite bluetooth supposedly being a standard connectivity method.

That's what bloggers do best, and if there's one thing we Brits excel at, it's grizzling and moaning about things we've spent our hard earned cash on that haven't quite lived up to expectations.

Of course, the definition of a sponsored post is pretty broad. You've got those horrible, hateful posts that are little better than a copy-and-paste job from the original PR document. Or you've got those equally horrible posts alleging that life was a bleak dystopian daily slog before "the wonderful Vac-U-Vin 4000 (TM) entered our household and started changing baby's nappy, cleaning the house, walking the dog and servicing the boiler."

Reviewing books, we get sent a fair few and you could of course point out that anything you've gained for nothing is effectively 'sponsorship' of a sort, and that your opinion on that item is degraded as a result. But there's the bit we'd highlight in bold - it's our opinion, and it's often a brutally honest opinion thanks to Princess C's input on the blog and her fairly high standards when it comes to children's books.  We don't get sent anything for here but if we did, we'd apply those same standards.

With that in mind, we'd definitely welcome the current initiative going on at Cybher that describes non-disclosure in its correct terms, as a breach of consumer law and also - worse than that - as a betrayal of trust between you (the blogger) and your readers.

If you're on the take for a post, fess up - and if the company or PR you're dealing with isn't happy with you mentioning this, link them back to the Cybher site and slam the door on their arse. That is, of course, if you give a flying stuff about your integrity as a blogger / writer, and want your opinion to be considered worth a damn...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Princess C's Pearls of Wisdom - part 6

We had a wedding to attend so were getting dressed up. Not often that we look this smart, certinally not daddy and princess C seemed to find this highly amusing.

Daddy you look like a teacher.
Daddy you like like my headmaster.

She repeated it again and again.

Then i was in for it... whilst mid-tight pulling up she turned to me and said

You look just like Grandma in those, why do you wear Grandma clothes.

This one really had me stumped, what am i supposed to be wearing and Grandma usually wears trousers not skirts and tights.

Then I attempted the smokey eye look, not full on 16 year old attempts at the smokey eyes more subtle than that. The response was...

"Gah mummy your eyes, you look like a witch".

Don't think the smart clothes will be coming out of the cupbard for a while with those kind of responses.

There has been a dead pigeon on the way home from school, which someone has now slid under a bush but you can still see it and it gets Princess C a bit perplexed each time we pass. She has also just been on a school trip to see an old burial site... so a few questions were asked.

Princess C: Mummy that pigeon hasn't gone to heaven as his body is still there.

Mummy: The body stays our soul goes to heaven.

princess C: Whats a soul

Mummy: (panic mode) its the nice parts of us. like how you are happy and friendly and helpful. that bits goes to heaven and our body stays here. can you think of any nice things about a pigeon.

Princess C who doesn't like pigeons remains quiet.

Mummy: maybe the pigeons sole went to hell then if theres nothing nice about them.

Princess C: what happens to our body and muscle as i saw bones in the ground the other day

Mummy: we die and eventually we are just bone but our souls are in heaven.

Princess C: so we all go to the ground, will i go to the ground

Mummy: yes we all go to a burial site (really hoping she doesn't know about cremantion)

Princess C: oh good i will like that.


How far do you go to protect your kids online?

It's been weighing on my mind a lot recently that through our other blogs and probably through Twitter, we open the door a crack too wide at times into our own little corner of the world. We're not particularly paranoid parents, though we take measures to obfuscate our online family albums and other details from the wider web...

But if you run a blog that your children contribute to, or are indeed the focus of, how far can you go before you have to wind the string in a bit and start hiding them away from the world once again?

Another blogger who regularly features her kids in her posts made me think that perhaps we've been complacent, and it's time to crank up the drawbridge - but in all honesty, it would rip the heart out of ReadItDaddy if we did that - it would be an utterly pointless exercise carrying on if we did.

We take a few measures here and there, and so far we've only had one or two incidents where people have contacted us for content for the blog and have been just the wrong side of 'unpleasant' - making us dump them firmly in the spam filter, but it does keep nagging away at us both.

Both ReadItDaddy and CanIWalkMummy will continue but maybe with the wisdom of hindsight we'd have done a few things differently. Not much but a few.