The e-book price wars, gendered toys and NASCAR hates breastfeeding

Over at the Pegasus Pulp blog, I have a post entitled “2011 – Year of the Indie”. The subject should be rather obvious.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an insightful post about the realities of the post Christmas e-book sales rush (though I am seeing a minor version of that) and about the glut of free books due to everybody and their brother doing a “free” promotion around Christmas due to KDP Select.

While on the subject of book prices, Ilona Andrews has a great post on the realities of book pricing in response to the e-book price complaint war currently being slugged out between heavy hitters John Scalzi and Dear Author and their respective followings. Thanks to Estara for pointing it out. That said, I agree with John Scalzi for once, because the constant complaints about price and e-book availability on the Big Idea posts were getting annoying, though not as annoying as the people showing up to post that they would never buy X book or X genre. I always have issues sympathizing with Americans complaining about high book prices anyway, because books are not overly expensive in the US. For me, the price of an imported mass market paperback is still about the same as it was twenty years ago, when I first started buying them. For a while, after Amazon Germany entered the market, they even got cheaper. True, new traditionally published e-books often are expensive, but then hardcovers are expensive as well and most of us got used to waiting for the paperback or respectively waiting for the e-book price to drop. Besides, even if you feel the need to complain about high book and e-book prices, a Big Idea post is not the place to do it.

From the department of inexplicable things that bother (some) Americans, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reports about a NASCAR driver making sexist remarks on Twitter, because he was deeply upset by seeing a woman breastfeeding her baby in a supermarket. I’ve never heard of this driver, since NASCAR is a US-only thing (just like getting upset about public breastfeeding) – Germans as well as the rest of the world prefer Formula One racing.

But what I found most interesting about this is how incredibly restrictive the content guidelines of Harlequin’s NASCAR romance line are: I mean, no crashes, no drugs, no alcohol, no sex? Maybe they should publish them under the Love Inspired Christian romance banner instead.

The New York Times asks whether toys should be gender neutral. As a former toy collector (I still have all my stuff, though I rarely buy new things these days), I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, I find the aggressive gendering of toys and the extreme pinkness of anything aimed at girls off-putting, because it reinforces every gender cliché out there. On the other hand, I grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s, when all the “good” toys were unisex, when little girls shouldn’t be given dolls, when action figures and military inspired toys were deemed harmful and violent and when toys should be educational.

And guess what? I hated most of the good educational toys. I ignored the Legos and Ministeck toys (still exists – can you believe it?) well-meaning relatives gave me and built houses and castles for my vinyl figurines with my old-fashioned wood block set. I loved my dolls dearly and would have been all over the pink princess stuff, if it had been available back then. Indeed, I desperately wanted a princess doll and dressed up my own dolls as princesses, sewing and crocheting princess outfits for them (more gendered behaviour) and topping off the look with old costume jewelery, because manufacturers wouldn’t give me what I wanted. I didn’t just like the girly toys, though – I was equally entranced by Hot Wheels cars with their flashy paint jobs (my parents, being good seventies parents, bought me all the toy cars I wanted), by Star Wars toys and by the cool action figures tied to equally cool cartoons that showed up a little later. When I started collecting toys, a lot of what I bought were the flashy Barbies and action figures I couldn’t get as a child along with vintage dolls.

So I don’t think the answer is to degender kids’ toys. Never mind that all of those degendering campaigns are inevitably aimed at girls’ toys, which are seen as lesser. Nobody ever tries to keep little boys from playing with toy cars, it’s always little girls who must be protected from baby dolls and Barbies and toy tea sets. Just as for some reason creative roleplay with Barbie dolls or sewing and crocheting and knitting outfits for your dolls is always seen as harmful, even though it is imaginative play and teaches useful skills. So yeah, I think that the baby dolls and Barbies and Hot Wheels cars and action figures and toy guns should stay – but why must they always be associated with one gender or the other? I played with boys’ and girls’ toys equally and so do many children. Why shouldn’t a little boy play with a baby doll or dress up Barbie? And why shouldn’t a little girl win car races on her Carrera track? It’s the gendered socialization that we have to fight not the toys. Though they could be a little less pink.

Finally, you’d think that the comment spammers who advertise places to download/watch the Downton Abbey Christmas special might have noticed that I don’t even like the bloody show and therefore am unlikely to give a damn about the Christmas special (apparently the butler killed his wife, is sentenced to death but not hanged, probably because good butlers are hard to come by). And even if I did, I know where and how to see it, thank you very much.

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1 Response to The e-book price wars, gendered toys and NASCAR hates breastfeeding

  1. Pingback: The e-book price wars, gendered toys and NASCAR hates breastfeeding | Kids Toys And Games

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