Posted by: Hannah | 03/06/2013

warning: here be swears

Today I saw this article, and my poor beleaguered head exploded, leaving a gooey splat on the wall and a twitching corpse on the floor. (Yes, I’m still watching The Walking Dead, although I’ve slowed down a bit because there is only so much feeling bad and wishing people would die *coughAndreacough* that I can handle in a week).

If you don’t have time to read it, I’ll sum it up for you:

Mattel thinks mothers need tutoring to learn how to play dinky cars with their sons.

Oh, Mattel. Back in 1992 when you released Teen Talk Barbie and her inane phrases like “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “Let’s go shopping!”, and “Math class is tough!” I honestly thought you’d sunk as low as you could go. I really did. But then you decided to hire one Matt Petersen as your Vice President for the North American boys’ toys & games division, and you reached new depths of asshole.

Wait, back up a step. You HAVE a “Boys’ Toys & Games Division” at all. How about just “Toys & Games”? Because fuck you, Mattel.

Anyway, Mr. Petersen is at the helm, and sales of Mattel’s three major toy car brands have declined 1% in the fourth quarter! Alert! (I suspect it’s because I finally stopped buying damn dinky cars because we have thirty squillion of them in the house. That would account for 1%.)

I envision the meeting where Mr. Petersen got called on the carpet for the decline in toy car sales going something like this:

tumblr_inline_mfpbf2xEAa1qery84

And then Mr. Petersen just straight-up lost his mind, because he cooked up the stupidest, most insulting notion since… hmm. I don’t know when. Some episode of Mad Men probably had something worse.

From Bloomberg BusinessWeek and syndicated in The Financial Post, apparently with no sense or horror or irony:

Earlier this month, influential mommy bloggers gathered in a penthouse suite at Manhattan’s Royalton Hotel for a brunch of bloody marys, mimosas and a buffet. Their host was Matt Petersen, a Mattel Inc. vice president who runs its North American boys’ toys and games division. In town for a toy fair, Mr. Petersen had invited the women to discuss one of the great mysteries of modern life: why moms don’t know how to play Hot Wheels with their sons.

First: can we agree that the phrase “influential mommy bloggers” should die in a fire? And I’m not saying that just because I am not one. I have never once made a parenting or purchasing decision based on what an “influential mommy blogger” said. Do we even have influential mommy bloggers anymore (assuming that we ever did)?

Second: does anyone else find it incredible patronizing and also thinly-veiled mom-shaming that the author of the piece mentions two kinds of booze in the first sentence?

Third: since when do moms not know how to play Hot Wheels with their sons? (not to mention daughters, but don’t worry, this article never does mention daughters, because they are supposed to be somewhere else, playing with their Barbies and not bothering anyone).

Fourth: assuming for a moment that moms *don’t* know how to play Hot Wheels with their sons – an idea with so many problems it actually gave me a nosebleed trying to wrap my head around it – is that really “one of the great mysteries of modern life”?

Fifth: Fuck you, Mattel. Seriously.

In my head, Mr. Petersen is about 26 years old. He has no children. He’s not married. He’s got no real-world experience. I have no idea if this is right, or fair, but I have to assume he’s both young and dumb, because the notion of a grown-up man in 2013 saying the following thing aloud makes me want to kick something very hard:

“Mom… has never played with [Hot Wheels]. She doesn’t get why cars, engines, and all the shapes and crashing and smashing are so cool.”

I’m sorry, Mr. Petersen, my vagina sometimes interferes with my hearing. It sounds to me like you’re saying that playing with Hot Wheels is somehow a total mystery to all mothers.

35783510

And let me not spare the “influential mommy bloggers” who participated in this drunken exercise in dickholery. I’ll pick one who was quoted in the article, and yes, I’m going to shit all over her, because honestly.

We have Raijean Stroud, who calls herself a “fashion & lifestyle” blogger. Her post about the whole experience is so childishly over-the-top it’s worth reading just for the laughs. She doesn’t ask any questions. She doesn’t seem at all aware of how ridiculous the whole thing is. She got as far as how much fun it was to get drunk and make scrapbook pages about what her family does on Saturdays, and then tripped over herself thanking Mattel for the free toys. The end. She also gives just fantastic soundbites, as evidenced by this little gem that she actually links to from her own blog, so it’s not like she was misquoted or horribly embarrassed that all the mimosas made her into an airhead:

“I’m a girly girl,” Ms. Stroud said. “So it’s kind of hard to understand how these little plastic machines can be so much fun, versus a Barbie that you can change her clothes, cut her hair, and do whatever you want.”

First of all, dinky cars are diecast metal, not plastic, so epic fail on that one, Mattel. Second, since when can you cut Barbie’s hair? I mean, you can, of course – but only once, and then you are left staring at a piebald mess of uneven spikes sticking out of weird holes in her head. I will give her snaps for the Mattel product placement of mentioning Barbie, though. Presumably if she’d said “My Little Pony” they wouldn’t have sent her any follow-up swag.

And “you’re a girly girl“? No, you’re a 32 year old woman and mother. Give me a break, lady.

And “it’s kind of hard to understand how these little plastic machines can be so much fun“? WHAT’S TO UNDERSTAND?? The tires rotate, you can make a ppbbbbbbppp noise with your lips or even the ever-popular vroom-vroom sound, you can smash ’em into shit and they don’t break because DIECAST METAL, SEE ABOVE.

I could go on and on and on about this, but I think you see where I’m going.

Everyone associated with this ridiculous pile of steaming bullshit – the mommy bloggers, the Mattel people, and the twit at Bloomberg BusinessWeek who reported on it and the soulless editor at The Financial Post who reprinted it – should be ashamed of themselves. No one came out of this looking good. It just shows how far we haven’t come.

And in case I haven’t said it enough times – fuck you, Mattel. For real.

Updated to add:

Influential mommy blogger and girly-girl Raijean Stroud has removed her review post – the link above now goes to a “sorry, page not found” message. To my knowledge, still no word from Mattel.

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Responses

  1. This genderized toy shit makes me hopping mad. I look after a little girl whose parents bought her a set of Legos because they were pink. Why couldn’t she have Legos that weren’t pink? Why do things have to be pink to be palatable to little girls? Why can’t boys play with dolls or push strollers? One of my charges, a little 18 month old boy, loves to hold his dolly and push around a stroller. And you know what? Maybe that means he has an affinity for caring for people. Maybe it means he’ll be a loving father someday. Maybe it means nothing at fucking all.

    This is so stupid I can’t even. I’m 100% on your side. Who the hell approved this, and who the hell hired this idiot?

    • Preach it, sister.

      I will say one thing in defense of Lego Friends – unless you buy the generic buckets o’ blocks, until Lego Friends came out the kits were very off-putting to anyone who didn’t like Star Wars, ninjas, or things that explode. (Except for Lego City, that line is The Best). I have friends with daughters who said that they found shopping for Lego really difficult, until Lego Friends came along.

      My immediate response when they launched Lego Friends was stabbity-rage, because oh FFS, does it really have to be pink & purple? But I’ve seen lots of girls in the Lego section at toy stores getting excited over it, and from what I’ve seen anyway it’s the gateway set that gets them excited about some of the other sets that are less overtly gendered.

  2. I am simultaneously infuriated by the asshattery of Mattel and cracking up at this post. I loves me a good rant.

    • Writing it was soul-cleansing. I’ve been stewing about it all morning. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

  3. I read the Financial Post article outloud to my husband over breakfast. For all the quotes by Mr Petersen I used a nasally, sycophantic voice. For Ms Stroud I did an impression of Barbie from Toy Story.

    As I said on Twitter, if I’d been at that meeting I would have slammed down a few mimosas and then announced that they tasted delicious, “Just like lead paint!” Then I would have called out. “Oh, Mr Petersen, not only am I too stupid to figure out these roundy, rubbery things on the bottom of this horse-less carriage-y toy, but no big strong marketing expert has told me how to use scissors.” Then I’d have taken the scissors I was meant to use during arts-and-craft time, and gouged out my eyeballs. It would have been less painful than making a family-time collage.

    • Oops — Business Week, not Financial Post. Actually that explains a great deal.

      • I’m fully willing to be corrected on this but the link is for the Financial Post, via Bloomberg News. Am I reading that wrong? Because it did seem a little weird…

      • Yup, there we go – Bloomberg BusinessWeek for syndication. Correction made. Thanks for the catch, Nan. 🙂

        • I didn’t mean anything by pointing that out, Hannah. Sorry if it came off as rude.

          I read the article initially on Financial Post and then via Stroud’s site I found Business Week’s edition. That’s when I realized it was syndicated. By no means do I have high expectations for the Financial Post (I *heart* you Globe & Mail forever and always) but it did strike me as being different from their usual editorial style.

          • No no, I didn’t find it rude at all, I’m very grateful that you pointed it out! If I’m hurling invective around, I want to make sure it hits the right targets.

    • I love it. LOVE IT. Because yes, arts & crafts time. I’m still not convinced we aren’t being punked.

  4. Awesome. I am a sell out so I would have gone for the free booze. But awesome.

    • Free booze AND sacks of dinky cars. But unless there is a Barbie in there somewhere, MY INTEGRITY IS NOT FOR SALE.

  5. I am laughing my ass off!
    How ’bout this Mattell? I don’t want to play with cars or Barbies because they bore the heck out of me. It’s not that I can’t or don’t know how, it’s because I DON’T WANT TO! And all the drinks in the world won’t make me. So there!

    • I know, right? I didn’t even touch on how the best toys – the toys I will spend scads of money on – are the ones that the kids play with ALONE. Without me needing to be involved. Invent THAT toy, Mattel. I dare you. Oh, except that Lego beat you to the punch by about fifty years so too bad, so sad.

  6. Best blog post I’ve read. Ever. EVER.

    I feel like maybe you haven’t heard of Kinder Eggs with toys for girls yet. It deserves a similar post.

    • Someone else mentioned the gendered Kinder eggs to me today! One more reason to hate effing Kinder eggs. (“Wholesome milky layer”, Kinder? Reeealllly?) And thank you, you’re too kind. 🙂

      • Oh, Kindereggs! Must come out of lurkdom to decry the crap paternalism of the Food and Drug Administration here in the US of A. Did you know they are contraband here because the toys are considered a choking hazard? So stupid. The powers that be at the FDA must be related to the execs at Mattel.

        • I’d heard that but I didn’t know if it was true or an urban myth. That does seem a little over the top. I thought everyone knew you were supposed to crack open the egg and remove the toy first? Hey, FDA??

          • You are mixing logic with a federal agency; this never ends well. 🙂

  7. ARGH God there is just so much to hate about this, but I keep getting caught up on the basic premise: boys don’t play with Hot Wheels as much because their moms don’t play with them? A couple of years ago, my son spent every dime of his allowance on Pokemon shit for over a year even though I not only didn’t play it, but actively loathed and stayed away from it. I mentally went to my happy place every time he even started talking about it. Didn’t affect his decision to keep on playing with Pokemon crap for what felt like forever. I will be stunned if the fact that Hot Wheels are not selling as well has anything whatsoever to do with moms not playing with Hot Wheels.

    Also Mattel, I buy toys for my son so he can PLAY WITH OTHER KIDS or entertain himself without me. UGH!!

    Whew, ok, must stop ranting now.

    • YES. I had multiple children just so that I wouldn’t HAVE to play dinky cars. Because I always got stuck being the lame-ass car with the one wonky wheel. YOU KNOW THE ONE I MEAN.

      Also Pokemon, Skylanders, Captain Underpants, the list of things my kids LOVE that I manage to turn into a gentle buzzing noise is quite long. The best toys are the ones that don’t require me to do much of anything.

  8. This is funny; today I went shopping to buy Mark a birthday present. I wanted to get him a little plastic animal, those German ones that are realistic looking. He loves them. There was a selection of a dinosaur and some Smurfs, so I nixed that idea and went to look for something else. I was overwhelmed by all the fun stuff marketed towards girls in the section I was in – making bracelets, lip gloss, hair bands, etc. It was overwhelmingly pink. I thought Mark might want a kit to make something crafty – like a paint your own piggy bank or something – but every single thing was geared towards girls. It was a very strange experience. And no, this has little to nothing to do with your post, but you know, gender marketing.

    For the record, I *am* a girly girl. I never played with cars or Legos or anything that exploded. However, I still pretty much figured out what to do when I had little boys. No tutorial or anything, I must be gifted.

    • OMG NICOLE YOU’RE A WIZARD OR SOMETHING. Because how else could you possibly have figured out how to play with cars???

      I’ve had the same disappointing experience with the craft kits. Harry loves those mosaic sticker kits, so much so that he’ll do them even thought it’s damned near impossible to find one that isn’t all fairy princesses and sparkly shit. “They could easily do a dragon,” he said wistfully one day, as he was painstakingly filling in the outlines of a princess, “a dragon, and a castle, and a knight. You need all of those things, too!” Indeed you do, little fella. 😦

      • As a craft enthusiast who is of the female persuasion but not girly, I am 100% behind Harry’s sentiments. It’s so annoying. I’ve bought tonnes of things for myself, and then the extra stuff to be able to do them in colours other than pink. I should just quite my job and start making craft kits for kids. Not boys. Not girls. Kids!

        He should try cross stitching. It’s like mosaics, but with thread and there are a couple very cool guy role models in the stitching community.

        • You should ABSOLUTELY make non-gendered craft kits. I swear there is a market for it. And I’d rather you got the money than, say, Mattel.

    • If Nicole is playing dinkies without first getting proper instructions from Mattel, it’s because she has a dinkie. That’s the only explanation.

  9. Oof, I read it anyway because I had to.
    1. Where are all the outraged comments? Every OTHER news article has outraged comments. Geez.
    2. Neither of my kids was ever much into toy cars. I guess I have failed as a mother. No mimosa for me. Bad mom.
    3. Good luck with that, Mattel.
    4. Holy crap Hannah, you made me laugh. This is one of the best rants I have read in yonks and I salute you. I feel better about the world just reading it! Everything is going to be just fine.

    • I found that strange, too. Where *are* the outraged comments? A friend of mine shared this link on Facebook and immediately several of her friends replied saying that they thought it was nice that Mattel was reaching out to moms. WTF??

      I will make you a mimosa. Or you can have mine. I don’t actually like mimosas. It’s probably why I’m not an influential mommy-blogger.

      And thank you for the compliment. Really. I’m all fluffed up from all the nice things people are saying, which is much better than spluttering incoherently with rage & wanting to track down Mattel’s VP of Boys’ Toys so’s I could give him a piece of my mind.

  10. If I could hug a blog post, I would hug this.

  11. I am a woman, and I only have one girlchild. I couldn’t *possibly* know how to work a dinky car. Not sure how they let me near a real car either. ;P I set a Hexbug off yesterday and it ended up under the couch. I’m a terrible driver.

    I didn’t read the other post before it got taken down, but am I understanding correctly that the company hosted a meeting with these women, got them tipsy and had them *scrapbooking* about their families? How is that meeting useful to anyone?

    • You need a license and a 10-page manual to drive a Hexbug. That’s SCIENCE.

      The company hosted a breakfast for women bloggers in NY for the big toy fair. They picked them up at their hotels in limos (there was a picture of the limo in the original post); offered them a breakfast buffet with a wet bar (there was a picture of the wet bar, too); got them to make scrapbook pages of how they typically spend their Saturdays with their families (another picture); and then set up a Hot Wheels track on the conference table so the mommies could have some Important Mechanical Knowledge implanted in their brains.

      After a night to think about it, I’m pretty sure the whole thing was a publicity stunt. If you Google the original Bloomberg article, it got syndicated across North America, meaning a huge uptick in discussions about “Mattel” and “Hot Wheels”. In a world where there is no bad publicity, it probably served its purpose – because I don’t think even the most inept executive honestly thinks a dozen women at a free breakfast meeting counts as “market research”.

  12. You guys have gotten this all wrong! You are taking a small part of an article and turning it into something that it wasn’t. The purpose nor the conversation wasn’t about how mother’s don’t know how to play with cars! I have a MBA in Finance, I think I can figure out how to play with a car! I won’t spend my time going back and forth because it’s not necessary! No we weren’t tipsy! Just stop it already! No we weren’t in limos! Again, stop it already! I didn’t dispute the quotes because those were my quotes but not in the context that you have taken it. Do you really think Mattel would host an event to show us how to play with cars? Let alone speak to us in such a condescending tone??? Really! The great thing about life is everyone has an opinion and before you spend your moments trying to access an event that you weren’t at, then you should check the validity of what you are saying! Some people have too much time on there hands! On the flip side thanks for the additional page views! Good day!

    • Well, I’m glad you came by to give your perspective on the story, although you really haven’t added much to what was in the puff piece by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The whole event still comes across as demeaning, insulting, sexist, and needlessly stupid, and nothing you’ve said in this comment adds any enlightenment or clarification to what went on. If you can find a way to frame both your comments & the quotes by the Mattel VP in a way that *isn’t* blatantly misogynistic, idiotic, and pandering to base gender stereotypes, I’m sure I, my readers, and countless other people who were offended by the story would be more than happy to hear it.

    • Ms Stroud —

      if the article is such a gross misrepresentation of events why are you criticizing Hannah’s analysis? Why not take it up with the writer, Matt Townsend? And why would you send this tweet to Townsend on February 26 praising his original article if his characterization was so flawed? How can you belittle us for commenting on it when you have given your tacit approval of his version?

      Also you have zero understanding of public relations, graft, junkets and public blogging if you think it’s okay to insult people by writing “before you spend your moments trying to access an event that you weren’t at, then you should check the validity of what you are saying!”

      • Yeah, exactly. If I had an MBA in Finance and was misquoted as grossly as you claim to have been, and featured the way that you were, I would be outraged and violently agreeing with Hannah’s post.

        • Also, WOW, exclamation marks. Does anyone else intrinsically read multiple exclamation marked sentences as being in a Valley Girl voice?

          • OMG, checked out her Twitter account. Exclamation marks! On everything she writes!

  13. I must only have commented in my head. “These little plastic machines”? Dude, we DRIVE ACTUAL CARS, but they don’t think we know how to play with toy ones? I’m surprised they didn’t just go ahead with a ‘women drivers’ dig while they were at it. Way to alienate the people that actually shell out for the toys.

    And where the hell ARE the angry comments? People jump all over everyone for everything – you’re too fat! you’re too skinny! you deserve to get raped! quit complaining about all the rape! – and they give this assholery a pass? Jesus Jesus, I can’t even.

    • I know, I still can’t work that one out. I’ve seen more outraged comments on stories about, well, everything. It’s very weird.

  14. I just read this article.
    And honestly, I don’t really care. Mattel can condescend to me as much as it wants, because I know two things:
    1. Unless it’s groceries, I do all the shopping for this household (my husband grocery shops because he does the cooking).
    2. Lego will entertain my toddler for hours. And these hours are creative and require minimal adult input: “why yes, that’s a nice…car? I like how you used every steering wheel you own”.

    So if a company wants to dig a big hole in which to bury itself, it can continue to act like the problem is me and not, oh, say, an inability to make wholesome toys that either gender can enjoy in open-ended play. Seriously? Unless the writer took Mr. Peterson completely out of context, I am avoiding Mattel like the plague. I didn’t even like Barbie as a child.

    I think a dozen mothers at a focus group would be fine. But perhaps the topic of the focus group could be, “what would make these dinky cars something you would buy”.

    I think the reason that there aren’t very many outraged comments is that sadly, people are getting used to this. Remember Bic’s pens for her? They were thinner and sparkly?

    • And great, I just reread the article, plus the one on thestar.com, and I can now feel myself getting really irritated. Argh.

    • I tried not to let it bother me, I really did. I hardly ever go into a tailspin here about stuff like this… I did on my old blog once, when Motrin had that horrible web commercial talking about painkillers and ‘trendy’ babywearing (it was godawful, if you never saw it). But usually I splutter for a while and then move on. I think this touched a nerve with me particularly because Harry is noticing this kind of thing now and being annoyed by it too – which is great! – but then I hear Ron saying “oh, I don’t want that, it’s a GIRL TOY” or “pink and purple are GIRL COLOURS” and HULKSMASH.

      But your last point is a good one. I do think people are getting used to this. I remember the Bic pens thing, yes. The weird thing was the idea of a slimmer pen was, I thought, great – I have very small hands and I like slim pens. But the sparkly shit I could have done without. Don’t even get me started on power tools for women, which are sized down for smaller hands (AWESOME!) and lighter weight (ALSO AWESOME!) and any colour you like as long as it is fucking pink, or floral (NOT AWESOME AT ALL).

      • I think I’m going to go buy my kid a whole bunch of pink Lego. Maybe if he starts out with pink being just another colour for anyone to enjoy, he won’t be so willing to categorize everything else? (I wonder if Lego has a “girl Lego ” and a “boy Lego” department? Or if they are hoping to avoid any flack by just naming the pink Lego “Friends” and the truck Lego “City”) So far, at 2, pink hasn’t been a problem. I can see it coming, though.

        • Well, the “City Lego” line has been around forever – my husband has City Lego kits that he got in the 70s. The Lego Friends thing is new. I’m not sure if they are quite as blatant about “girl Lego” and “boy Lego” as Mattel is about everything… I like the notion of buying some of the Lego Friends stuff and just mixing it in right from the get-go. That’s a good plan.

          • I think there’s a huge difference between Lego devising and marketing a line of toys with shades of pinks and purples with female characters and Mattel holding a patronizing, graft-giveway research group that is based upon women being stupid.

            Lego’s Friend line gets a lot of shit that it doesn’t deserve. Particularly since no one raises an eyebrow about Maplea or American Girl marketing ONLY to females. It’s not like Lego gathered up a group of men to teach them how to play with Friends Lego.

  15. […] Mattel. How about that, ya’ll? I have learned several things from my ‘ranting-at-corporate-types-in-the-social-media-age‘ […]

  16. Adult Gender specific tablets?!

    Check out this link, please. You may have to copy & paste.

    Cheers

    http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/healthy-living/the-epad-femme–a-tablet-computer-easy-enough-for-a-woman-to-use–and-it-s-pink–184014098.html

    • OH MY LORD. That is… wow. That’s BAD.


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