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Forbidden Toys of Generation X
This week, on This American Life… Ira Glass drilled straight down to my Gen X molten chocolate lava covered core. In Act II of the podcast (always podcast, never live radio show!), Neil Drumming and Breeze Brewin reminisce about the coveted General Lee toy, the ultimate merchandising magic from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. I won’t say more about the story, you can listen for yourself, but it made me think about all the forbidden toys and other delights from my own childhood. For example, my brother and I weren’t allowed to watch Dukes of Hazzard- I don’t know why, but it probably had something to do with Daisy Duke and her ridiculous costume, and I bet the prominent display of the confederate flag didn’t help.
I also wasn’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls. My mother refused to allow them into our house, the closest I came was the de-sexed Skipper doll. Skipper sucked because my friends’ Barbie clothes didn’t fit her, she couldn’t wear the heels, and she was super boring. While Barbie was off rubbing boobs with all her wild-haired girlfriends and then peeling out in her hot pink Jeep with Ken sitting stiffly beside her, Skipper was trapped in the dream house doing Malibu Barbie’s algebra homework and trying to figure out how the elevator worked. My mom did give me her old dolls from the 1950’s, but of course the clothes didn’t fit, and they had these funky 1950’s hairdos that couldn’t be combed. I wasn’t really a doll kid anyway, but any interest in Barbies died a quick death when that Skipper doll showed up in my stocking. Worst. Little. Sister. Ever.
You’re probably starting to see a theme here. My mom was the modern woman who doesn’t want her daughter to grow up with a distorted body image shaped by society’s impossible images of women, imposed and imprinted from a young age. If I had been born in 2002, I would have only worn primary colors and had a name that expressed my cultural and ethnic identity without revealing my gender identity.
Of course, the big question from all this is, did all this second wave feminist parenting make a difference? Was I able to grow up free from the constraints of the idealized woman? Have I lived free of self-hate, embracing my body for what it is, every inch of whatever bag of skin I ended up with? Put simply, no. I may have had disdain for Chrissy, Janet, and then whoever it was who replaced Chrissy like we didn’t notice. If anything, I had the opposite. I was incredibly modest (which may have been cultural- who knows when you’re urban), but as a teen I wouldn’t even wear a v-neck blouse because it was too revealing.
The forbidden toys of my generation went by the wayside, and now I’m a parent. My boys don’t have much in the way of forbidden toys. We didn’t have a no-guns policy, because I’m Apache, so much of our history includes warfare, and it wasn’t really an issue anyway. The only rule with guns was you couldn’t point them at people, which takes all the fun out of it, so why bother. Save for an occasional Nerf war (pointing allowed), the kids just don’t care about guns and never have. Also, most of their friends had a gun prohibition so it didn’t come up much. We limit their screen time, and they haven’t really shown interest in gory video games so that’s been an easy one. We did have to buy a lock-box at one point because there was a certain amount of sneaking around at night trying to find the ipad, but the lock-box put a stop to that.
Ira Glass didn’t resolve the forbidden toys question for me, and I’m not doing a very good job either. If playing with a specific toy really shaped a kid into their adult selves, I think someone needs to launch a lawsuit against a certain toy company whose name rhymes with battel (and markets two of the toys mentioned prominently in this post).
*My brother says he could watch all these shows. History, memories- who knows. He is 4 years older than me, and male. It’s very likely he could watch them, but I couldn’t.
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I'm a Chiricahua Fort Sill Apache Nurse Researcher. I write, speak, and think about health equity and parenting in our complicated world.
Views expressed here are my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.
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