Nov. 20, 2012 “To the moon!” was once an iconic working class phrase that 50s TV star Jackie Gleason made famous in mock-threat to his sitcom wife Alice in The Honeymooners. He’d shake his fist, “why, I oughta…kapow!” Nowadays, media like that would be rightfully trounced and denounced by domestic violence prevention and girl advocates across the board, as we instill self-empowerment, STEM careers, and ‘do anything, be anything’ promises of shattered glass ceilings to send girls “To the stars!”
“We’ve come a long way, baby,” right? Hmn. Not so much. Today’s pop culture landscape has in many ways gone BACKwards in both media and marketing…giving us an odd ‘back to the future’ retro jolt seeing females objectified, stereotyped, cast as ornamental décor, and relationships between sexes coveted and prized like trophies with hot or not desirability and appearance-driven judgments far beyond the body-snarking of Reality TV…Mind you, this is just in the tween 8-12 depictions on Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network. Sigh. Not pretty.
Many of us wish Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other ‘action sheroes’ would make a comeback to whonk some sense into the corporate pedophilia of ‘age compression’ marketing that’s being sold and taking hold in this era.
We’re LONG overdue for a ‘market correction.’ Parents are way past READY…Finally…one such entity is here. (Cue 2001 A Space Odyssey theme)…
Welcome to Toward the Stars.com … a brand new online marketplace serving as an antidote for parents who want to shed the ‘what can I do’ shoulder shrug of mass merchandised holiday helplessness and instead, proudly use their purchasing power to uplift and inspire.
Toward The Stars launched on International Day of the Girl, and they are constantly adding new vendors by the minute…
Looking at the key findings in this newly released film/TV gender study research on “character attributes and job related aspirations” from USC Annenberg and the Geena Davis Institute, it’s not a moment too soon.
This poignant data helps counter those dismissively asking “what’s the big deal”…
…To enlighten on multi-levels and relay once and for all that this is NOT about the color pink, people!
Those of us who want to send kids “Toward the Stars” rather than into the galactic black hole of soul-sucking damage seeping into kids’ psyches need to know there are positive, healthier messages for girls conveying a limitless universe.
Time for consumers to be BRAVE…Wake up, shake off the fairy dust and start a ‘pushback’ party of positive, productive alternatives that challenge the status quo of selling sameness, vapid values and ‘so sexy so soon’ appearance-is-everything cues to six year olds…
Though the silver screen brought us some strong resourceful ‘sheroes’ recently (Merida in Brave, Katniss in Hunger Games, Catwoman and Black Widow in the comic book genre, etc ) you’ll see as ‘holiday shopping season’ kicks off, they’re barely present in the toy aisle.
Instead on the toy shelves we continue to see the “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” dynamic…Pinkified princesses and sparkles aplenty, along with vapid monstrous fare including hyper-sexualized glamorama fashionista figurines, makeup kits, grooming tools, hot tub accoutrement, and pornified fishnet lace up bodices and thigh highs sold as vampy campy accessories that signal to girls as young as six it’s time to ‘get this party started’…
All in favor of ditching the toy aisle altogether and reaching Toward the Stars to find a healthier hub for kids’ worldviews to thrive?
Melissa Wardy, founder of one of our ongoing positive picks for ‘redefining girly’ through her venture Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies champions the new venture, showcasing some of her own offerings (as shown at left):
“I think it is a great idea to aggregate like-minded business owners and products to show parents what a healthy marketplace that honors our girls looks like,” said Melissa.
Michele Yolo of PFZ Inc, echoes the enthusiasm and sums the overall need:
“Because major national stores/vendors are literally void of product that represents the spectrum of girlhood, the idea of a marketplace that allows a broad variety of choice is absolutely necessary to bring a variety of product to market and also serves to highlight the lack of choice in other arenas…”
…”We feature unique designs like a dinosaur on a scooter and an octopus with a moustache, and also sell “Super Tool Lula: The Bully-fighting Super Hero” which is a children’s book that features a young, female super hero who transforms bullies with her magic tools.
Our company, Princess Free Zone, Inc. offers product not typically found in girl departments and is absolutely necessary to broadening how girls are marketed and advertised to. Toward the Stars makes the submission process simple and the format is user friendly with excellent and immediate feedback.”
Australian-based founder of Toward The Stars, Inês Almeida, explains the global appeal,
“This venue was created with one single purpose…
…To help reduce all threats to girlhood that crush our girls’ true nature and potential.
This tribe of social entrepreneurs focuses on upending gender stereotypes that only make girls obsess about body image, prevent them from taking leadership roles, limit their interests in sciences and math, and cause them to feel self-conscious when playing sports.
We have strict sellers guidelines that every entrepreneur that joins Toward The Stars embraces…\
We don’t compromise on their values in pursuit of easy profit and instead see ourselves as offering parents a pre-selected group of high quality products categorized as those that counter stereotypes, support communities, or are gender neutral and environmentally- friendly…
We’re not your typical ecommerce website, we’re a movement comprised of businesses, independent producers, not-for-profits and loving adults that decided to band together in defense of healthy girlhood.”
The marketplace is clearly not an ‘either/or’ format, as both of these entrepreneurs host their own stores and offerings, it just gives them another entry point of contact in one handy hub appealing to busy parents who would like some of these positive picks curated with like-minded business values.
Towards the Stars does the criteria work so you don’t have to.
Ditch the commercials about Black Friday/Cyber Monday selling sameness and know there’s a place to make your life easier to support the good stuff with your hard-earned dollars, sending a strong signal to mass marketers that parents will no longer tolerate the default, “it’s all that’s out there.”
I’m SO thankful to FINALLY start seeing one-stop shops that pumps out positive messages expanding horizons and pathways rather than cinching in options that bind and tether girls choices tighter than a Victorian era corset. (And for less constricting choices for boys, be sure to catch author of The Achilles Effect, Crystal Smith’s starter list for boys here, more on that topic to come)
“Exposing little girls to things typically thought of as being for boys is necessary to get beyond this idea that gender is one-dimensional…
Girls need to know that they can swing a hammer, hit a homerun, or like bugs—that being interested in these things does not mean they are not a girl. TTS is helping to shine a light on the underlying issues that so many of us are trying to combat through our product offerings.”
Where are the scientists cooking up cures, the eco-engineers trailblazing new discoveries and green recoveries, geologists and anthropologists using collective knowledge to elevate the human condition?
Chances are, those toys will be headed Toward the Stars, not sitting on a shelf at Toys R Us or Walmart, pre-packaged for assembly rather than building on skills of BOTH genders… (Lego Friends the newly touted ‘for girls’ line I wrote about with disappointment, favors the looks/spa/beauty bit over building on possibility, brain plasticity and neuroscience…hopefully they’ll ‘get it’ and make changes…)
With enough support from purchasing power we just MIGHT see positive picks we’ve featured like Little Bits, Roominate and Goldie Blox show up in big box retailers SOMEday…but for now I’m pretty sure it’s up to the cherry-picking curations of sites like Toward the Stars to consolidate meaningfulness on a variety of levels.
The Geena Davis Institute/USC research underscores how far we’ve skewed in the wrong direction toward appearance fluff and stuff with form over substance as it’s impacting career perceptions for kids and stifling STEM possibilities that haven’t even been considered yet. We can no longer look at gender research with ‘eyes wide shut’ and pretend these patterns are NOT having an impact on the socio-emotional well-being of girls right down to the career aspirations and dearth of femme in STEM fields…
It’s also imperative that we connect the dots between the abysmal findings in media outcomes and the signals we’re sending to girls about their worth in this world…business, social, academic and beyond.
How did we swing from indie antics of competence with beloved breakthrough characters once upon a time…like Marlo Thomas of That Girl, the ‘hat-flinging’ Mary Tyler Moore days of “we’re gonna make it after all,’ and Murphy Brown in the news room, to females cast in humiliating, degrading, Reality TV roles or hyper-sexualized as boy toys?
And in kids’ marketing, how did we eliminate what was once an ‘everybody plays’ universal given, (from unisex Legos to Creepy Crawler goop I used to heatpress into gotcha surprises under the bedsheets) to color-coded demarcation confining boys/girls ONLY to what marketers deem to be suitable for their gender?
This is product segmentation creating a mess that once wasn’t even there!
It’s imperative that parents stop ‘buying into’ mass market limitations and redirect their dollars to put their money where their mouth is and support open-ended play and possibility through indie alternatives. (And especially this week during the holiday hoopla when retailers pay attention to what’s gathering dust on the shelves!)
Again…what can we do? A recap:
Let’s dial down the negative media messaging (frenemie/foe plotlines, shallow stereotypes, and portrayals that reward the mean girl imbecilic hottie-factor) and support the positive (intelligence, resourcefulness, innovation, and solutions-thinking, a la Merida and Katniss putting forth a MacGuyver for girls message selling smarts as multi-dimensional SheHeroes)…
And change the channel of influence to positive marketplaces by supporting Toward The Stars’ vendors directly.
We can’t send girls “Toward The Stars” if we don’t follow through making course corrections in who and how we support retailers this holiday season to create sustainable change. It doesn’t have to all be indie and Etsy and unusual and selective to ‘reach and teach’ with positivity, but those are the burgeoning new marketplaces I’m grateful for the most…I’ll be highlighting some Toward The Stars vendors and other positive picks throughout the month …
Meanwhile, stay tuned for a feature on how you can ALSO shortcut wishlists using mass-market picks for girls in the newly curated toy section of “A Mighty Girl” It’s different criteria, a different hub and spoke model, but yet another worthy way to direct purchasing power toward positive messages sans stereotypes.
Please share these sites widely among your parent posse around the globe if you’re ready to ditch the starstruck celebrification and ‘looks are everything’ fame game that circle us back to the days of housewives vacuuming in pearls-n-heels…
The only way we want to send girls ‘to the moon’ is as astronauts.
It’s time to reach Toward the Stars, and get our galaxy back in sync.
(Visual at left acrylic painting in Toward the Stars gallery from Portugal)
Related reading: Misguided Media: Space Station Takes A Back Seat to Britney? Reminder: We’ll be featuring positive picks all month, particularly worthy media and marketing that does NOT get the mainstream press…so send us your finds and favorites in the comments below!