A little levity on a Friday afternoon….with a message, of course.
I walked into the pet store earlier this week and was confronted with a large cardboard marketing campaign for Family Stickers – the new thing in advertising who we are through our vehicles. You may have seen them – they are stick figure stickers that one is meant to put on the back window of the vehicle to depict ones family – including pets.
I have seen these on people’s cars, so the concept wasn’t new. What was new was the idea of choosing the figure that “fits”. Of course I scrutinized the poster from a diversity lens and noted several concerns – now that I’ve been to the website, some of these are less, but here are a few after a quick perusal.
On the website you can choose your family members (adult, teen, child, baby and pet) and then you are given a multitude of options to complete the image by choosing a head and a body. You can also create them in colour. Although I’m not sure about the names (white to dark mocha), hooray for options!
I was pleasantly surprised to see a mixture of possible hairstyles and activities the bodies could be doing. As an example, there is a dreadlock option for hairstyles for males and females (yay!). But there is also some stereotypes/cultural misappropriation like the feather head-dress option for boys (ugh).
The bigger issue that stood out for me today (and what I’m going to focus on)was gender: Before you get to these choices of colour or body or head, you have to choose male or female (adult, teen, child or baby). Too bad!
Here’s the issue:
While it seems that the body choices are doing similar activities, not all of the activities are the same: both have “doctor” options, for example, but only females have a “fairy” option and only males have a “business suit” option. What about guys who take themselves, lightly or a woman who is in Corporate Canada? And what if you’re trans-identified?
Ah the world of binary gender and gender role stereotyping.
I, for one have a hairstyle that more closely matches a choice in the “adult male” category. While I suppose I could just go into the adult male category for my stick figure representation and call it a day (it’s just a stick figure for crying out loud), it bugs me. There is a bigger message; an undercurrent that can add to the perpetuation of lack of choices, expectations, sexism and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
What is so gendered about a stick figure that I should have to choose? Seems like a safe place to start challenging some of our ideas and expectations of gender and gender roles and opening these up.
Wouldn’t it be great if all of the options were available for each family member category so that everyone had the same choices of how to represent themselves? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if there were no categories at all, just a bunchof choices for colour, heads and body?
Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker & facilitator on issues of diversityand inclusion