Why You Should Boycott Sexist ‘Paw Patrol’ Toys
By Kristine Kimmel
“Holy shit, this is a thing,” I say to my husband, Sven, as we peer at the elaborate Paw Patrol display in our local Target.
If you aren’t familiar with Paw Patrol, it’s a cartoon aimed at preschoolers about a team of five pups led by an enterprising young boy named Ryder. They save sea turtles, go camping, and perform good deeds that I pay limited attention to while my twins, aged 3, watch. It takes place in Adventure Bay, which based on the accents, is somewhere in Canada.
“I’m getting Marshal!” Benji shouts.
“I’m getting Skye,” Sophie chimes in. Skye is the lone female pup of the five.
“There’s NO SKYE!” Sophie howls, and her lip juts out in a manner that I recognize as the quick pre-cursor to an epic meltdown on the horizon.
I use the Ninja parenting move learned by parents of little kids the world over and grab the closest thing I see. “Look Sophie, a Paw Patrol game, how cool is that?” I wave the game in front of her eyes like chum to a Great White.
My technique works and Sven shoots me a look of appreciation. I have my moments.
“Can we look at the Paw Patrol shirts?” Benjamin asks. It’s 97 degrees out and there are four more hours until bedtime; they can look at Paw Patrol AK-47s if they want to.
We make our way through the crowd of harried Sunday families, their carts overflowing with Huggies, Hefty trash bags, and kids in various states of being terrible.
The toddler boy’s section is lousy with Paw Patrol shirts. I rifle through the selection and notice something amiss. All of the tiny shirts feature all of the main pups . . . except for, once again, Skye. Some would find this slightly irritating; I find her intentional absence infuriating. The single Paw Patrol tee in the girls department only adds to my rage, as it features Skye with another female dog (not a main character) and the words “Best Friends” surrounded by hearts.
“Let’s go!” I shout and throw down the offending item to take its place among the pile of My Little Pony and Peppa Pig tees. I double back to grab a pair of sparkly purple unicorn leggings for Sophie because these tiny pants combine all of her favorite things about being alive and I am not a monster.
I share my outrage with Sven. “Why the FUCK isn’t Skye on any of the shirts? She is a main character! God forbid a boy wear a shirt with a girl dog on it! And did you notice the language on the shirts, Sven? Did you? Did YOU?”
“Um, yes? No. Not really.”
“On the boys tee’s it was all, ‘RUFF RUFF RESCUE, RUFF AND TUFF, READY FOR ACTION, AND I’VE GOT A BIG DICK!’ And did you see the option if you are a girl? ‘Best Friends.’ Hearts everywhere! I’m nice, no adventures for me.”
“Did they have that big dick one in an XL?”
“I need a drink.”
When we get home, the kids dive into the Paw Patrol game and I dive into my cocktail.
“Mommy, why isn’t Skye in the game?” my son asks. I’d like to say he was devastated, but he wasn’t, just curious. I, however, am ready to set the house on fire.
“She’s busy helicoptering women to safe and accessible abortion clinics,” I reply.
My kids don’t know that girls are seen as less valued in society because they haven’t existed on Earth long enough for it to be shoved down their throats. We live in Los Angeles, which is pretty progressive. If Benji wears a skirt to preschool, and he has, no one tells him “skirts are for girls.” He thinks skirts are cool to wear and fun to dance in.
He doesn’t think less of a skirt than shorts because it’s something a girl wears, just like he wouldn’t think Skye should be erased from a board game primarily marketed toward boys because she’s a girl dog wearing pink. To him, pink is a color, his second favorite color after blue.
I leave my kids to play the game, so I can do some Paw Patrol googling and fan the flames of my rage. First I look at Paw Patrol boy clothes — out of 32 clothing items, I find Skye on one boy’s tee.
I continue to dig. Skye is almost always absent from the bedding, baseball caps, tennis shoes, underwear, sleeping bags, and numerous toy sets. This despite the fact that she is a MAIN CHARACTER of the show. What is that telling boys and girls about her importance? What is that teaching my 3-year old son and daughter about the value of girls in our society?
Skye’s absence is allegedly no accident. Unless you have been hiding under a rock and didn’t take your smartphone with you, you probably know a new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” just came out. Toymakers came under fire when a Force Awakens Monopoly Game was released without Rey, the female lead of the film.
According to an industry insider quoted in The Telegraph, “Diminishing of girl characters is common in the industry. Power Rangers asked us to do it. Paw Patrol, too.”
You might not think a missing pink dog is worth getting upset about, but this is where it begins. It’s not one huge life altering event that teaches girls that they are less than, it’s all the tiny little insidious things that chip away at their armor over time. We may not be able to control all of it, but we can control the types of toys we buy our children.
If we refuse to buy merchandise that reeks of sexism, we will show toy manufacturers that we don’t accept this antiquated view of our children. Let’s not let toy companies teach our kids that girls are disposable.
Lead Image: Flickr/ Michael