I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this little game called Angry Birds? It’s taken over the world and, specifically, our house. My five-year-old son knows all, and I mean all, about the Angry Birds empire. He has many of the stuffed animals, two board games, tattoos, shirts, pencil toppers, keychains, a backpack, winter hat… His idea of a good time is watching How-To videos online. You know those little packets that come with toys, the ones that list what should be inside the box? My son’s Angry Birds Star Wars packet is his bible. It is worn and creased from having been pocketed, read, and re-pocketed so many times. He sleeps with it beside his bed.
This is all to demonstrate that he lives and breathes Angry Birds (and sometimes dinosaurs). “Worships” might be a fair word to use.
The other day, he received the new Angry Birds Star Wars sticker book and promptly sat down and asked me to read it to him. (We always read ALL the words of EVERY Angry Birds-related item he owns.)
All was going smoothly as I read through the storyline in the sticker book, the overviews of each scene, the descriptions of the Pig Army and the Pig Empire. Then I got to the Bird Republic (the good guys). You know–Red Skywalker bird, Ham Solo, Obi-Wan Kaboomi.
And Princess Organa. This is the Princess Leia of Angry Birds Star Wars. She had one of those cartoon bubbles coming out of her mouth that read: “Someone has to keep this flock in check!”
Hmmm. I felt a little twinge in my brain, narrowed my eyes a bit. But I read on:
“Princess Organa…expects everybody to obey her and is a bit of a drama queen.”
Oh, no they didn’t.
My gasps alarmed my son. I tried to explain that this was a stereotype. Then I tried to explain what a stereotype was. Then I tried to explain why some people are ignorant and perpetuate stereotypes. Then I tried to explain what perpetuate means.
Then it got worse.
Beside a picture of who I’ll call Han Solo and Princess Leia for clarity’s sake, a little bubble read: “Han Solo has taken a shine to the princess. Leia won’t admit it but she likes him, too.”
You know that one movie (I think it was a book first) that starts with a boy teasing a girl and she runs to her mother and says, “Mommy, why did he do that?” and the mother says, “Because he likes you”? It makes the point that girls are sometimes raised to believe that boys treat girls they adore like shit. Which teaches girls to put up with too much shit.
Well, this is the opposite (except it’s also harmful to girls). Teaching boys that when a girl acts as if, or even says, she doesn’t like him she’s just being coy and really DOES like him is ridiculous–and harmful.
Think about it: that statement teaches boys not to trust what girls say. It teaches them not to believe it when a girl says, “No.” Especially if she’s wearing a short skirt when she says it.
I’ve said it before: Sexism can be a hidden, tricky thing. The seeds are planted early.
My son might not have understood my explanations, but he saw my anger. I’m planting my own seeds. And now he sees black marker where I struck out those sexist words.
**By the way, the sticker book was written by one Simon Beecroft at DK Publishing. Seems like a smart guy. See? Tricky.