Friday, November 16, 2007

An Open Letter (with some adaptations) to the Tonka Truck People

Dear Tonka Truck Man (Because God help us if you're a Woman),

Recently you had an advertisment in Parenting Magazine. It was a special eight page spread which I'm sure cost you mega-bucks. You'll be happy to know that it stayed in the magazine even after I ripped out every single insert I saw due to its heavy duty industrial-strength glue, and so I did happen to look at it. I actually looked at it long and hard. I studied it from every conceivable angle. And then decided that even if my son grows up liking trucks that I will NEVER, ever purchase one from Tonka.

"But why?" you ask, with a manly smirk on your face, feigning innocence as you deal with the "pretty lil' lady.".

The advertisement gave me helpful hints about how to "know I'm the mom of a boy." As if that protruding appendage from his body wasn't a hint?!?

You, Tonka truck folk, remind me that I'll know I'm a mom of a boy when, among other things, Grayson "surprises me with a bouquet of flowers with the roots attached," because, obviously, he wouldn't have gardened with me enough to know that we don't pull flowers out of the ground that we've planted. Grayson, certainly, wouldn't be smart enough to know that if we want to give mommy or daddy cut flowers we should cut them at the stems, or purchase them from a florist, because, by golly, we're dumb boys who don't know better. Right?

Or, Mr. Tonka (because I simply refuse to believe a woman wrote these ads), you have reminded me that I can be sure Grayson is a "real boy" when he climbs up on the bookcase and almost knocks it over on himself because, as you so helpfully remind me, "Boys don't just like to be active, they need to be active." I'm not sure if you're aware of the fact that there are girls who are active too...for instance, my step-daughters spend five and six days, respectively, at Fort Wayne Ballet. Has it occurred to you that it isn't just the male sex that has a market on activity? And is my son less a boy if he chooses to enjoy less active hobbies? And how do we define "activity?" For instance, is "sexism" an active task? Labeling children based on their sexual organs an "activity?" I're the experts on this gender assignment stuff, so I'm just asking...

You reminded me in your advertisement that "Boys love to fantasize about being a hero!" and that therefore "vehicle play helps them act out their dreams, letting them race to the rescue and crash into the bad guys' hangout." Does being a hero entail this crashing and destruction? I mean, I'm just wonderin' 'cause I'm a girl who doesn't know this stuff. Could being a hero mean more than violent "crashing" and "destructing," and actually encompass living justly and loving fiercely? What would it mean if a hero was known to be tender? Is that possible for boys? Can people with penises do this? 'Cause I'm just a sentimental girl asking these kind of questions...

You also mention in your advertisement that boys are "slower to start talking than girls are." I have not seen this play out in our world. My boy is already vocalizing happily at seven months, saying "Dada," and relating with his world. Of course, I'm sure that the fact that he says "Dada" rather than "Mama" is reassuring to you, reasserting the power of patriarchy and the structure of family life.

Thank you for reminding me that Tonka trucks are there for Grayson from "baby to big boy." Since we haven't needed them in his babyhood, I'm confident we'll forego them in the future. And, yes, I will enjoy all the "wild, wonderful moments" and will "remember that [I'm] part of a special group of women--[I'm] the mom of a BOY!" However, I will also remember that I am a savvy and astute woman. I am an educated feminist who sees through your manipulative misogynistic bullshit. And I am the mother of a son who will be raised to resist the oppression of gender stereotypes, gender stereotypes which you continue to proclaim even in the twenty-first century.

Shame on you.

You will not receive my dollars, nor will you receive my son's loyalty.

A Woman who Knows she's the Mom of a Boy (Who Will Know Better)

P.S. As a sidenote, I do owe you a heartfelt thank you, though. Thank you for the inspiration which led my husband to sing (and teach) our son the song, "Fight the Power." I think he'll need it in this world.


Shannon said...

You GO, Woman!

P.H. said...

And is my son less a boy if he chooses to enjoy less active hobbies? And how do we define "activity?" For instance, is "sexism" an active task?