Thursday, August 31, 2006


In defense of Polly Pockets

We’re at McDonalds (I know, I know) and we’re making an event out of it. We’re not zooming through the drive-thru, we're actually in the restaurant standing at the counter. We’re about to have a little picnic lunch on the patio, because we have time to kill and it’s a beautiful day.

So I place our orders with the painfully blasé seventeen-year-old girl behind the counter, and I tell her I would like one “Hummer” happy meal and one “Polly Pockets” happy meal. And she says, “Okay, one boy and one girl happy meal.”

And I straighten my shoulders and set my feet and say, with a pointed glance at my two boys, “No, as a matter of fact, I would like one HUMMER meal and one POLLY POCKETS meal, thank you.”

She takes a long, evaluating look at me and decides not to mess with the wigged-out suburban granola cruncher taking up space at her counter. She shrugs dismissively and says a quiet, “Whatever” as she punches our order into her cash register.

And you know what? By the time the fries were cold and the hamburgers had been gormandized, the Hummer toy was lying to one side, forgotten, as the boys argued over the Polly Pockets doll.

All of which begs me to ask: why is McDonalds gender stereotyping in their Happy Meal toys? Why segment the market like this? We also frequent Harveys and Wendys (yes, we eat way too much fast food – but that’s another story) and they don’t gender-segment their hamburger-snarfing clientele. Harveys is my favourite by far; they offer little cans of play-dough and crayola markers that have become staples in the ‘entertainment-on-the-go’ pocket of our diaper bag.

I knew Simon would love the Polly Pockets doll. When we go to our local toy store, Tristan is magnetically drawn to the train table, but Simon tends to drift after a moment or two over to the Calico Critters dollhouse. And if you asked me, I’d say Tristan is the sensitive one. Simon has just always had a thing for dollhouses. I’m thinking about getting him a set for Christmas, but at two-and-a-half, I’m betting this phase won’t last. Unfortunately.

At least now I know. Next time we go to McDonalds (because, despite my best intentions otherwise, there will be plenty of 'next times') I'll be ordering TWO Polly Pocket happy meals, for my smart, sensitive and oh-so-comfortable with their masculinity sons.