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I work in a store with a rather large toy department, and I often end up spending a lot of time cleaning it, so I'm rather familiar with all of the current "hot" toys. There are the usual toy cars, high-tech talking things, and boardgames. And then there are the horribly sexist and manipulative toys marketed towards girls...

Some of the things we sell completely blow my mind. There are computer and PDA-shaped make-up compacts, dolls that say things like "I was born to shop!", and hundreds of Barbie dolls with outrageous body proportions. What do these things tell our daughters, nieces, sisters, and granddaughters?

"Don't try to use computers! Just be pretty!"

"Shopping makes you happy! You're only as good as what you buy!"

"You are what you wear! Want to be a doctor? All you need is a labcoat and a stethoscope ensemble!"

I can't understand why parents let these toy companies get away with making such things. One of the current in-demand toys for girls is a series of talking dolls called Diva Stars. They're basically little advertisements for the Gap. You press a button on their heads, and their enormous lipsticked-lips light up as they say any number of valley-girl mall-rat messages like: "What's up! I love to sing to and shop with my friends!." Is it just me, or is that not disturbing?

I'm no child development expert, but I'm sure any psychologist or behaviorist would tell you that play is one of the most important things that children do. They learn so much through play: social structures, physics (when I throw the ball up, it comes back down!), counting, coordination skills, etc. Therefore, one would think that we'd take what we let our children play with very seriously. Unfortunately, most parents seem content to let the toy manufacturers do their thinking for them.

The messages little girls get from TV, music, and movies all support the idea that they're nothing more than objects to be desired. These toys just reinforce those ideas. I think we owe them a lot more than that. Instead of just producing shallow asinine toys like the ones I've spoken about, toy companies should make toys that encourage girls to make their own definitions of who they are, what they stand for. In the meantime, the best way to tell these companies that we don't approve of these toys is to refuse to buy them, even if our kids beg and scream for them. Don't let toy execs treat your kids this way anymore.

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