Saturday, March 23, 2013

What Do You Call a Plastic M-16?

Act #82:  Don't let Wal-mart define your kid's gender expectations.

Toy guns.  The classic age-old parenting debate for anyone who has a son.  Pro-gun parents sound something like this:  Boys will be boys.  Research has shown that they will make guns out of sticks, their hands, anything laying around.  There's no harm in allowing boys to explore good v. evil, as long as they understand the consequences.  I played with plenty of guns in my childhood and I turned out just fine. 

Anti-gun parents remove all weapons from action figures.  They encourage boys to explore alternate forms of play that do not involve violence.  They believe that this form of early socialization contributes to a culture of violence.  If you've ever read my blog, you probably know where I stand on this spectrum, but that's not what I'm writing about today.

Earlier this week I was in one of those mega-retail stores and came across a stash of these. 

Regardless of my personal thoughts on whether or not I believe guns are an appropriate mechanism for imaginative play, this sight made my skin crawl.  Peacekeeper.  Seriously?  Maybe it's just me, but I can think of a million alternate definitions of the term peacekeeper that don't involve blowing someone's brains out.  If we are going to permit our sons to grow up playing with make-believe weapons that were created to kill, the least we can do is be honest with them about their intended use.  Sure I get that weapons have historically been used in the military and law enforcement to help cease violence, or rather to to instill the fear of order to cease more violence.  So wouldn't a label like, "Inanimate object that could be used to protect and serve, but has regrettably been used to perpetuate even more violence" be more accurate?  Probably wouldn't fit very well on the packaging.  Maybe I'd feel better if there were more toy options to help our boys figure out positive expressions of their masculinity.  You know like little articulated Nelson Mandela action figures.  Or magic sets that turned river water into clean, drinking water.  Or playsets that allowed boys to imagine themselves being teachers, environmentalists, and fathers. 

Maybe if those toys existed (hint, hint Hasbro) and had labels like peacekeeper on them as well, I'd feel a bit better about telling my kid that a  plastic M-16 rifle is the best way to promote:


noun \ˈpēs\
1: a state of tranquillity or quiet
2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3: harmony in personal relations

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