Saturday, March 14, 2015
Notorious: Good-bye Barbie, Hello Legal Justice League (Please)
In honor of Women's History Month, do let's trash Mattel's new, creepy, eavesdropping, Wi-Fi-connected "Hello Barbie" - dubbed Soviet Snitch Barbie by skeptics in Europe - and fight for Maia Weinstock's new, teeny, inspired female SCOTUS justices in LEGO form, which the company rejected under their rule of "no politics or political symbols." Because it's not like the issues before the Court, already dismally under-reported, aren't important in our real-world lives or warrant further awareness by girls, kids or other sentient beings.
Hello Barbie, newly unveiled at Toy Fair 2015, uses an embedded microphone to record kids' conversations - which could often include intimate details of their lives - before transmitting them online. The toy, which has alarmed privacy advocates, is scheduled to appear in the fall, right in time for, you know. Mattel says the doll will "deepen that relationship girls have with (Barbie), who will "become like the best of friends," even though she's, like, a plastic doll, which is kind of weird. Responding to privacy concerns, they insist they will get parental permission to record a kid, they won't use data "for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff...but only to improve this product," and parents can get daily or weekly e-mails allowing them access to their kids' chats with Barbie, which sounds even creepier and more invasive than the doll herself. Correctly noting that kids "aren’t only talking to a doll - they are talking directly to a toy conglomerate whose only interest in them is financial," the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a campaign to halt the doll's production.
Barbie has long been at the forefront of the ongoing battle over gender equity fought in toy stores' infamously segregated pink and blue aisles. Caught somewhere in the middle has been LEGO, which began as gender-neutral, has struggled in recent years to attract girls, briefly issued some women scientists that quickly sold out, but then caught flak for their allegedly female-centric LEGO Friends. That effort was eloquently criticized by one peeved seven-year-old girl, who wrote the company, "I love Legos but I don't like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls. Today I went to a store and saw Legos in two sections, the pink girls and the blue boys. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach and shop...The boys went on adventures, worked, saved people (and) even swam with sharks. I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun. OK?"
Umm, evidently not. Maia Weinstock, an MIT News editor, made her LEGO female Supreme Court Justices - Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - in honor of International Women’s Day "to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the legal realm, and encourage girls and women to work toward high positions in the U.S. judicial system." The set, dubbed the Legal Justice League, includes the court bench complete with historically accurate pewter coffee mugs, and the SCOTUS library. She submitted the project to Lego Ideas, a site run by the Danish toy company to explore new set concepts, but it was summarily rejected under their rule against "politics or political symbols." Never mind there's already a LEGO White House; Weinstock more pointedly argues the Court "is by definition apolitical, above politics” - a thorny legal issue these post-Citizens United days, and in this case one taken up by the National Constitution Center under the title, "Can the Supreme Court Seek Justice In Legoland?" Meanwhile, Weinstock has posted online photos of her Justice League and been swamped by requests from female lawyers and other parents who want them for their kids. She may check out an appeals process. Or the world might catch up with her. The final hopeful word from the notorious - someone made her a Tumblr site! - Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Dissents speak to a future age."