I flew out of London Heathrow yesterday after a quick work trip. Last time I was there I noticed that they were trying to make it a better experience for kids with the character of Mr. Adventure:
He’s all happy and fun and adventurous and welcoming. I can’t say my Heathrow security experience was as fun as all that, but I applaud their efforts to lighten it up, especially for kids, whom I can imagine would find it even more tedious.
In the waiting area where you wait for your gate to be posted they have a play zone for kids. That’s another plus because it lets the kids be active instead of sitting around, and chances are they’ll be sitting around for a long time once aboard.
But I was dismayed to see that, in contrast to Mr. Adventure, the feature character at the play area is Little Miss Naughty. She’s the bad girl who breaks the rules. A sign implores the children not to be like Little Miss Naughty:
Now, maybe it’s just because I was stressed about timing even before I got to security (because traffic!). Then the long wait for the random search of my laptop and liquids bag (all to code, I might add) just compounded things because the gates are so darn far away (like 15 minutes if you use the moving walkways). But I found the representation of Little Miss Naughty to be an infuriating reminder of the way girls and boys are differently presented. Mr. Adventure is all positive. Little Miss Naughty is all bad.
Not only that, it made me think about the gender gap where kids’ activity is concerned. Boys are encouraged to be active; girls not so much. So it annoyed me to see Little Miss Naughty as the one who needed rules, being told not to climb. It seemed like an example of the way girls get reprimanded for expressing themselves through activity.
It could be that I’m reading more into it than is warranted. But something about these gendered representations, pitched at children, doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like a micro-aggression, perpetuating subtle messages about the different and gendered expectations placed on boys and girls.
What do you think about Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Naughty?