What Was I Thinking About?

If you want to stop thinking about whatever you should be thinking about, you’ll love these two cat-related items. They completely derailed my train of thought, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you.

First up, do you need a pair of Cat Butt Coasters? If you do, let me ask you something else: why?

Note that the creator will be happy to match them to your cat if you send her a photo. That’s good. It means you won’t notice when they accumulate cat hair–as all knitted and woven items do. Unless, of course, you have a multi-cat household. Which you probably do, if you’re seriously interested in these items.

The shape and size are going to make them absolutely irresistible to cats. Don’t leave the coasters sitting on the table when you’re not using them, as they will undoubtedly be carried off, used as pucks in a game of feline hockey, and finally dumped under the couch.

Given our cats’ predilection for sniffing each others’ rear ends, I have to imagine they would spend a lot of time just sniffing the coasters. Which means they’d be spending even more time on the table than they already do. If they’re hanging out on the table, they’re probably also going to wind up sitting on the coasters. Ready for some hot cat-butt-on-faux-cat-butt action?

Between their use as hockey pucks and cat seats, it’s a good thing the coasters are machine washable. The down side, of course, is the odd looks you’ll get on public transportation when you turn to your spouse and ask “Did you remember to put the cat butts in the washing machine?” Or maybe it’s not a down side. Maybe you could use it to draw the people around you out of their smartphones and start a conversation. With a start like that, you could probably keep them entertained all the way from Concord to Glen Park, even with the inevitable BART delay in the Transbay Tube.

Then there’s this peculiar set of objects currently available on eBay.

These cats don’t look anything like any of the water-loving breeds I’m familiar with. Why would they go anywhere near a beach, let alone into the ocean?

Is this a clothing-optional surf school? If not, shouldn’t Junior be wearing trunks, a wet suit, or something? Come to think of it, wouldn’t safety concerns mandate that he wear something to give his pom-poms a modicum of protection? The figure isn’t very strongly gendered. Maybe Junior is a girl–or has already been neutered–and doesn’t have pom-poms to protect. But even in that case, wouldn’t some protection be desirable? I’ve never surfed–can somebody with some experience in the area weigh in?

Did Mom have surgery that involved shaving her stomach? Why else would she need to wear a bikini top to cover her nipples? And if she does need to cover them, shouldn’t she be wearing a top that covers all of them? Last I checked, cats have anywhere from four to ten nipples; if exposing one pair is obscene, shouldn’t it apply equally to the rest of them?

Then there’s the color scheme. Blue for Dad, Pink for Mom. Hmm. Outside of the clothing, the adult figures aren’t any more strongly gendered than the kid. Could it be that they’re a same-sex couple, wearing these suits as a statement about the irrelevance of traditional sexual roles to the modern family? That seems awfully subtle for a set of collectible ceramic figures, but it does explain so much that’s confusing about this little family group.

Putting It Together

Consider this a follow-up to my earlier comments on The LEGO Movie. As you may recall, I had some unkind things to say regarding the movie’s portrayal of gender roles, particularly with regard to Wyldstyle. Would you be surprised to hear that similar complaints have been directed at LEGO in general? I didn’t think so.

People have been complaining for years about the gender imbalance in LEGO’s minifigures and the sexism expressed in the girl-centric “Friends” and the boy-centric “City” product lines. To their credit, Lego has taken note of the complaints and taken some steps to improve matters. In particular, they’ve begun introducing more female minifigs in the City sets. I did an informal survey at a well-known national toy store yesterday and found that roughly 10% of the City minifigs were female*. Not great, but certainly better than the 0% when City was launched.

* Your Mileage May Vary. I was just looking at the sets that this particular store happened to have in stock; the numbers may well differ across the entire product line.

That’s not to say that LEGO can be let off the hook. They clearly have some work to do, as a quick glance at the Fire Chief Car set shows. The mini-movie on the LEGO website is bad enough, showing the male fire chief arriving to rescue the anonymous woman’s cat from a tree. The box for the set pushes the clich√© even further: I half-expected a drawing on the back showing the chief claiming the hero’s traditional reward from the hapless maiden.

So kudos to LEGO for making the effort, and I hope they’ll continue to do so, but in the meantime, there is something that every LEGO purchaser can do to improve the situation. Many people seem to treat the concept of a “set” as sacrosanct; let us not forget that the core of the LEGO concept is interchangeable parts.

If you feel that your LEGO world needs more female characters, then make them. In most cases, the only real difference between a male and a female character is the hairstyle; in some cases there may also be facial differences. That makes it easy to swap gender in your minifigs. Observe:
c1 c2
From male construction worker to female with a swap of head and hair.

Heck, you don’t even need the hair in this case. Just changing the face is enough to signal “female”, and her proper use of safety equipment isn’t compromised:

Another example, just to prove the point. Anyone out there have a problem seeing Wyldstyle as a cop?
I didn’t think so.

So what do you do with those male heads you’ve removed? Personally, I think our former construction worker makes a perfectly fine biker now that Wyldstyle isn’t using that body.

Pushing the envelope a little further, our former Emmet head looks pretty good in Wyldstyle’s western outfit.
And consider how great this technique would be for introducing your child to the concepts of gender identity and body image:

Taking the concept just a little further, a quick swap of heads gives you an outstanding Emmet centaur for your Greek mythology scenario.

I’d suggest not pushing it too far, however. Wild West Princess Unikitty is… well… just a little scary.