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A Look at Gender Roles: The 1979 Sears Christmas Wish Book

November 28, 2004

Brush my eyebrows, please. Until the age of 12 or so, a kid's life largely revolves around toys. I remember eagerly looking forward to the stack of Christmas catalogues my mother received every year. Normally, Sears and JC Penney featured boring things like clothes, tires and power tools. However, at Christmas, these catalogues were the kid's equivalent of Hustler. Hours were spent circling the most coveted toys; kids' favorite pages ended up torn and dog-eared (the adults' simply stuck together.) All the toys and games Death Star Space Station you wanted (and probably wouldn't get) beckoned lasciviously: the Barbie Dreamhouse, the Millennium Falcon, Castle Grayskull and the Brooke Shields Styling Head all screamed "Buy me! No, I'm more expensive, buy ME!" What's worse is that everyone knew that kid -- be it a cousin, neighbor or the sibling your parents liked better than you -- who would get every cool toy to come off the assembly line. You spent half the time hating The Little Professor him and half the time pretending to like him so you could go to his house and play with his Death Star Space Station.

Today's toys are significantly more hi-tech than when I was (first) playing with Barbie. Now it's all about Xbox, Game Boy Advance and the U2 Edition Ipod. (Burn in hell, Bono.) In my day, the cutting edge was the Speak N Spell, that brown Fisher Price record player and the Little Professor. Who wants to play with a calculator?

Barbie loves McDonald's
Even with all the new technology, one thing will never change: there will always be a clear distinction between "girl toys" and "boy toys" (Madonna notwithstanding). Toys frequently reflect the roles that girls and boys are expected to play in society. My Barbies were marketed as fashion models, princesses and mermaids. It was a big breakthrough when, in 1982, the McDonald's Playset came out and you could make Barbie work the counter and sweep behind the fry cooker. Playset accessories included acne, a hairnet and adhesive his-n-hers grease burns for Barbie and all her friends.

"Hi, Ken! I'm really excited about this cross-marketing opportunity! Would you like some fries with your product placement?"

Mattel wanted girls to aim high in their career goals. You can't really blame the company, though; it was the early '80s and women were just starting to crack the glass ceiling. The man-tailored suits with linebacker-sized shoulder pads had yet to fully take root in the world of executive fashion. Barbie always Rosie ate Barbie liked to play things safe; she waited until she couldn't possibly offend any (right wing) group before she made her foray into the professional world. Until then, she was perfectly content to serve milk shakes and molten lava-filled cherry pies.

In the years since the first McDonald's playset (yes, there have been updates), Barbie has been an astronaut, dentist, doctor, olympic athlete and Rosie O'Donnell. Barbie's professional achievements send a message to girls everywhere that it's okay to push toward greatness...so long as you look good doing it. Remember: no matter how smart you are, ugly girls never win! (Maybe that's why they made the Rosie doll..?)

1979 Sears Christmas Wish Book

Sears 1979 Christmas Wish Book Upon flipping through the Sears 1979 Christmas Wish Book, there is no question what was expected of girls. Forget aspirations of becoming a doctor, lawyer or scientist. Girls are good for three things: cookin' food, cleanin' house and makin' babies.

In order to prepare a girl for her career in the domestic arts, it was important for Mother to lead by example. Father brought home the money from his job at the used car lot; Mother was expected to uphold her responsibilities on the homefront. Father worked hard for his family; frequently, he had to "work late" with his 25-year-old, Swedish accounts manager. "Business is growing. I had to look over her, ah, paperwork. You women are prone to making stupid mistakes...a man needs to make sure everything is buttoned up and in order," he always said when Mother asked why he was so late. Nevertheless, regardless of the hour, he expected a hot meal, a cigar and his newspaper when he arrived home. He could not be bothered with such trifles as dirty dishes, crying babies and taking out the garbage. Besides, everyone knew what happened to the man who did "women's work." Washing dishes was only one step away from sucking dick in the alley behind the Man Hole.

It's tough being a woman! Woeful was the mother who only produced sons; a daughter, in addition to being a "perfect joy," served as a working apprentice. Ironing, sweeping, cooking, sewing, changing the baby, shopping...no task was too big for Mother's Little Helper. "Here, honey, a little bit of club soda will help Mommy get these lipstick stains off of Daddy's collar. When you're a big grown up with your own family, you'll understand why it's important to keep quiet and stand by your husband -- no matter what. You want to eat, don't you?"

(A note to new mothers: break her at an early age in order to dispel any urges to disobey. The back of a wooden mixing spoon works quite nicely to quell any sass talk.)

The Quickest Way to a Man's Heart is through His Stomach A woman's life is centered in the kitchen. To ensure that your little one will be able to carry out her wifely duties, she needs to become familiar with her domain at an early age.
Kitchen playset in

The Kenmore Toy Appliances are the perfect first step in her homemaking journey. Her very own Kenmore range, sink/dishwasher, refrigerator and pantry will provide hours of make-believe fun. She can imagine her future husband enjoying the crunchy cornflake crust of a tasty tuna casserole or the golden, frothy peaks on a delicious Baked Alaska. The possibilities are endless! Constructed of sturdy metal, plastic and cardboard, the four-piece set is available in an attractive "Decorator Almond" shade; it compliments any contemporary decor. Fake food, dishes and children sold separately (see below).

Complete set.....................................................67.99
Sink/Dishwasher, incl taps, drain, dish rack.........17.99
Oven, with four simulated burners........................16.99
Kitchen Cabinet, smoked-look metal doors..........19.99
Refrigerator, smoked-look metal doors................19.99

Kenmore Microwave Living in the Nuclear Age
The Kenmore Microwave is the perfect convenience for making quick-and-easy cakes and pies. Using a 100-watt bulb, it only takes five hours to produce scrumptious baked goods. Simulated push-button controls help her remember numbers and the handy guide lists defrosting times for pot roasts, ham casserole, beef stock and Daddy's sperm samples for the clinic. Mixes, cookbook, wooden paddle, and two metal baking pans are included. When using the metal pans in the big person microwave, make sure she stands up close to watch the baking process in action!


Kitchen Accessories Make Cooking Fun! External use only:  do not insert into rectum. The 3-piece Kiddi-Matic Appliance Set includes a friction-powered mixer and blender that really work! Simulated brewing-action coffee maker looks and sounds like the real thing. Pint of brandy included for mom's little afternoon "nip." For external use only: do not insert beaters into rectum.


You better shop around. You Better Shop Around
These handy carts will get her used to the idea of shopping at the market. She can load and unload her grocery cart with our play food, eventually leaving it as empty as her dreams are destined to become. Available in child-safe plastic or durable metal. Not recommended for pushing the cat or baby sister down the hill.

Metal cart with play food.........................14.99
Plastic shopping cart (food not incl.).........8.99

110-Piece Mini-Food Set Transfat and empty carbs:  the cornerstone of the American diet Easy to assemble plastic and cardboard. Includes eggs, cheese, butter, milk, ketchup. Helps to promote brand recognition for Ritz and Rice Krispies -- the cornerstones of a healthy American diet.


I used to have a gag reflex. Giant Baking Set
Seven assorted finger lickin' Betty Crocker cake mixes, 1 brownie mix, 2 gingerbread mixes, paper doilies, 20 paper cups, 1 metal baking pan, measuring cups, mixing bowl and 3 assorted frostings round out this enormous collection of confections. WARNING: cases of bulimia have been reported in association with this Umm, I could eat five more! product. Betty Crocker/Sears is not responsible for the development of the rollercoaster binging/purging cycle so common among young girls today. Please supervise your daughter's eating habits. Cake mixes may contain traces of lead paint.


Under Pressure Under Pressure
Hubby has said a thousand times that he can't present before the Board with collar points that are anything but menacing. Don't let your daughter learn this the hard way. The non-electric ironing set includes cord, metal board with cover, starch and folding tubular legs. It's child-safe, fun and encourages productivity in the home! Set her up in front of the TV with a few boxes of chocolate-covered cherries and laxatives -- once you get her hooked on General Hospital and Nembutal, she'll iron for hours!

Set (12 x 11 x 21 h)..................11.99

Sewing for Survival Sewing for Survival
Sewing is a snappy solution to mending unsightly holes and tears. Father is quick to point out that money doesn't grow on trees -- does Mother think he just goes outside an plucks off a $20 every time she claims to need laundry detergent or medicine for the baby? He knows that she's just sitting at home stuffing her face full of cashews, crying over One Life to Live. So when Bobby falls down and puts a hole in the knee of his new school slacks, it is Mother's job to patch it before Father sees it and becomes "very disappointed." The lock-stitch sewing machine operates with a manual hand crank or with four "D" batteries (not included.) Built-in table clamp holds machine in place. Includes pressure foot, needle plate, tension control, bobbin winder, three needles, needle threader and carry case.


Vacuuming for a cleaner soul. Time for Clean Up!
The woman with the cleanest house is the woman with the whitest soul! When the baby gets into the kitty litter, this battery-powered vacuum comes to the rescue. It sucks away everything from psoriasis flakes on the back of the davenport to chicken pox scabs on the breakfast table. Lights up when running. Uses two "C" cells, not included.

23 inches high, each...................7.99

¡Me Gusta Limpiar!
Limpie o muera.
The seven-piece set makes housekeeping a breeze! Take your hija along when you report for work at the Ramada Inn by the truckstop. The set includes a carpet sweeper, mop, broom, dustpan, apron, sponge and dish cloth -- she'll be down on all fours scrubbing the toilets in no time. Be sure to explain why she should not flush condoms...it just makes more work in the end...and The Management does not offer overtime. Instructions available only in Spanish.

7-piece set...........................7.49

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