A family-run business has been forced to defend the name of their children’s toy after it caused a stir in Facebook parenting groups, accused of reinforcing gender stereotypes.
Created by a Perth-based brother and sister, “Mommy’s Tiny Helper” is a toy car that a child sits on, and underneath the car is a set of sweepers that cleans the house as it gets driven around.
Described on the website as having developmental benefits for children – such as improving mobility and spatial awareness, increasing ambulatory and rotational skills and teaching responsibility and tidiness – some parents have instead focused on the toy’s name, taking offence and saying the small business is implying “that it’s a woman’s job to do the cleaning”.
“Yeah, that’s a no from me. I love the idea but mummy’s helper, no,” one user wrote in a Perth mother’s group on Facebook.
“It’s 2021 it isn’t mummy’s job to clean the floor.”
“By calling it ‘mommy’s’ you aren’t being gender inclusive at all,” another said.
“Something more gender/parental role neutral would be better … Do same-sex parents, single dads, grandparents, non-binary parents not exist?”
“I don’t like it. What if there isn’t a mummy around and dad does the cleaning and housework? It shouldn’t be aimed at mothers and it’s very 1950s, only women are cleaners of the house,” wrote one woman.
But others defended the toy, writing that “people are so easily offended”.
“Call it f***ing ride-on sweeper and be done with it. God forbid we rock the gender equality boat or upset the fems! Any cleaners or hired help out there want to jump on and have their say about it rattling their chains too? WHO F***ING CARES! I’d call it a great idea and leave it at that! I’ll take two please!”
“Can I get one for Christmas,” wrote one woman, while others wrote the toy was an “amazing” concept.
The toy’s co-founder, Samantha Minniti, told news.com.au she was “quite shocked” that the toy’s name had been poorly received by some, saying she “would never suggest such gender stereotyping”.
“We are not implying that it’s mum’s role to do the cleaning. I would never suggest such gender stereotyping,” Ms Minniti said.
“We are realists and know that, based on statistics, 86 per cent of women do the majority of the housework in Australia, while 73 per cent of men are the primary breadwinners. Simply put, women need more help around the house so they can return to work, if they choose to.
“Ask any woman in Australia and they would love more support around the house – and yes that can come from their kids or partners.”
'Mommy's Tiny Helper' is aimed at helping the developmental skills of kids. Photo / Supplied
Minniti said the business has “big hopes” for the toy around the world – even debuting it at the prestigious New York Toy Fair – which was also why they used the American spelling for “Mummy”.
However, she said they were now worried about the negative feedback they’d received.
“I hope this isn’t cancel culture in action because it wasn’t our intention,” she said.
“I feel that once the same people understand the motives behind the product and how strongly I feel about women needing more help around the house, they will feel differently.”
Mommy’s Tiny Helper is also a unisex toy, she said, “so your little boys will love it as much as little girls”.
“And who knows, if we introduce house cleaning to little boys from a young age and make it fun, maybe more men will start doing their fair share of housework when they have families,” she said.
Other users called on the business to simply change the name to “something like ‘sweep and ride’ … concentrate on what the product does and not who it’s helping”.
“Personally I think Mummy should be taken out, just have Tiny helper. In our house we do 50/50 share of housework, cooking, looking after kids etc, so I don’t think it’s a good name to assume only mum does the cleaning,” wrote one.
“Also a lot of kids don’t have mums, if you are absolutely sold on using that name then I think you might get some backlash – also change to ‘Mummy’, ‘mommy’ is American.”
Minniti said while their feedback had been taken on board, “we don’t have any intention of changing the name”.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and money to get to this stage and really believe in the product and what the name stands for – mummies need more help,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the critics either don’t have children, have the luxury of being able to afford a cleaner, or are one of the few households where the mum gets a lot of help so she can be the breadwinner.”
She said she hoped people criticising the toy’s name would “understand that mums work bloody hard – and many of us are trying to juggle so many balls”.
“There are so many women out there who would love to get back to the workforce, but they need support for childcare, equal pay, and then there’s all the challenges involved with running a household,” she said.
“Products like ‘Mommy’s Tiny Helper’ should be celebrated, not cancelled.”