Thing of the Month December 2020
The figurine of a nurse is currently sold by Playmobil and features a respirator mask, a stethoscope and a disinfectant spray bottle. The individually packaged toy figure is offered in the "Everyday Heroes" series launched in 2020, along with a cashier, a pediatric emergency doctor, a mailman, a garbage man, a baker and a pharmacist. According to the company, 100% of the proceeds from this set will go to the Corona Emergency Relief Fund of the German Red Cross.
The series takes a look at occupational groups that have been deemed "systemically relevant" in dealing with the Corona crisis. In several countries, people gathered on balconies to express their appreciation to the nursing staff in hospitals by clapping. However, the fact that this largely remains a symbolic expression of gratitude for these everyday heroes has been criticized. The pandemic has thus called attention to the discrepancy between the relevance of these occupational groups and their pay.
At the same time, the figurines stand for change. Play figures as a reflection of socially relevant positions are nothing new per se. From military toys to Barbie dolls, implicit messages of seemingly harmless figures have often come under criticism. To be sure, the Playmobil company is aware that its portrayal of women in the caring professions reiterates role clichés. However, Playmobil is right in also stating that caring professions, which are mostly poorly paid, are in fact mostly occupied by women. The fact that marginalized occupational groups are presented to children today as heroines can nevertheless give hope that new role models might contribute to profound social change.
The figurine is part of our Collection of Crisis, for which we are continuously collecting ideas and suggestions.