Our Stick Figure Family Decals, Ourselves

In a recent issue of Maclean’s, Anne Kingston tackled the sociology—and potent symbolism—of those cartoon stick figure decals you see affixed to the back windows of SUVs the world over. “Few trends,” she argues, “reveal shifting family values in a mobile, personal-branding-obsessed society as do family stick figures.”
From the piece:

Between those extremes, a create-your-own-stick-family narrative has emerged. Sociologist Lisa Wade, an associate professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, sees stick-figure families and their evolution as a profound cultural marker: “They’re so trivial, yet so powerful,” she says. “Their story suggests we do still have a family ideal, a norm.” At the outset, stick-figure families seemed to “represent what we’re allowed to be proud of,” Wade says. “They were strongly hetero-normative and supported the idea of having children.” That they showed up on SUVs first is predictable, she says. “When people have four kids, their entire life tends to revolve around their family; that’s their identity—so an opportunity to advertise family-orientedness is appealing.”

What interests Wade most is the blowback to “traditional” stick-family families, from people like Pavlovic. “This is activism happening, when you see couples with no children put decals of two people and piles of money on their cars, or women choosing to put a figure of a woman with a cat, or six.” Identifying yourself as a same-sex couple is another form of resistance, Wade says: “It’s very visible. They’re not coming out to somebody; they’re coming out to everybody.”

Read the story here

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Photo: Tasayu, Flickr