In Defense of Cutesy…


So says Robert, ad nauseam.

In addition to my duties as Robert’s ghost-blogger, I also spend about 15 minutes each day pinning his products onto various Pinterest boards. It’s pretty mindless work, and it gives me a chance to wander around the TeachersPayTeachers store and see what all the other sellers are up to, which gives me ample time to advise Robert on what he should be doing to improve sales and generally beef up his store. Here’s what the conversation usually sounds like:

Robert, you need to make your things more cutesy.

I don’t do cutesy.

But if you made your things cuter, you’d sell a lot more of them.

I DON’T do cutesy.

But don’t you understand, if you did, then…

Emily, whose the boss? Who signs your paycheck?

You haven’t payed me yet…

You get the point: Robert is one stubborn nut, and asking him to budge is a waste of my time and wits. With this being among the many points of contention between us, Robert decided I should use this blog post to defend the cause of cutesy.

Is this enough to make you vomit?

What “cutesy” does to Robert…

Before I can defend anything, I decided I had to get to the root of Robert’s antagonism towards all that is cute. Robert, being the person he is (that is, a white, 54 year old male), did not have much to say about subject. I pressed him over and over again, and the closest thing I could get to a detailed reason was “I don’t like cutesy. It bothers me.”

If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog....

Robert’s idea of “cute”

My only familiarity with psychology is based on what I remember from Saturday morning cartoons, but I think I have some inkling of why Robert maintains an aversion to cute. As I said before, Robert is a man, and while he is far from being snobbish (good heavens, he buys $4 wine¬†by the case and serves it at dinner parties!), he is also somewhat insecure about his masculinity. Yes, he does “manly” things like participating in endurance swims in the Hudson River and constantly reminds me not to show up at a knife fight with a curling iron, but at the same time, he was raised around 2 sisters and a mom, and chose to work in a profession that is female dominated. Add to the fact that he has 2 daughters and lives with my mom and her two daughters, and you can see that he clearly needs an outlet to assert his manliness.

Robert maintains that “cutesy” is discriminatory and is often used by teachers to “dress-up” products that are “thin” on content. He finds them overly-feminine, and, that by portraying children as little adorable angels with big eyes and cutesy smiles, these products pander to the female teachers’ tastes, rather than elevating that of the students’. Of course, this is Robert’s philosophy, which he admits is based on a freshman year class called “Introduction to Feminist Semiotics” that he took at Brown University back in….wait for it…. 1977!

Samizdatmath: Arne Duncan Approved Common Core Math Activity!

Robert’s idea of “cutesy”

At the same time, Robert thinks all this discussion of cutesy is designed to drive him batshit crazy: he loves the visual jokes he puts into his product. His latest prank was to place a photo of the U.S. ¬†Secretary of Education into the top left corner of one of the product covers, identifying it as “Arne Duncan Approved.” What you have to know is that the only person Robert detests more than Michelle Rhee is… Arne Duncan! And so it goes…

You want my advice? I personally think cutesy has some kind of place in the classroom. How else could we get girls to become interested in math? What do you think: do you like cutesy? Do you use it to motivate your students?


Robert replies: Really, Emily? Must I read this? Can you just tell my fan(s) about the excellent quesadillas with mango salsa I made last night?



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