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Monday, August 15, 2011

Cinderella story: Is Barbie ruining your daughter?

As I helped my nearly five-year-old daughter get ready for church yesterday, I realized that to many people, she looked "old-fashioned." She had on a flowered dress that I made (which reached well below the knees when I first sewed it for her) and her hair was in pigtails. She had frilly socks and a pair of squeaky white patent Mary Janes.

I am on a crusade to keep my daughter young. We'll deal with all that other crap when we come to that bridge, but in the meantime, I am enjoying the shred of control I still have left over whether they wear stripes with solids for their first day of school.

Madonna's 14-year-old daughter, Lourdes.
(What a terrific role model her mother is)
I've blogged about this before - how our culture is literally forcing us to make our daughters into little skanks well before they even reach their tenth birthdays. Padded bikini tops for 8-year-olds? Check. High heels for little girls? Check. Pole dancing at the "Teen Choice Awards?" Um....check.

You can't look ten feet in front of you without seeing someone who should probably be showing a little less skin. At the mall, at school, wherever - some teenagers look like they're wearing glorified band-aids for a skirt. This article highlights some of the top teen performers who look more like adults, and when you see them all lined up like that, it's rather shocking and sad.

I thought, these are the musicians little kids - like the 4-18 (yeah, four!) year age group - listen to. I remember once dropping my daughter off for preschool, and one of her little friends had on a Hannah Montana t-shirt. Another was prancing around in shoes I wouldn't even wear, and I was repulsed every time I saw them. How can their mothers think this is cute? Have they ever seen Hannah Montana perform? Why would anyone think that is a suitable role model for a preschooler?!

As usual, Miley shows us a little more
than we really needed to see. 
In defense of bullied singer Rebecca Black, who sang that annoyingly overplayed song "Friday," she noted that she was faced with two choices when she came to the music studio to record: that song, and one about love and relationships - themes that, according to her, were still a little too mature for her to singing about yet.

Everyone decries how quickly our girls have become targets of the fashion industry to look over-sexualized at young ages. And in the same breath, it's perfectly okay for your kid to watch some of these performers on television, listen to their music, and emulate them. While we're busy lamenting how our daughters are looking older and older at younger ages, it seems like one fact has slipped by us: over the decades, while hemlines were getting shorter and clothing was getting more and more risque, we sat back and let it happen. You could argue this all started during the infamous sexual revolution of the 1960s, when our mothers and grandmothers were encouraged - more like, expected - to release ourselves from the bondage of female virtuosity and use sex as a way to behave like empowered, enlightened beings. So much for that.

And now, it's no big deal to some that Miley Cyrus pole dances at the Teen Choice Awards. Some might not like it, but turning a blind eye or adopting the "If you can't beat 'em, you might as well join' em" approach seems much easier than picking a battle over a miniskirt that shows major butt crack (and other things) when you bat your eyelashes. Yeah, you have to pick your battles as a parent: but I pick a lot of them, because I'm essentially at war with the rest of the world over MY KIDS. No one loves or cares for them like I and my husband do, and the biggest battle is between me and them - to look and do like everyone else does. Somewhere along the way, that battleground has gotten bigger and bigger, and the war has become tougher than ever.

People always say that kids are subject to peer pressure, but I think even more than that, the parents are. Parents are afraid of being scrutinized and made fun of because they think Katy Perry's outfit on Sesame Street was inappropriate. They are getting bullied by those who tell them to "lighten up," "get over it," or "you see worse outfits on blah blah blah." Parents who dare to take a stand on this issue need to do one thing: tell the "bullies" to shut the hell up and stand their ground, because it's the morality and virtues of their children - and really, everyone's children - that they're fighting for. No one ever said it would be easy.

Many are quick to blame the Cinderella and Barbie ideals that our girls grow up with for why our daughters are turning "bad" so young. Whatever. I have my own ideas about this, especially based on my upbringing: it's because mothers aren't instilling in their daughters self-respect. Enough self-respect to dump a guy who doesn't treat you right, and the tools to help you find one who WILL. While it sounds like I'm bashing my mother, I never had any real modeling of what a good, functional and loving relationship was as a kid. My parents divorced when I was three, and my mother has been unhappily married for several decades. With the divorce rate what it is today, what are mothers teaching their daughters about what to look like, how to act, and how to choose a good mate - when they can't even do that stuff properly?

I'm not saying I'm perfect, but it was by the grace of God, I think, that I even ended up where I did: with a loving husband who knows how to treat me right. I certainly never got much advice on that from the women in my family while I was growing up.

You can quickly point fingers of blame in the direction of Barbie (whose skirts are, admittedly, a little on the short side these days) or the fairy tale princess mentality that every girl latches on to as a preschooler, but I don't see much wrong with that. Kids are going to like things because it's what they like - you cannot convince them otherwise. As females and males, we are just hardwired differently, and no amount of "Oh come on, honey, wouldn't you much rather play with Matchbox cars?" is going to work if they don't want to play with Matchbox cars. Cinderella and fairy princesses are not our daughters' problem; it's turning a blind eye to unsavory stuff that IS the problem. Even this author notes:
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't that concerned when Miley Cyrus took her clothes off, or when her then-9-year-old sister, Noah, showed up for a Los Angeles Halloween event dressed in what looked like a Goth hooker outfit. (Those crazy child stars, I said to myself.) I rolled my eyes at the YouTube clip of scantily clad 8- and 9-year-olds in a dance competition, pelvis-thrusting to BeyoncĂ©'s "Single Ladies"; it reminded me of the showToddlers & Tiaras — disturbing, but very different from the reality of most kids.
It's when you're "not concerned" and "roll your eyes" that this is a problem. By not doing anything about it when it hits close to home, you are part of what's wrong about all this stuff, and letting it happen.

Bratz dolls are wildly popular - why? Because people buy them. What would happen if suddenly everyone decided, Hey, dolls that look like hookers aren't so cool, so let's pressure Mattel to take them off the shelves? Huh. They might suddenly do away with them, and before you know it, Bratz dolls would be a distant memory.

Perhaps. Until they're simply replaced with another flavor-of-the-month weird, inappropriate toy.

Cinderella is not the problem. Permitting children to be exposed to inappropriate role models is. Allowing them engage in provocative behavior or style of dress before their time is, and not taking a stance on these things early enough in their lives is. By not picking this battle, you are failing to defend and shape their character by handing them over to the 'enemy,' and therefore have no right to ask the question, "Why are girls growing up so fast these days?"

3 comments:

Cyndia said...

You are right; Barbie is not responsible for the downfall of female dress and behavior. We have only ourselves to blame for this one. As mothers and most likely the purchasers of our children's clothing, we have a huge influence. If enough women stepped up to stores and said "NO!" when confronted with a billboard advertising children or teens in a sexy manner, it would stop. We have allowed the sexualization of our girls, and it is our fault if they act on it. It's past time for parents to BE parents!

Diana J. said...

Preach it! You are right on. :)

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