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Archive for the ‘Gendering’ Category

Aaah yes, this is the message I want to send our daughters. Reminds me of the “Polite as a Princess” book… only so much worse.

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman is too pretty to do homework

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman is too pretty to do homework

JC Penney is selling a jersey shirt that reads “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” The description reads “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.” I suspect that the item will be yanked from the site within hours***, as news of the offensive shirt is hopping across the internet – mostly thanks to a great catch by Pigtail PalsMelissa Wardy. The sweatshirt, which comes in sizes 7-16, is on sale for only $9.99, so if you act now, you too can own this fabulous piece of evidence of culturally condoned misogyny.

***as of 9:08 AM, 8/31/11, the shirt was no longer showing up for sale on the US version of the site. It was still available in the UK and Ireland and probably elsewhere.

Where JC Penney can shove that "I'm too pretty for homework" shirt.

JC Penney can shove it.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to let JC Penney know where it’s at and where they can shove this shirt (see example above), feel free to call 972-431-8200 to speak to a person at  JC Penney’s “Customer Concerns” line. When I called at 8:21 AM PST on 8/31/11, the woman I spoke to stated that the company was aware of the issue with the shirt and was preparing to pull it down off the site. If you’d like to go further up the food chain, I’m encourage you to drop a line on over to CEO and Chairman of the Board Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III. I called the corporate headquarters and asked for Mike Ullman. I was put through to the customer concerns line again, but I know that the company has now gotten two calls at two different lines to voice my issue. Mike, who has four sons and two daughters and whose significant work with Mercy Ships should make him far more culturally aware than this serious misstep by his company indicates, can be found at:

Mike Ullman, III
Chief Executive Officer
J.C. Penney, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 54024

(972) 431-1000

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me

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Check out the resource guide on princesses and fairy tales.

It gives some options for directing “princess passion” away from Disney misogyny and includes great information about media awareness for girls.

Image used under Creative Commons Licensing, attributed to iboy_daniel

There’s an interesting post that made the WordPress.com home page today about some young girls in Beirut. The post is about the “whitening effect” related to race and how some cultures are pretty upfront about preferring lighter skin – so much so that they openly advertise skin lightening products. At one point, the blogger conveys how much “white” is preferred and how it’s exemplified by her young pupils who have taken to playing a Disney Princess game where they can create their own version of a princess. Though they hem and haw over details like clothes and hair, they reflexively choose the “white” skin color on the princesses.

Since I already have an axe to grind about Disney Princesses, this post practically leapt off the screen for me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that media influences self-image and that there’s considerable cause for alarm, especially as it relates to children. Boys and girls are limited by media influence, but I’m more concerned about my daughter than my son because the majority of roles portrayed for girls and women in media are that of supporters and objects, not leaders and protagonists. Some day, when I have more time I’ll get into the boy part, but the girl part has me for now. Part of it is that, when it comes to girl physiques, all types come with their risks — stereotypically attractive girls will be objectified and sexualized as they mature, more physically challenged girls will hold themselves in comparison.

As a mom, I’m driven to creating a sense of inner character and beauty in both of my children, male and female. In order to do this, I think it’s important to keep them from the dominant media culture as much as possible, as long as possible (they’re both <4 yrs old right now).This especially applies to the cabalesque influence of the Disney Princess regime and the Barbie empire. Both of the aforementioned perpetuate unrealistic physiques for girls and shuttle them into cattle shoots the feed the girls into cookie cutter versions of who they should become. This may sound extreme, but if you doubt my mentality, take a few days to breeze through Packaging Girlhood. It makes a pretty good case for the fact that there genuine intent in the crafting of marketing schemes to produce ultimate consumers. Or read this wonderful letter petitioning Pixar to create an un-Disney movie with a female protagonist to get a sense of the need for more.

When I try to discuss this subject with other adults, I’m surprised at how often my concerns are met with an attitude of “what’s the big deal? You’re taking things way to seriously.” or “You’re overthinking things.” Really? Am I? Take a moment to look at these short videos produced by Dove. Sure, it’s just another take on a media campaign, a fresh spin, but at least they’re pointing out something that’s deadly serious.

Watch the videos and then ask yourself if you still think the influence of media on girls’ body images is benign. Tell me there’s not something to be worked up about.

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Looking for anti-disney resources to raise an unprincess? Check out the Princesses and Fairy Tales resource list.

Years ago, I babysat for a lesbian couple who had two little daughters. I was living on the East Coast and during my spring break, I visited San Francisco for the first time.  While perusing an alternative bookstore, I came across “The Paper Bag Princess.” At the time, in the early 90’s,  I thought this was an incredibly avant-garde book and snatched it up for the moms to share with their girls. Little did I realize at the time how I would come to appreciate this book for my own children and come to consider its “the princess doesn’t need the prince” message as a moral every little girl should learn, not just the daughters of lesbians!

I share that vignette as a note to how far my own perspective has changed over the years. I was raised fairly consciously about gender roles and grew up in an extremely pro-feminist area. Even with that advantage, I was so indoctrinated to the standard messages of  the princess tropes in contemporary and historical storylines that it seemed kitchy and cute to get an empowering book for little girls (this was in the pre “girl power” days, when the idea of girl empowerment hadn’t yet been a readily accepted intentional movement, which was later co-opted by marketers and made totally hollow). Now, I understand that providing little girls with strong female role models in their earliest literary experiences is essential.

I think that in recent decades, marketing machines have become so savvy at targeting small children parents need to think early and often about protecting their children from, or at least counteracting against, the limiting definitions of gender. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I think it would have been normal to become concerned about over-sexualized or over-feminine messages being pointed at middle schoolers or high schoolers. Now, the messaging is already strong in preschool. Looking for a good example? My daughter goes to a pretty progressive Montessori school in a well educated area, with fairly savvy parents. One of the little girls brings a Bratz backpack to school every day. Great. My daughter is exposed to little hookers every day at school. Cool.

So, what’s the solution for a parent of a little girl? A complete media blackout? No girlie things ever?

Absolutely not! I think all little children need to play with and explore gender identification by playing with the height of masculinity and femininity to discover where they feel most comfortable in the spectrum. I don’t want to deny my daughter the chance to be a girlie girl… I just don’t want it to be pre-packaged and pre-defined for her a-la Disney princesses (BLECH!!!).

So, my solution is to seek out fairy stories more than princess stories, to find the tales of the wise women and wise girls, the ones who aren’t waiting for rescue from a prince, but are out exploring the world on their own feet. In addition, I want to embrace my daughter’s girlie play, but with flowing skirts and poofy dresses that would befit any fairy or princess, not just those of Disney.

I’m not a super crafty person, but I find great inspiration on Etsy.com. Just check this out:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/48781742/leilani-an-island-pixie-a-tiaras

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For information and resources on  Raising a Princess Who is Not a Princess, check out the resource guide I’ve put together on princesses and fairy tales.

It’s hard to write about this subject without launching directly into a rant about the evils of marketing that’s directed at children, the lengths to which I’ve gone to keep my children unbranded, and the dangers I see lurking behind the faces of even the most innocent of children’s characters, such as Winnie the Pooh.  ***Deep Breath*** I will try to stave off those subjects for another time…

 

I was a tom-girl growing up, no question about it. You’d sooner find me digging up worms than playing dress-up or putting on lipstick. Because of this, I’d largely assumed I’d have only sons. Of course, the universe blessed me with a daughter and I’ve known all along that, at some point, I’d probably have to figure out how to do the more girly stuff.

Let me say right up front that I don’t look down on the girlie stuff, the princess fetish, all that pink and frills… I just don’t naturally “get” it. I do get that many little girls need to go through a princess phase. In fact, it’s probably very healthy. I see it as playing with the extreme end of gender identification, the height of femininity, in order to find one’s place somewhere in the middle. What I don’t like about the princess thing, however, is how heavily marketed and pre-fabricated it all is.

The mass-media machine readily converts an interest in femininity and princess play into lots of ready-made princess roles — cinderella, snow white, the little mermaid, etc:

evil

These pre-fabbed princesses come with very specific messages of what it means to be a girl, what it means to be a woman. The physical ideals are bad enough — large breasts, small hips, demure head tilts, etc — but the story lines are even worse… What’s the “hidden” message behind Beauty and the Beast? If you love a horrible, awful monster enough, despite all his horrendous behaviour, you’ll eventually change him. Oh, and the rest of the world thinks he’s this horrible beast too, but they just don’t understand him the way you do. Perfect storyline for the future battered wife!

How about Sleeping Beauty? Be passive, don’t do anything, you are frozen and impotent, but eventually, because you are pretty, someone will come along and save you. Way to take a hold of your own life!

Breaking down the story lines of Disney movies and fairy tales is the stuff of a dissertation, not a blog post, but I think you get my general point.

When my daughter turned three, she got some really nice presents, some of which were “princessy.” She hadn’t yet begun a princess phase. Despite the fact that it’s common, I personally don’t think it is a requisite for growing up “girl,” so I set the princess books and games aside and decided to wait until she expressed an interest in things of that nature. Along the way, I did toss out the Disney-specific stuff, but held onto items that were “princess,” but not loaded with so much other context.

This brings me to the title of this post, which introduces a new subject for this blog — Raising a Princess Who is Not a Princess.

As a conscious parent, especially a media-conscious one, how can I help my daughter embrace her femininity without feeding her into the giant maw of the Disney/Bratz/Anorexic-Ophelia-Drowning-Paralyzing-Passivity-Cinderella-Effect-Anti-Feminist machine?

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