Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interesting Reading

I have been wanting to write a post about this book for a few days (since I finished reading it) but I just haven't had time to sit down and write what I really want to say. I have a post brewing about feminism (or post-feminism) and it's impact on the generation that came after... Needless to say, it would just take too much intellectual energy right now and that is energy that is in short supply. Some day, I will offend you with my opinions on all of that.

In the meantime, let me say, this is a book worth reading. I have very mixed feelings about the princess culture that has emerged and the desire of certain little girls to live in pink (and, as you can see from the photos around here, my daughter is definitely a princess-in-training). More significantly for me, I am profoundly uncomfortable with Disney and other corporations trying to mould my daughter into the perfect consumer. I wasn't sure I was going to like this book, as I don't feel comfortable with the message that girls should avoid all of this and that they should all be dressed like little androgonous robots and that they should be forced to be "tough" but I felt that Peggy Orenstein managed to achieve superb balance. She highlighted the dangers of total acceptance of this culture as being unavoidable and natural while also acknowledging that girls do have a natural bent towards certain things (and in degrees, not all girls embrace this to the same degree).

I loved this quote from page 183 "Meanwhile, the notion that we parents are sold, that our children are "growing up faster" than previous generations, that they are more mature and sophisticated in their tastes, more savvy in their consumption and there is nothing we can (or need) to do about it is - what is the technical term again?- oh yes: a load of crap. Today's three-year-olds are no better than their predecessors at recognizing when their desires are manipulated by grown-ups. Today's six-year olds don't get the subtext of their sexy pirate costumes. Today's eight-year-olds don't understand that ads are designed to sell them something."

I'll try to have something more intelligent to say on the book in a few days but seriously, if you are raising girls and care about the message that you give them about their value, this is worth a look.


  1. Sounds like wonderful reading, if I were reading much past kids & teens books ever! I do think it's important to strike a balance - to let them explore that side, but make sure they know about all their options. I loved how Ppie would combine a hard hat and tool belt with a tutu when she was small, grabbing the best of both worlds. She went through the princess phase when she was three - it's very age-appropriate, and while part of me despaired, I did do her a princess party - just not with a lick of Disney involved!

    A few years later, she is not a girly girl, and doesn't even like wearing skorts much anymore, never mind dresses. I have to say that other than having bought stuff she now won't wear because her tastes are changing, I don't mind! Seems to me that some of those girls who don't follow the stream so closely are often the ones who don't get sucked into the mean girl stuff, the competitions, and the boy-craziness as easily, because in that nonconformity, they are demonstrating having a mind of their own.

    I think the consumer business is important, too - we are increasingly bombarded with messages and ads, everywhere we go now. Even in bathrooms, in lots of places! So when we do watch tv that comes with commercials - she is starting to watch Discovery channel - we talk about the claims they are making, and she has head lots about how companies want to tell you that you should want their thing and that it is the best because they want to sell things and make money. Critical thinking is a long project, but so important. If I do my job right, maybe she'll be a good little cynic by the time she has money to spend!

  2. You are so right, it's that critical thinking piece that is essential and sadly, kids' brains aren't naturally bent towards that. WE don't watch anything with advertising at all, since, up until this point anyway, we have managed to keep Pk to only watching CBC Kids and PBS Kids. I don't find anything harmful in the programming on Treehouse but they managed to sneak the advertising in via the sponsorship at the end of each programme. I know that is coming, though.
    The chapter on social media was the one that I had trouble reading - talk about triggering my fears!