A Guest Post by: Lori Day
Was this a fluky experience? I think so. The lunch area being comprised of all moms and daughters was unusual. The fact that all eight girls were wearing all pink was unusual—I mean, girls wear a lot of pink these days and it definitely is “the uniform,” but there are usually some girls wearing purple at the very least, or even some other colors. (Although, if you’ve never noticed this degree of little-girl pink- ubiquity, start paying attention in public places like malls, airports and food co-ops!)
The fact that two of the eight girls were wearing Disney costumes out to Costco and it was not Halloween or a dress-up birthday party seemed a tad above the usual ratio.
Taken all together, the amount of pink in the form of tulle, satin, glitter, make-up, kitten heels, and little girl bling was highly concentrated in space and time. But you know what? That’s what made me realize that culturally, we now have somewhat of an alliance between princess culture and mommy culture. Executive summary: For a lot of our daughters, the real world of girls and the Disney World marketed to girls have become the same thing.
Yesterday’s post about the invisible girl with the book came about from a question Melissa Wardy asked during a discussion on the Pigtail Pals’ Facebook page about why parents stopped questioning all of the tremendous changes in what is marketed to girls over the last ten years and how it is marketed:
I believe that many parents have stopped questioning because they, too, are desensitized by our 24/7 media-saturated culture in which the value of females lies less in what they do than in how they look while doing it. Perhaps in these hard economic times, the fantasy that your child is the fairest in the land—or could be with the right focus on her appearance—seems normal, and even beneficial, in the eyes of those parents who do not spend much time intellectually contemplating the commodification of female beauty.
Perhaps parents also stopped questioning because there can be tremendous enjoyment and camaraderie in shared beauty play for females, young and old. Moms usually have the best of intentions. They are supporting each other, acknowledging each other’s children, expressing femininity, and having a great time together being girly. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with this, and it has always been this way to some degree…just not to this degree.
My concern is with the amount of focus our society now places on female appearance, the enormous multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around it, and the necessary insecurities these corporations must instill in females, from a very young age, in order to turn them into lifetime consumers. Personally, I advocate for a deeper consideration of these issues by all parents, but I also recognize that a whole lot of parents really like things the way they are, and believe that good parenting will take care of it all, despite the research that has emerged on the tremendous number of hours of powerful marketing and media messages kids consume every single day.
I think it’s like rolling dice. Remember when it was legal to advertise smoking? Strong parents sometimes managed to raise children who did not smoke. But the millions of dollars spent on the seductive advertising campaigns for cigarettes was a Siren call to many kids who did all, eventually, leave the close supervision of their parents and wander out into the big world where they consumed this advertising, and joined a peer group of kids who thought smoking was cool. What was needed was strong parenting and laws that forced the tobacco companies to recognize the harm to children (and adults) inherent in their marketing and profiteering.
So I think it all depends on how one views the world. If you are the kind of parent of who is inclined to look below the shiny surface of pop culture to understand the unhealthy role being played by money and corporations in the lives of girls and women, and are prepared to raise your daughter in ways that might occasionally make you look either out of touch or antagonistic to mainstream girl culture, then you will naturally question, question, question. If not, not.
While I hope more and more parents will go back to questioning, I equally hope that the vigilance and activism of advocacy groups like Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly and so many others (see the blog roll on my website for other recommended individuals and groups to follow who are working on making the world a better place for all children) will eventually change the ground rules for the marketers as did happen decades ago regarding the cigarette companies. Social change takes a long time and a lot of hard work by a lot of individuals, but it can happen, and I am proud to be a small part of this massive grassroots effort. What is at stake is nothing less than our girls’ future, and that is not something to gamble.
Lori Day is an educational psychologist and consultant with Lori Day Consulting in Concord, MA, having worked previously in the field of education for over 25 years in public schools, private schools, and at the college level. She writes and blogs about parenting, education, children, gender, media, and pop culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.