On Being Six In A Sea of Sexy Dolls

Many times when I’m sharing discussions I have with 6yo Amelia as she and I work through our hyper-sexual culture, I tend to get a comment or two about she or I being judgmental towards other females. While I do very much think that is a valid concern, that is not what I am teaching my daughter.

I want to make very clear this is not about judging others, but rather this is about  interpreting and thinking critically about cultural messages to determine if they align with our family’s values. The focus is on us and our family, not the outside source. I ask her questions about how she would feel, how would she react if ______, what reaction would Dad and I have,  and what consequences might occur (being cold, being sent home from school for dressing inappropriately, not being dressed appropriately for the kind of event, etc).

I ask her to constantly challenge the body image, sexualization, and sexism she sees in the media. I do the same when we encounter racism, as those things simply do not align with how our family practices respect towards other people and ourselves.

I am walking a fine line of being sex positive while teaching Amelia to be empowered and respectful of herself and others. At the same time I am not teaching patriarchal ideas like modesty or slut shaming. We’re working on building a “personal brand” for her, so that she has a rock solid understanding of who she is and what decisions help reinforce or weaken that faith in herself. I’m teaching her that private parts stay private, and that putting them on display for public viewing is not empowerment. Later on down the road we’ll talk about attracting boys (or girls) with personality, friendship, and humor…..not shoving her boobs up to her chin and objectifying herself through actions and clothing. I think she is starting to view Barbie (some of them) and other dolls as sexually objectified (without having that vocabulary). Just like Santa Claus, that is a revelation I want her to come to on her own.

In the past two weeks in particular I can see her really sorting it out (thank you, NFL cheerleaders, for sparking that discussion). At the same time, I don’t want to introduce my six year old to the concept of “sexiness”, nor do I want to issue a blanket statement like “Those dolls are too sexy for you.” Whose idea of sexy? Not hers, I hope. I want Amelia to have the space to develop her OWN ideas and feelings about what that means, in her OWN time. That is was PPBB is all about.

Being sexy – feeling sexy – is great, and even super great when you are the right age for it and when it is defined on your own terms. Having “sexy” be a personality description as a young girl = not great. My daughter, whether she be six or sixteen or twenty six, is more than a collection of sexual body parts. Using sex appeal (or actual sex) as your calling card leaves a lot to be desired, and frankly, sells a girl or woman short of the whole person she could be, and be seen as.

Comments

  1. Ahh Melissa…I just, LOVE, everything you do and all that you are and all that you work for. I wish there had been a wise woman like you around when I was growing up. You and your family are just fantastic!

  2. “I want to make very clear this is not about judging others, but rather this is about interpreting and thinking critically about cultural messages to determine if they align with our family’s values.”
    Call it whatever you want, it’s still judging other people.

  3. This is something I really struggle with. My oldest is bombarded with these images every day. She has several friends at preschool who just love the Monster High dolls. I really struggle with how to explain why it is that I don’t allow her to watch Monster High or Bratz cartoons without having to get into the issues of sex. She’s almost 5. She knows where babies come from, but this is an issue that I am having a hard time finding a way to explain to her that she will understand. It’s easy for me to conceptualize and discuss it as an adult. It’s a thousand times harder to explain to my 5 year old why we won’t be giving her a Monster High doll for her birthday.

  4. Excellent post, Melissa.

    This reminded me of what the amazing Jean Kilbourne (author, amongst other things, of “So Sexy So Soon”) said during our interview for my documentary The Illusionists. On the topic of beauty and the sexualization of children, Jean said: “The sexualization of children is not so much about sex… it’s really about consuming. The real point is to turn these children into consumers at a very young age. If you can eroticize shopping in childhood then you will get these people lined up at the malls for the rest of their lives.”

    I hope you had a chance to see the 14 min preview… I’d love to hear your feedback :)

    Keep up the inspiring work, Melissa!

    • Elena!
      Yes! The preview was amazing, and I have been meaning to email you but have been in crazy mode for the last two weeks trying to finish my book. I’ll be in touch soon! xo

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  2. [...] it called Brave Girls Alliance (www.bravegirlswant.com). I know what brave girls want. They want dolls that do not originate in or reflect porn [...]

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