Turn This Ship Around

Since early May people from all over the world have been voicing their negative opinion over the Merida makeover that turned our wild hearted, daring, confident princess from a youthful role model into a 16th century Maxim cover girl. Having Merida’s new image focus on beauty and sex appeal is everything Merida wasn’t, and strips her of her empowering qualities that were beloved by audiences and fans everywhere.

What occurred to me the other day, as dozens of parents were emailing me and posting their children’s reactions to the new Meridas was “That’s not Merida” was being said over and over again. I honestly think I saw it a couple hundred times in a forty eight hour period.

The kids are right. That’s not Merida. But with so much of the activism around the Merida makeover taking place on social media, we are leaving out a key group of consumers — our children. My daughter and son had a lot to say about the Merida makeover, but they can’t sign a petition or comment on a viral blog post.

But they can talk to Disney. These girls know what kind of characters they want – more Meridas and Izzys and Doc McStuffins and Vanellopes. I collaborated with an artist friend, the talented David Trumble, who created this image of what it would look like if Disney allowed our girls to help them turn this ship around. Getting back to Disney’s roots, Steamboat Willie looks on happily as a confident and young girl takes the wheel and shows Disney the direction she wants her media to go in.

 

Please share this image with your communities and friend circles.

 

Disney is a cornerstone of America. I grew up with Disney, my own children have Disney characters they love. Disney has enormous potential to do good here. They have the reach to be a leader as a media content creator who recognizes the pitfalls girls face in so much of our media and stay committed to doing better. They can have princesses and adventurous girls, sparkles and spunk. There are many ways to be a girl.

What do your children have to say to Disney? If you printed off this image for them and they colored or wrote on it, what would they say about Merida and other strong girls they want to see?

What if we told our children that instead of a corporation being “evil”, we described it as a bunch of moms, dads, uncles, grandmas and neighbors who work at a big company and they should probably know what kids have to say about wanting to see strong girls. And that maybe these adults care a lot about kids, but maybe they need to learn more about what these issues around girls are really all about.

What if instead of attacking Disney, we try to have a conversation with them (even if we are really upset) and express our point of view in a calm and positive way?

I’d love for you to share this image around your communities and friend circles. If your child writes/colors a statement to Disney about why they want strong heroines like Merida, please share it with us, I will happily create a gallery on the blog.

Letters can be sent to Disney at:

Disney Enterprises Inc
Attn: Board of Directors

500 South Buena Vista Street

Burbank, CA 91521

and

Disney Consumer Products

1201 Flower Street

Glendale, CA 91201

or Disney Consumer Products corpstudiodcp@disneysourcing.com

 

 

Then and Now: What a Tangled and Toxic Web We Weave

Me, holding my daughter and my baby nieces. What messages are these girls growing up with?

Media is a diet, and these days, we consume a lot of media. Screen time, advertisements, print, billboards, products….it is everywhere. Media is a part of our children’s lives like no other generation before them. What is it telling them?

When I wrote these two questions on Facebook yesterday, I was just wasting time while my attention span was getting increasingly short as I finished up a chapter for my editor. I wasn’t expecting to turn either into a blog post, until I finished a 90 minute interview with a newspaper reporter. A lot of what I was telling her about gender stereotypes, sexualization, and girls in the media was new to her and I could tell that a couple of facts blew her mind. Later in the afternoon I came back to the page and the difference in answers to these two questions was staggering. It was the perfect side-by-side comparison to what I had just been speaking to the reporter about.

Question 1: “???When I was eight years old, I wanted to be _____________________ when I grew up.”

The 179 answers given by our community were fun to read. It seems the general age range of people who answered was 18-55(ish).

Answers: Lots of teachers, nurses, veternarians, astronauts, marine biologists, performers (dance, stage, singing), forensic scientists, paleontologists, and archaeologists. Photographers, National Geographic explorers/writers, artists, lawyers, and doctors rounded out the top answers. “A mom” was another common answer.

There were a few fighter pilots, politicians, librarians, journalists, nuns, police officers, animal trainers, fashion designers, a judge and a ??computer programmer.

There were some original answers, like: “Once I gave up on becoming Chinese” and a pool digger. A James Bond villain and a mafia hit man.  Jedi, Indiana Jones, and Solid Gold dancer – holla to the 80’s kids!

Several of the women said they desperately wanted to be a boy. A couple of people wanted to morph into a dog, a tiger, a horse. I get that, as when I was eight years old I wanted to be a unicorn.

What I loved was the huge diversity in answers. Some people became their childhood dream, others found new dreams along the way. I wonder how different the answers would be if we polled a large group of 8 year olds today. Specifically, what answers would the girls give? What are girls encouraged to explore and become these days? 

Question 2: ??”What the market bears is a litmus test of our society, and right now the message for girls is that _______________?” 

  • ???“…being an airhead-concerned about weight, beauty, clothes, and themselves; is more important than enforcing they BE some one-scientist, Dr, RN, Firefighter, Manicurist, coach, whatever their little hearts desire!” –Alicia
  • “…they can only aspire to look pretty and dress in sexualized clothing. That they aren’t capable of having careers that have anything to do with science or math and they should focus instead on sexy, frilly, pink things to make themselves look good for others (particularly boys/men).” –Sandy
  • “being a girl is essentially different from just being a child; it is an ethereal thing which must be constantly sustained with copious amounts of pink and sparkles lest, like Tinker Bell, it perishes because we did not believe hard enough, and we become no longer a girl, but something lost and invisible.” –Kylie
  • “…That style is more than substance. And that achieving that style is an endless, uphill battle that will never be won.” –Monica
  • “…the shorter the skirt, the heavier the makeup, the more flagrant the flaunting of low self worth through various means, the more ‘normal’ you are.” –Susan
  • “…girl power means you can do or be anything, as long as you do it society’s way.” –Alice
  • “…be cute, be sexy, be pretty but don’t be yourself.” -Jennifer
  • “…sex sells.” –Chris
  • “…Outward appearance and their ability to flaunt it is what will get them ahead in life.” –Jodi
  • “…your options are limited. your dreams are not your own.” – Jill
  • “…Don’t expect to get ahead in life without being pretty, even if you are smart and talented.” –Megan
  • “….you should be seen, but not heard.” – Jennifer
  • “…Beauty is worth” – Alison
  • “…there is some recognition that they can achieve much, but that it is farcical or a waste or contemptible if they don’t look cute doing it, or that they achieve only because they fail at being attractive.” –Tara
  • “…pink glitter makes you a woman.” –Sarah
  • “…They are objects.” –Jayne
  • “…We have no worth outside of Hollywood’s version of beauty and nothing to contribute if we cannot measure up to the impossible standard.” –Cheri
  • “…the only option is boy OR girl; they cannot simply be a child.” -Elizabeth

Doesn’t that just take your breath away?? What messages to girls from media are missing? What COULD media be telling our girls? That their dreams, ideas, talents, visions, goals, and voice are what make them such valuable members of our families and our society.

Read over the answers again. They are all the same. From Disney’s new Princess Sophia to Barbie to Monster High to reality tv and music videos watched by tweens and teens, or almost any other kind of children’s entertainment, the message to girls is their beauty is their worth, and if they don’t have a certain version of beauty, they have no worth.

Now go back up and read the answers to the first question again. Are girls today getting the message they can be all those things? Or are we doing an incredible job of selling short 50% of children?

Media is a powerful force that not even the best parenting can avoid. We can help deter it, but we sure have our work cut out for us. What kind of things are you doing in your home to give your girls more meaningful, healthy messages?

Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from Miss Representation on Vimeo.