Playing Catch-Up

Gosh, you go away for a couple of weeks and look what you miss! There was, for instance, the wordle that has been making the rounds, a word cloud of the most-used terms Advertisers use to describe boys and girls toys.

Girl Wordle



Boy Wordle


No big surprises. But still. And it reminded me of going to the Fisher-Price showroom at the International Toy Fair in New York. Above the girls' display was a banner on which the words "Beautiful, Pretty, Colorful" were repeated in pink script (apparently no one noticed that "beautiful" and "pretty" are essentially THE SAME THING. Or they thought no one else would notice. Or their imaginations balked at the prospect of THREE concepts that were germane to girls).  Over the boys' display, meanwhile, in blue, was written "Heroes, Power, Energy!" Really???

So there was that.

And there was this highly satisfying post by Alexandra Lange, who writes about design, on the impact of the increasing ornamentation of baby girls' clothing which included this:

"What strikes me most about the girl baby clothes is the ornament. No sleeve left ungathered, no neckline unrosetted, no hem unruffled. The Carters leggings, 100 percent cotton, nice and soft, have ruffles across the butt — for a child who spends 10 minutes a day on her front, screaming for tummy time to be over."

And, let's see.....There was the insane American guy who went to London to open a princess boot camp for little girls so he could capitalize on the Royal Wedding frenzy (though more on this in another post--I was in London last week and there was no real frenzy, nor was the princess culture anywhere NEAR as intense). Does it seem significant to you that an AMERICAN took it upon himself to promote  princess comportment to British girls?

Speaking of Princesses, Disney is now branding grapes. I mean it. Grapes! I know I complain when they slap those royals on stealth junk food (i.e., kids' yogurt) but somehow it's even more disturbing when they're doing it with actual food. This is not a trend I'd want to catch on....

Dr. Robyn Silverman wrote a great blog post on the new Skecher's shape-up sneakers for girls, which are supposed to firm and tone your 8-year-old's butt. Seriously. here's the YouTube video of the ad


So, how many ways does this irritate? The presumption that the highest calling for a girl, other than princess, is rock star. The relentless, cloying pink and purple as the signifier of femininity. The equation of having new shoes with being a better person. The background chorus of "nyah-nyah-nyah," as if the person who has the new shoes has the right, nay the DUTY, to mock the girl who does not. The insulting images of boys (and the boys as junk food--what is THAT about?). Oh, and the idea that your 8-year-old needs her butt toned. By her shoes.

As for adult women, I often say that I KNOW the princess thing is just a phase that little girls grow out of, and that "princess" per se is not the point, but the occasion for the discussion I've begun. But it's beginning to appear that the phase is not confined to little girls. The latest trend on facebook is putting your profile picture through the Princess Maker. As Stroller Derby's Carolyn Castiglia says;

"Perez offers plenty of realistic skin colors to choose from, but when it comes to being a princess, only one body type is acceptable: thin, but curvy in all the right places (think Jasmine). That’s a message our girls have pounded into their heads every single day. This afternoon while talking about body image issues on the phone with my friend Desiree, I stared at my daughter’s little Disney Princess chair and thought, no one can ever truly be pretty as a cartoon princess. I hope my 5-year-old doesn’t wind up making herself crazy trying."

Also, I know you've all been waiting for this, but FINALLY, FINALLY, Alfred Angelo has released the Disney's Rapunzel Wedding Gown. For grown ups.

And those princess brides can start grooming the next generation from the womb, too, thanks to this t-shirt.

Okay, enough. The point is: that was one week's worth of stereotyped, sexualized, pink, princess junk that stretches nearly across a girl/woman's entire lifespan.

Now some upsides. There was this wonderful post by Pigtail Pals' Melissa Wardy about how to deal with the inevitable inappropriate birthday presents your daughter will get. The ones that drive you up the wall. Whatever your particular wall is. Check it out.

And I've been looking a bit at these Girl Scout pamphlets on promoting positive body and self-image. They've got some merit, though even when it's for the good I personally don't like my daughter ever thinking, "it's all about ME!" I prefer her to think that the world is about how she treats others. But still, Uniquely Me has some good ideas for a variety of different age levels.

USA Today is taking the issue of the sexualization of girlhood seriously (and quoting me, too!). Good for them.

I think that about covers it. I feel better now. Next up: the differences between girl culture in London and the U.S. and my thoughts, long-awaited but never set down in writing, on Tangled (now that it's in DVD).

Meanwhile, tell me: What else have I missed?