Seriously, Disney, I'm Trying to Take a Little Break Here-- MUST YOU?

Update: The fabulous A Mighty Girl has put a petition up on Change.org asking Disney to keep Merida BRAVE. You can sign it here. So, I was about to commend Disney for doing something right. Yes, I was. The front page story in today's New York Times reported that the company stopped production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh in March, after the last disaster there: a fire that killed 112 people. To wit:

 A Disney official told The New York Times on Wednesday that the company had sent a letter to thousands of licensees and vendors on March 4 setting out new rules for overseas production.

Less than 1 percent of the factories used by Disney’s contractors are in Bangladesh, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The company’s efforts had accelerated because of the November fire at a factory that labor advocates asserted had made Disney apparel. The Disney ban also extends to other countries, including Pakistan, where a fire last September killed 262 garment workers.

So good for them. Good for Disney for trying to show some leadership and ethics regarding how its products are made. I respect that.

Now back to discussing the depressing results.

Rebecca Pahle over at The Mary Sue alerted me to the news that on May 11 Merida from Brave will to be crowned the 11th Disney princess. You remember Merida, right? The one with the bow and arrow? The one who looked like this?

Well, not any more. As with the other Princesses, she has gotten a redesign, a pretty-sexy-skinny makeover to boost revenues. Voila, the new Merida:

There's the hot hair, the coy expression. Also the obligatory exposed shoulders (moms tell me all the time that their preschool daughters are pitching fits and destroying their t-shirts because "princesses don't cover their shoulders), slimmer waist, and the bow and arrow replaced by...what is that, a low-slung belt? And she has what appear to be high-heeled shoes. Or at least slimmer, pointier feet.

Inside the Magic, a blog promoting Disney and theme park events, says that Merida's official royal ceremony will be well attended:

She will be joining existing Disney Princesses Snow White, Mulan, Aurora, Belle, Tiana, Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Rapunzel in the line, all of whom are likely to make an appearance at the coronation. New hairstyles, makeup, and dresses were recently given to the princesses in a modern update to their looks, which are also now reflected at Disney’s theme parks .

Because, in the end, it wasn't about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.

In case you've missed it, by the way, here's the updated look of the other ten princesses:

I'm especially creeped out by Belle who appears to have had major surgery. Compare this new chickabiddy to the actual movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRlzmyveDHE

Or, wait, maybe I'm more creeped out by the way they've changed Aurora (who used to be called Briar Rose).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfsyUyi_FJM

Or, wait, what about what about the apparent lobotomy that Rapunzel has had? OrAnd  Cinderella looking like Taylor Swift? And Pocahontas?  Tiana looks like she's not getting enough to eat at that restaurant of hers. And Mulan, poor, poor Mulan. And here's  what Jasmine used to look like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kl4hJ4j48s

Snow White and Ariel were always especially  vapid so I don't have much to say there.

I hate to be in the position of defending the "old days" when the princesses looked "normal" (because, really, it's all relative and it's not like I was happy with them before this). Still, check out this pic, also from Inside the Magic, of the latest princess lineup including the new Merida:

Look at that head position on poor, exposed-shouldered Merida! In addition to everything else, they're pushing the brown girls slowly but surely to the edges. Tiana is thinking, "Wait, I only got one year up front? One lousy year to make up for nearly a century of racism (though to be fair, the ugliness extended well beyond Disney's depiction of African Americans)?  Meanwhile, Mulan looks WEIRDER THAN EVER. She doesn't even look human she's been so Orientalized and botoxed.

This is what she used to look like:

 

I've always said that it's not about the movies. It's about the bait-and-switch that happens in the merchandise, and the way the characters have evolved and proliferated off-screen. Maybe the problem is partly that these characters are designed in Hollywood, where real women are altering their appearance so regularly that animators, and certainly studio execs, think it's normal.

Ok, you know what? I'm so tired. Someone else take over here and make some pithy, salient points about the impact on girls of being bombarded with skinny, pretty, sexy messages and endless consumer products that tell them from the earliest ages that how they look is who they are, ok?  

I'll just leave you with that moment of promise, the trailer from Brave when we thought maybe Disney was showing some leadership and ethics not only in how they made their products, but the actual products they made.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEHWDA_6e3M

If You Let Me Be a Princess.....

Just saw this latest video posted by Disney. They're trying to rebrand the Princesses as being about strength of character and self-efficacy. What do you think? Can they do this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUGnu0gXtn4

while also peddling tens of thousands of products to our daughters that emphasize beauty and consumerism? Does the brave Rapunzel in the movie offset the one who is on the Escape From the Tower Lip & Nail Set?

Or the Pretty Pretty Princess board game?

Or the zillions of other products out there? You tell me.

Meanwhile, this video put me in mind of one from years ago, back in the days of Girl Power, that Nike did:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQ_XSHpIbZE

And finally just for fun and to illustrate how deeply the Princess phenom has gripped our collective imagination, (see it before it goes viral and loses its cool) I give you "Hipster Disney Princess the Musical!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yPfmRoSfpA

Kind of the opposite of age compression.....

Introducing: Cinderella 2012

I've been writing and talking about how the princess culture morphs into the diva culture as girls get older, but the transformation works both ways. Over time, the Disney Princesses not only have become more focused on cosmetics than character, but their actual faces are increasingly influenced by pop culture divas. Take Cinderella. Here is what she looked like in 1950, in the original Disney film.:

This is as a servant girl (a part of her character that has disappeared ENTIRELY, but which is the basis for her strength of character and the real reason we're supposed to root for her...)

And at the ball:

Among the interesting things to note: her hair is not that blonde and her face is sort of regular-looking.

Here she is in the post-2001 official Disney Princess era:

 

blonder, blander, coyer, flirtier, more like a parody of the princess  perhaps? Note how different Belle looks than in her movie, too. And Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). The backpack is an official Disney product--one of the 1,473 results you get when you search "Disney Princess  backpacks" on Amazon.

And now here is the 2012 Cinderella that has suddenly cropped up:

 

I  keep trying to figure out who she looks like. A little bit Paris Hilton. A little bit Dianna Agron, a little bit Taylor Swift? She is at once older and younger than previous versions of Cinderella. The original Cinderella seemed like an adult, this one is clearly a teenager. The Disney Princess Cinderella was more fantastical in her up-do and weird head-band thingy. She had so little subtlety in her presentation that, while she was certainly an adult, she seemed to speak only to the littlest girls. This one seems like she's about 15, which maybe dodges the whole marrying prince charming business (Disney takes a lot of heat on that idea, and they would like to side-step it).

This Cinderella's appearance is at once more accessible than the last version and equally (maybe more) unattainable--she's much more  like the images girls see as they get older. She's the  girl they're supposed to want to look like: blonde, pretty, skinny, a little bit sexy. She could be princess-by-day-pop -star-by-night: a new version of Hannah Montana. And guess what? It's still an impossible, unachievable, externally-driven ideal.

Mostly, though, I think this is part of Disney's attempt to keep the franchise going. You can only make so much off of 3-5 year olds (a mere $4 billion a year). They need to keep expanding older and  younger (hence the "baby" princess dolls and toddler princess dolls on one end and the wedding dresses on the other). This new doll seems geared to the Bratz demographic. Maybe that's why it seems a little less princess and a little more wicked stepsister.....

What do you think of the new Cindy?

"Cinderella," Sir John Everett Millais, 1881.

How We've Decamped from Science

A recent Christian Science Monitorarticle confirmed that there are still gaps between girls and boys in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) subjects despite larger gains in education for women over the past 40 years.  Among the high school graduating class of 2011, for instance, 80% of computer-science course Advanced Placement test-takers, 77% of those taking the physics exam for electricity and magnetism and 74 percent of mechanics exams. Also, 59 percent of those taking Calculus BC, the more advanced of two AP courses offered in the subject, were male. The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows  continued achievement gaps between boys and girls in STEM fields as well, especially science. Boys outperform girls at the 4th, 8th and 12th grade level with the biggest gap being in 12th grade.

No bueno, right?

I was thinking about this the other day, when I attended the orientation for my daughter's drama camp, a wonderful program that centers on Elizabethan history, stage combat and Shakespearien drama. Be still my English major's heart, right?

As it happens, she's attending it with a male friend. He  will be one of maybe three boys in the entire camp. I was truly saddened thinking about how the  arts have become a  "girl thing" (not to mention the irony given that all the female parts in Shakespeare's plays were originally played by boys). It's impoverishing to boys' souls when they are tacitly discouraged from drama, fine art, writing, reading, music.

What ARE boys doing? Well, sports, of course. Science camps. Robotics. Things my girl did up until this summer. Somehow, without my noticing,  we slipped into stereotypical girl land. I think that is exactly what happens: according to the article, girls begin to fall behind in STEM in elementary school and the gap just gets wider. In part, no doubt, because of  something going on in the classroom. But the culture outside of school is also to blame:  from the get-go girls are rewarded in their play and by adults  for how they look rather than what they do. Even the putative "science kits" for girls, which I've written about before  are more about cultivating obsessions with beauty and consumerism than actual science. To that list I'd add the HELLACIOUS video "Science: It's A Girl Thing" by the clearly-on-crack European Commission that's been making the rounds lately. I guess they didn't read the recent study of middle school girls  from the University of Michigan  that found that attempts to "glamorize" women in  STEM seem to be less motivating to girls than more "everyday" female STEM role models. So try this video instead:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_176279&src_vid=g032MPrSjFA&v=vpgc_cvCsP4&feature=iv

There are also the extra-curricular activities we think about for our girls. This is not an easy one for me as a parent. I'm not a STEM person myself. Nor is my husband, who is a documentarian. Still....our daughter loves math. She adores science. She is a regular at the science museum that's down the street from our home. We listen obsessively to the fabulous They Might Be Giants "Here Comes Science" album. Here are a couple of vids from that one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0zION8xjbM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf33ueRXMzQ

And even with all that, we ended up this summer with nary a STEM activity in sight. Nor will she see many boys in her activities over the next few months, reinforcing the idea that they are more "other" than is necessary (though we do discuss a great deal why there are no boys at horse camp or drama camp).

The truth is, I probably will never enroll my daughter in as many extra-curriculuars as I should that would keep her brain STEM alive. I am a passionate under-scheduler and I prioritize the arts, then something physical and, eventually all will fall by the wayside for Bat Mitzvah training.  I depend on her school, her teachers, to stoke her interest--and all their students' interest--in those critical subjects. I hope they do. I hope they notice when the little differences begin emerging so that they don't become the kind of big gaps that will, later, limit them in their choice of professions and earning power.

 

***

Yeah, I know I haven't written about Brave. I was on a deadline. Now it seems too late. So, briefly, I thought the movie was okay. It wasn't my favorite Pixar movie by a longshot. If considered as a "princess" movie it was certainly superior to most (though Mulan I and II are still my favorites). I could talk about how we deserve broader representations of females on film, ones that aren't royal (it seems that a number of people can't even remember that princesses were not, until recently, the only image for girls allowed on screen).

I could also talk about how I didn't understand what made Merida "brave" per se. Her mother was certainly brave. But what was brave about her? How did she change? She changed her relationship to her mother because her mother changed. In the revelatory scene when she's talking to the men her mother is feeding her lines, she's not coming to anything. It seemed to me that what made her "brave" was that they slapped a bow and a quiver on her. But that's a symbol, not a character trait.

I would've found the movie more interesting, too, if the men hadn't been such dolts. What if her suitors were actually appealing? Was the issue that Merida didn't want to marry someone she didn't choose or she didn't want to marry an idiot?

And, then, while the mother was fine, it would have been nice if there were some other female roles in the movie--a friend, say, or lady-in-waiting. It was as if Pixar was so afraid males wouldn't go that they didn't want to have any extraneous females muddying up the place. Imagine, for a second, a movie in which the two main characters were male and every other character in the film was female, without comment  (ok, yeah, the cook in Brave was female, but still). The movie did nothing to change the statistics that the Geena Davis Institute published on the percentage of speaking characters  in family movies held by females: it remains a paltry %29..

But really, I think the issue is this: the discussion of the movie is symptomatic of the problem. There are so few female protagonists in family films (or any other film) that when there finally is one, we can't just look at it as a movie. We can't just say, yeah, it was okay. It has to have all this weight on it, all this pressure. It has to be a referendum. If there were just more, more, more then Brave could've just been another Pixar film, no more, no less, instead of a major event because they FINALLY, after twelve films, realized they hadn't made one starring a woman.

So what do I think of Brave? What I think of Brave is that I wish I didn't have to think so much about Brave. You know what would have been REALLY radical? In our screening (and I assume at theaters) there was a short before the movie called "La Luna." It featured two old men and a little boy in a row boat whose job involved changing the phases of the moon. What if the old men and been women? What if the boy had been a girl? What if there had been no comment about that? Seeing the short before the much-ballyhooed "first Pixar princess" (note that "princess" was at some point substituted for "female" as if the two are interchangeable) reminded me that when a character is male it is assumed to be universal, and so goes without comment. Only when she is female does she become specific. I want to see so many females on screen that we, too, are universal.

Also, I wish I could get my hair to look like that.

If Brave didn't do it for you, or even if it did, I hope you'll also take a look at the movies on my fight fun with fun page. And be sure to check out Studio Ghibli's latest: Arietty based on The Borrowers. Disney buried it, which was a shame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp2nb9Vq0yY

 

A Spoonful of WHAT Makes the Medicine Go Down?

The garden used to be a wholesome place where you could wrest your child away from the tentacles of licensed products, right?  No more. the ever-brilliant Rebecca Hains has made me aware of  Burpee’s new Disney Princess seeds (oh yes, that’s what I wrote).

 

Needless to say, the ladies only grace flower packets—Mickey, Donald and the rest get  vegetables because, as Rebecca notes, “princesses are meant to be gazed on; they are delicate beauties...”  Too bad for  boys who will now doubtless be expected to reject the flower patch.

Meanwhile, Rebecca points out that while regular seeds cost about a buck a pack, The DP ones weigh in at $1.99.  That's quite the royalty tax Disney's levying ! Then there's the mark-up accompanying Disney Princess plant labels which cost a whopping $2.97 for 6 while the regular labels are a mere $1.99 for twenty.

 

 

 

 

Rebecca concludes so beautifully and succinctly:

The Disney Princess marketing machine is SO huge, so far-reaching, that it’s hard to avoid and even harder to resist. Parents sometimes blame themselves for their daughters’ princess obsessions, but who’s really to blame–the parents, or the billion-dollar industry that is invested in profiting by shaping little girls’ dreams?

I think the answer is clear. In this kind of context, it’s hard to choose freely–and that’s something to think critically about.

Actually, it's not a "billion dollar industry." It's a FOUR billion dollar industry (if you're only counting Disney). One that is about to get bigger. Because yesterday kicked off—wait for it—the first annual National Princess Week!! Yes, Disney has teamed up with Target to create a brand new holiday celebrating….Well, it’s unclear what they’re celebrating, but who cares! It's a week of festivities that allow—nay require—us to buy more newly introduced princess products!!!

The companies are positioning this "holiday" as embedded in other nationally-created occasions such as Mother’s Day. I suppose they have a point, especially when you recall that the woman who created that holiday died bitterly regretting its achievement, feeling that her "day to honor mothers" had devolved into little more than a consumerist "Hallmark Holiday."

But at least Mother's Day originally had some larger purpose behind it (actually its roots go as far back as 1870,when Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist and composer of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” issued a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” urging women, in the wake of the Civil War's bloodbath, to call for disarmament). The purpose of National Princess week, according to Disney, is to:  "showcase a variety of products designed to engage every princess," especially the 10th anniversary re-release of  the Princess Diaries movies on DVD, a book calle A Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes The Flower Girl and "an array of themed merchandise at Target stores....Blu-rays, books, toys, bedroom decor, games and more, inspired by Disney’s classic animated films, including Beauty and the BeastThe Princess and the Frog, and Tangled, starting at just $5." The Disney site also helpfully directs celebrants to the Target web site where you can make these purchases.

Well, if that isn't cause for national celebration, I don't know what is!

What’s most painful to me is that they’ve enlisted Mary Poppins, aka Julie Andrews (who stars in Princess Diaries and, with her daughter, penned the above-mentioned Fairy Princess book), as the holiday's putative Santa.

Everyone loves Julie Andrews. It’s churlish not to. I love Julie Andrews. Yet, as horrifying as it is, I must call her out. She betrays our trust and adoration when she disingenuously chirps:  "Joining Disney and Target to create National Princess Week is an extension of my work—a moment in time for children to celebrate their individuality and let their inner sparkle shine."

Because buying zillions of identical licensed products is always a good way to show your individuality?  Because narcissism is the highest form of self-expression? Maybe something went whack with Ms. Andrews' integrity after her most recent face lift (was that a low blow? Seriously--look at her! She can't close her mouth!) but does she really expect us to (literally) buy it when she's responds to  an interview question on "why playing princess is really okay" by saying:

My personal take on it is that they may be trying on for size what it feels like to be, say, a real lady [emphasis mine]. [It] perhaps, in some way, helps them find their own identity later in life. I do think fantasy and play of this kind — whatever it is, if you want to play at being a nurse, or if you want to play at being a florist — it's all important and should be allowed, because it would be an awfully sad place if we didn't try on those airs and have fun doing it.

It's an even sadder place when Julie Andrews has become  little more than a cog in the Disney Princess marketing machine, her Poppins-esque authority used to convince us that bombarding girls with billions of dollars worth of crap that bulldozes all other forms of play is the same thing as choosing to put on your mom's cast-off tiara and an old bedspread and flounce around the house on a rainy afternoon. In fact, that's kind of like cloaking a sales-gimmick as a  "holiday" in order to shove it down our throats.

I hate to say it, Mary, but sugar is not what's on that spoonful.

 

Is it Contradictory to Embrace the "Princess Boy?"

In today's Motherlode Emily Rosenbaum struggles with what seems to her to be a contradiction in the how she parents her daughter vs. her sons. The revelation was triggered when her  3-year-old girl returned from the Home Depot (with Emily's husband) brandishing a Disney Princess light switch plate (in case you're keeping track: that would be DP item #25,978 of the 26,000+  I mention in CAMD). It probably looked something like this:

Emily was furious, but her husband said:

You know, you’re reacting just the way I react when Zach wants to buy pink clothes. You should allow her to express herself as much as you let the boys do it.

That pulled Emily up short. Turns out their son, Zach, "is the only boy in his second-grade class to regularly rock a pink hoodie and pink socks. Benjamin spent his toddler years dressed as Tinkerbell, and we potty trained him by giving him plastic Disney princesses as reward." What bothers her is the idea that her daughter is into pink and princess. "It's a parenting Catch-22," she writes:

We have excellent books like Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter [Aw, gee, thanks, say I!] that deconstruct why princesses are so injurious to girls. Yet Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy has us jumping up and down to support a boy’s right to like pretty things. We gag at nail polish marketed to children, yet we are delighted by a J. Crew ad featuring a boy in toenail polish.

Which is it? Are princesses bad for kids or part of their right to express themselves? Should we shield our children from the nefarious influence of cosmetics or embrace them?

I don't necessarily see these positions as mutually exclusive. Because really, it's not about "princesses." It's about recognizing the limitations our culture places on both girls and boys through its selling of very narrow ideas of femininity and masculinity.

So let's unpack this a bit.  Emily's husband says girls are "expressing themselves" by buying into a $4 billion marketing blitz that is geared towards convincing girls this is  the only way for them to act out femininity. Remember that developmentally, most 3-year-old girls do want to express their girlness (and boys their boyness). The princess industrial complex exploits and distorts that impulse.  Take a look, for instance, at the winner of the contest I held  when the CAMD paperback first came out.  It's one of the best illustrations I've seen of how today's  princess play flattens girls individuality and imaginations. They're not  "expressing" femininity so much as latching onto one  heavily marketed aspect that has been sold to an unhealthy extreme. I mean look at  how many DP items there are at Home Depot alone! That's not including non-Disney items (search princess instead of Disney Princess). What other choices are little girls offered?

That brings me to the  second issue--the pendulum-swing we often engage in when we discuss this topic. The choices seem to be that  a girl is either "expressing her femininity" by ensconcing herself in pink and princess or shunning  "girlie stuff" and sleeping with a football. To me the real task is to find a "third way" that exposes  girls to and allows them expression of a broader, healthier range of ideas about femininity: ones  that aren't perpetually linked to appearance and consumerism and  that aren't putting them on a path to define themselves through that connection for the rest of their lives. That's why I added the "fight fun with fun" section to this site--to offer  at least some options for cultivating a different, celebratory, joyous vision of girls' femininity that is unhooked from the current script.

Okay, now, onto the princess boy. Honestly, who doesn't like a few sparkles? I put them on the cover of my book! Everyone should be able to indulge in a little dress-up occasionally. That said, celebrating the  "princess boy" is really about  not wanting ANY of our children limited by stereotypes or denied the full range of human desires, emotions, enjoyments and potential. In  our culture right now boys are actively discouraged from engaging in anything seen as "feminine," which means they're denied color, sparkles, art, aesthetics, music and many things that, once upon a time, were the province and right of both sexes. When we hyper-segment kids by gender everyone is hurt, everyone is limited. But there's an additional issue when we teach boys they can't play with "girl" things: they learn not only to disdain  that which is associated with girls but to disdain girls themselves. Enforcing masculinity in childhood play is how we replicate misogyny and homophobia. Bad, bad juju.

Another way to think about it might be to flip it.  You might be more comfortable buying your daughter a toy gun because violence is not marketed to her as the cornerstone of feminine identity. It might feel subversive, expansive, whereas you might fret that buying one for your son  would reinforce the message that he's supposed to be tough, hard, emotionless, cruel.

So it's not about saying pink and sparkles are okay for boys and not girls, it's about trying to navigate through a world of products and images that are hyper-segmented and unhealthy, promote stereotypes, alienation between the sexes, and limit kids' access to the full spectrum of life. Emily, that's a really, really good impulse on your part that the marketplace, in its simplicity, is trying to convince you is hypocrisy.

You've got so many opportunities to create change as the parent of both a girl and boys. Listen, a  little self-decoration (henna tattoos, washable markers, face paint, glitter) is fun for all. Meanwhile,  try to expose your children of both sexes to a wide range of ideas, toys, images, clothing. Rather than simply allowing Zack to wear pink, why not also read him  the kind of stories about strong women and competent, clever girls that I'm sure you read to your daughter? If he likes to dress up as a Disney Princess, why not suggest a Greek goddess? Or Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Or Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service? How subversive would that be? Would that make you less comfortable than celebrating "the princess boy?" And if so, why? Perhaps that's the real question.

Parents Make Disney Stop Fat-Shaming Kids

Call it another triumph for parent-power (and the power of all those who love kids). The protests that erupted in the wake of Disney’s Feb 3 launch of “Habit Heroes,” an exhibit at Epcot purportedly designed to combat childhood obesity, resulted  yesterday in the exhibit’s (and web site's) reportedly indefinite closure. Here’s what happened: “Habit Heroes,” developed in partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield (who should’ve known better) was  an interactive series of games in which  kids teamed up with animated  “heroes”--Will Power and Callie Stenics (get it??)--to defeat “villains” such as

 

 

 

And Stink Bomb who is not only fat but has bad hygiene!

Lordy, lordy.

Let’s pause for a minute and talk about why shaming fat kids is not just mean but ineffective as a weight-loss strategy (just in case you don’t already know):  In a letter addressed to blogger Shannon Russell the director of the  National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development  explained that programs like Disney's or the controversial  Strong4Life campaign in Georgia:

 

...carry a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese. which in turn can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating). A number of research studies over the last decade have supported this concern. For example, studies suggest that overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization ahs been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmitazation  of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.

Other studies show that the perception that obesity is solely a matter of personal responsibility, as opposed to understanding the complexity of contributing factors, can increase negative stereotypes of overweight people. It is important, therefore, that public messages about obesity address this complexity wherever possible.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Disney couldn't address health risks of excess weight without making fat kids cry. In movie after movie—even the supposedly “enlightened” ones such as Beauty and the Beast or Tangled---fat  (or “ugly” not to mention "old & female") in the Wonderful World has  been used to signal character flaws: it's shorthand for stupid, ugly, comical, asexual, evil. For instance:

Ursula from Little Mermaid

 

Aunt Sarah from Lady and the Tramp

 

The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland

 

Mama Odie in Princess and the Frog (not villainous, but a weird)

 

Ratcliffe in Pocahontas

Stromboli from Pinocchio 

Smee from Peter Pan

The list goes on. So you think this company is going to approach overweight children with the care, compassion and sensitivity they deserve?

A number of bloggers have taken this on (hence the pressure to close down the exhibit). But I haven't seen anyone discussing this part:  Disney seemed to be trying to have its cake and shun kids for eating it, too. Because if the company really wanted to help in the fight against childhood obesity it would stop its pimping its characters out to be plastered on tasty, empty-caloried, ultra-processed, high-sugar foods that contribute to the problem. Tell me how Will Power would react, for instance, about Disney Princess Spaghetti O’s?

 

 

Or the Disney Princess “healthy kids” Campbell’s soup, which, granted, contains 80 calories in a half cup serving (does anyone ever eat a half-cup serving?) but has virtually no nutritional value while dishing up 480 mg of sodium. Oh, and lest you forget, in tests of canned food by the Breast Cancer Fund  the Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken  Broth contained the second highest levels of BPA (a chemical linked to early puberty, breast cancer, prostate cancer, ADHD, type 2 diabetes and, oh yes--obesity)  of any product tested. 

That's not to say Disney doesn't care  about children's BPA levels when it suits them, otherwise they wouldn't advertise that their sippy cups and feeding sets for toddlers are BPA-free. How messed up is that?

Then there are the "Jewel Berry" Disney Princess  Pop-Tarts.  Jewel Berry?

 

 

And the Princess Belle Fruit snacks which on the front promise “real fruit” but whose first two ingredients are corn syrup and sugar (that “real fruit” turns out to be apple juice puree).

 

Speaking of fruit, the princesses also grace containers of apple juice, a beverage whose calorie and sugar content are precisely the same as soda pop and is similarly linked to childhood obesity.

 

Though I suppose I should be careful what I wish for. It’s not like I’d prefer Disney to start branding more healthful fare like vegetables or fruit. Oh, wait, they already have:

Sigh. You know what I think would be really great? If the company made films in which the protagonists were themselves a healthy weight—that is, not impossibly narrow-wasted and large-breasted—and in which fat characters (girls and women in particular) were neither the subject of ridicule or disdain. Maybe one could even get the prince.

 

 

 

Cinderella's Ball Gown Ate Mulan!!!!!

Oh my God, Cinderella's ball gown ate Mulan!!! No!!!!!!! The one Disney “princess” (though she is no princess and never marries a prince) I loved, the one I gave my daughter to stave off the others, the one I scoured ebay to find has been made pink and pouffy! Poor Mulan, this against everything the character stands for! It was bad enough that the old Mulan doll came wearing a hanfu, which, if you’ve seen the movie (as I have, approximately forty million three hundred and seven times) she despised. The hanfu (a Chinese kimono) was how they served her up hoping she'd bring “honor to us all” by being pretty and marrying well.

But Mulan didn’t want to do that, even before she snuck off to join the military. She always wanted to be her own person.

Anyway,  Rebecca Hains, whose book Growing Up With Girl Power just came out, took this pic of the old Mulan:

And NOW look at her:

Pinker, pouffier, sparklier (Rebecca thought of the headline on this post, too). I’d like to remind the Disney people of the song that THEY put in Mulan II and is still one of my favorites:

Meanwhile, Rebecca took photos of the other dolls as well, noting that they'd all had sparklified remakes. They did resist putting Pocahontas in a ball gown (though the've tried before); she does, however, have inexplicably high-heeled feet. And sparkles. And rounder eyes. AND LIGHTER SKIN. Especially as the mom of a brown girl, I’m with Rebecca on this one—TOTALLY uncool, Dudes.

Anyway, bear with me  here as I free associate. Because I was thinking about all of this while reading an article in HuffPo about a study by MIT Economist Esther Dufflo. Dufflo traveled to 495 villages in India to determine  whether there was a gap in parents' expectations of their female and male children. Here's what she found:  in villages that never had female political leaders parents were 45% less likely to expect their daughters to go to high school. The girls themselves were 32% less likely than boys to believe they’d continue their education. In villages where female leaders  routinely served in local government, however,—such as in the state of West Bengal, where for two decades a third of local posts were specifically reserved for women—parents had the same educational expectations for their daughters as for their sons. The girls themselves had higher expectations s as well. Given the importance of girls’ education to ameliorating global poverty, this is vital information. The study’s author attributes her findings to “the role-model effect.” “Perceptions and giving hope,” Dufflo said, “can have an impact on reality."

I know we’re not India, but when all our little girls see are princesses and divas--and they see very few women in leadership in business, politics, STEM or the arts--what is our role model effect? Ponder this, for example: according to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report, women account for just 5% of directors working in Hollywood, down from 10% in 1998, when the number peaked. Meanwhile, only 14% of Hollywood writers, 18% of executive producers, 25% of producers, 20% of editors and 4% of cinematographers are female.

Don’t believe this under-representation has an impact on how and whether women and girls are portrayed on-screen? Check out the new material in the paperback of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, or take a look at the magnificent Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

And finally, for those of you who've read this far, I want to thank  you for making Cinderella Ate My Daughter a success. The paperback doesn't come out until  Tuesday, but they’ve already gone back to press! The pre-orders have been through the roof. I’m so grateful and thrilled that the book’s message of broadening images and opportunities for BOTH boys and girls is getting heard! Please check my events page (if you haven’t already) and come out and say hi if I’ll be in your town.

Also: I’ve updated the resources page on how to “fight fun with fun!”

Disney Agrees: Princesses are Unhealthy for Girls!

Did Disney blink in releasing its new "age-appropriate" Sofia the First princess character and TV show?  If  Sofia is deemed "just right" for preschoolers, after all, wouldn’t that mean the now re-labeled "adult" princesses…aren’t? Yet for the past ten years, the Princess concept has been sold (and sold and sold) to the exact same demographic with the Disney assurance that they are “developmentally appropriate,”  "safe," and imparting good values. No more. Sofia, they assure us, won't be about romantic fantasy. She won't need a prince to make her happy, a message that, according to one report Disney recognizes as a "legitimate worry" for parents and a "bad message for little girls." Yet when I spoke with Disney execs while reporting Cinderella Ate My Daughter, they poo-pooed my concern, insisting that the romantic story lines and passive heroines of "Cinderella," "Snow White," "Little Mermaid" etc.--which, again, they were shilling to the very same preschool girls they now say need rescuing from that message--were harmless fun. Can they have it both ways? At the time, execs also told me that Princess was  not I repeat not only about the dresses, makeup, bling and Kardashian-sized materialism. Or the $4 billion annually Princess pulls in for the company. No.  Disney Princesses were  about kindness and compassion and values.

Hey, guess what they’re saying about Sofia? She will, according to a Disney Jr. exec, have “plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes,” but her REALY purpose is to teach  viewers that “what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside.” Unlike, say, what the other princesses have been teaching viewers for all these years?

So I wonder, does that mean Disney won't be selling any of Sofia dresses, crowns, ways or other merch, so they can reinforce the idea that she's all about the inside?

Not hardly.Disney is nothing if not cynical. And greedy.

Obviously Sofia is all about the dresses and the shoes. If not, they could have made her an astronaut or, I know….an explorer!!! Oh, wait, we have that already.I wonder whether Dora would have been possible in today’s princess-obsessed culture. Especially given that Dora herself has both gone princess and undergone a makeover.

 

 

Maybe if Disney (or Nick, or Sesame Street Workshop or, gosh, anyone)  had 10 other “age appropriate” female characters who were not princesses; maybe if they had a female character whose appeal did not depend on her prettiness (because make no mistake—Sofia is very pretty and weirdly coy and, not for nothing, totally white and that is part of the package); maybe if they didn’t continually reinforce to girls at ever-younger ages that how you look is who you are while claiming to do just the opposite (witness the Tangled Escape From the Tower Lip & Nail Set! and the Princess with a Loving Heart Make-Up Kit.); maybe if they didn't prime them for premature sexualization while claiming to protect them from it; maybe if they didn’t exploit little girls’ fantasies and turn imagination into something to be scripted and sold; maybe if they didn’t provide the first entrée for so many of the issues I write about on this blog (and in Cinderella Ate My Daughter); maybe then I would feel less disgusted by this latest move. Instead, it just feels like the latest predatory example of Disney reaching for the crib.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the company to come out with a Snow White coffin. They’re missing a major womb-to-tomb  branding opportunity.

o

Wait! Wait! One more thing--you want a great princess story? I'll give you one. Just in time for the holidays. The Princess and the Pig. It looks hysterical--and right on. And you can bet it won't be used to sell your 3-year-old lip gloss!

Disney Princess......Cancer?

According to a new report on bisphenol (BPA) in kids' canned food released today by the Breast Cancer Fund, Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups test highest for that toxin, which is typically used to harden plastic or make the linings of metal food cans. BPA has been linked to breast cancer, infertility and early puberty in girls, as well as prostate cancer in males and type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in both sexes.

Isn't that magic?

According to the report BPA exposure is of special concern in children "because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children's hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later‐life diseases."

Campbell's wasn't the only offender, nor was Disney. Even organic brands contain BPA, though in far less parts per billion (ppb): Earth's Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup had 38 ppb (the Princess pasta had 114) and Annie's Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli weighed in at 31 ppb. Campbell's Spaghettios (with meatballs!) fared better than both at 13 ppb. According to William Goodson, Senior Clinical Research Scientists at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, who just last week published a study showing that BPA causes non-cancerous cells to grow and survive like cancer cells, "We're all part of a big experiment to see what BPA will do to our kids and us."

Not me, baby.

As a mom--and, hell, as a human being--I'm more disgusted than ever that these products, which claim overtly or subtly to be healthy for our kids, not only are loaded with sugar, salt and, often, fat, but now with carcinogens. And since the exposure is cumulative, eating a can or two of kid chow won't hurt you, but a lifetime of canned goods may be another story. If Disney and Pixar and Sesame Workshop care about kids the way they SAY they do, they should immediately insist on safer packaging or pull their licenses.

You may recall BPA as the stuff that was in baby bottles and water bottles. Public outrage--especially from parents of infants--encouraged manufacturers to voluntarily change that (although it's not always clear what they're using instead). 10 states have restricted BPA in baby food containers, though not in canned food. Meanwhile, the Canadian government declared BPA toxic in 2010, though it had already banned the substance in baby bottles two years earlier.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. has authored a bill that, if it passes, would ban BPA from all food and beverage containers. Meanwhile, better safe than sorry. Get your food fresh. Get it in boxes. Get it frozen. Get Tetra Paks. And when you can: can the can....

Here are Breast Cancer Fund People discussing the findings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZqEBLSljvU

And here, in case you're interested, is a refutation.

 

Disney Princesses: The Gateway Drug

I just received a press release (excerpted below) below from the Disney Store. Those  pseudo-empowering" Rapunzels and Belles are just  bait-and-switch for trusting parents. The big money--the REAL money (the $5 BILLION a year) is creating and selling to what here is called the "Princess Fashionista" and then keeping her business and loyalty as she reaches the high-spending tweens and beyond. Interesting  that girls here are no longer encouraged by Disney to live HAPPILY ever after but STYLISHLY ever after. Hence my theory that really, the thing to be concerned about these days is NOT the rescued-by-the-prince fantasy  so much as the way today's Princess culture  girls to a of femininity that is  sexualized, narcissistic, self-objectifying, vain, commercialized, self-objectifying....and need I say UNHEALTHY?

 

Fashionistas receive the royal treatment with an enchanted evening of pampering and accessorizing, Disney-style

PASADENA, Calif., September 7, 2011–Disney Store will celebrate New York City’s Fashion’s Night Out with an event fit for royalty, inspiring its guests to live ‘stylish ever after’. Disney Store Times Square will host an array of fashionably fun festivities on September 8, 2011 from 4 p.m.-11 p.m., highlighting the newest Disney-inspired lifestyle product lines. Guests will be treated to a magical evening including free mini-manicures with the new runway-inspired Disney Princess Designer Collection nail polish, featuring hues ranging from Snow White's luscious apple red to Belle's gleaming gold. Guests will be able to customize their very own bracelet at the Kidada for Disney Store charm bar, and be the first to get a sneak preview of the latest Disney Store fragrance inspired by Tinker Bell—Pixie Dust.

“We’ve created products that tell Disney stories with a fashion-forward spin with the goal to keep our guests excited and looking forward to what is coming up next,” said Robin Beuthin, vice president of creative for Disney Store North America.

Disney Store’s new Pixie Dust fragrance...captures Tinker Bell's personality perfectly – it charms with a subtle sweetness yet it also has a hint of sassiness that we love about the beloved Disney character.  Pixie Dust comes as a range of personal products including Eau de Toilette, Body Mist and Body Lotion, available in all Disney Store locations in fall 2011. Gift sets with body glitter, a roll on Eau de Toilette and lip gloss will also be available.

Here are some of the new products:

 

Yes, this is for your preschooler.

 

No that is not the new OPI line. It is, again, for your preschooler .

And, oh no, look what they've done to poor Mulan!!!

 

 

Sigh. Honestly, do you WANT your 3-year-old to be "fashion forward?" Do you want her even to know what that phrase means? And by the by, why does a preschooler need perfume, let alone one with a "sassy" edge?  Don't children  smell perfectly delicious as they are (assuming they are potty trained)?

Oh, and in other Mouse House news, Andy Mooney, creator of the Disney Princess line and head of consumer licensing for the past 12 years, resigned yesterday. Unclear where he will go but in an email to  his staff and colleagues he wrote, Together, we have radically changed the licensing business." Damn. You can say that again.

It's Really Not the Underwear

I'm still on vacation, but while I've been gone people have been sending me various outrageous items they've come across that, again and again, illustrate  of increasingly sexualized, commodified ideas about femininity being foisted on our daughters at an ever-younger age. To me, some of them are the equivalent of the toddler beauty pageants--they are so out there that they become perversely reassuring: whatever the rest of us  may be doing it's not THAT bad. Ultimately, I fear, they  discourage us from truly examining mainstream culture, desensitizing us to the less extreme but relentless creep  (and I mean that in every sense of the word) of sexualization and consumerism. So to me, while despicable the French company Jours Apres Lune's  totally pedo lingerie for 10-year-olds ( see below) that was all over ABC and Time, risks taking our eye off the true problem.

Similarly, the same outlets' alarm over  the 10-year-old  model, again in France, styled like Pretty Baby in that country's Vogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on our home turf, while one hopes that the company Baby Bangs that is, essentially, selling WIGS FOR YOUR BALD BABY GIRL will never get off the ground, it is also the equivalent of focusing on a brush fire when the forest is burning.

Baby without wig

Okay, I can't resist posting the company's "philosophy":

At Baby Bangs! we believe in the beauty of childhood. Our unique designs are sprinkled with MAGIC! ~inspiring a world of whimsical wonder and mystical magical memorable moments for you and your baby girl to cherish Forever! For she is, and always will be, Your LiTTLe PRINCESS! [boldface and capitalization original]

I'm not saying these things aren't worth our attention. And I still TOTALLY appreciate people sending me emails and facebook updates on what they're seeing out there (more on the diet book for girls another time. Sigh). But the real problem is not any single item but that these products and images are  CONSTANT and have created a truly toxic culture for girls.

Meanwhile, girls are commodified in  every day, garden-variety, banal ways  that we barely even notice. By trusted companies like Disney and Mattel. And trusted retailers like...JC Penney. Take this t-shirt.

Yes, it  does indeed say, "Too Pretty to Do Homework, So My Brother has to Do it for Me." And it really is intended for 7-16 year old girls. And the description really does read:

Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out? She'll love this tee that's just as cute and sassy as she is.

Must I comment on this?  First I will have to reattach my jaw which hit the floor and then broke through to the next level down. The fact that a TEAM of people had to have okayed this, that they thought it was appropriate, attractive and that parents and girls (who should be INSULTED by it) would dig it is so horrifying  I'd say the message was a throw-back to the 50s, but it's not. The propaganda for girls and women back then was about taking pride in housework and child-rearing which, yeah, was a touch limiting. This, however, is arguably worse:  taking pride in being a narcissistic, willfully ignorant, spoiled, superficial, self-objectifying, helpless (save for the ability to manipulate) PRINCESS. So not funny.

You want to protest? Here you go, folks. Click to send an email. Or call 1-800-322-1189. Or post on their facebook page. Or tweet @jcpenney.

(thanks to Johanna Cohen for alerting me to this one).

 

POST SCRIPT: Apparently J.C. Penney got the message and according to today's Daily Beast is pulling the T-shirt. Good going parents!

For the 4th: Who are Your Heroines From US History?

People always ask me what girls could pretend if they weren't playing princess. That lack of imagination saddens me. How about some historic American girls or women (preferably with cool costumes)? Of course, we don't learn much about them ourselves, so why don't you tell readers: who ELSE could our girls pretend to be besides a princess (preferably with a cool costume...)? How about Laura Ingalls?

Or Sacagawea?

Or Marian Anderson?

This is the age of the internet--it's easy to educate yourself and expand your daughter's imagination.

And what could be more American than fighting for independence from (Disney) royalty?

"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world."

 

 

For July 4th: Instead of Cinderella, How About Dressing as Lady Liberty?

I love this article  about Princess culture and patriotism from the El Paso Times by Kate Feuille. It starts with the author mulling over her abandoned  application for the Daughters of the American Revolution after spying a t-shirt on a girl that said, ""Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." Turns out the quote is from a speech Franklin Delano Roosevelt made before the DAR in 1938 (though the First Lady resigned her membership from the group a year later when it refused to allow  Marian Anderson, who is African American, to sing at Constitution Hall). Feuille goes on to write that she was struck not only by the t-shirt but by how odd it was to see it at all:

I've grown so used to seeing girls in head-to-toe glitter that seeing one bearing a political message startled me. I have been fuming over the princess-ization of our daughters ever since the arrival of 14 princess-themed birthday invitations in one week.

And then:

In America, we don't have princesses, I lecture, when my daughter asked to decorate her bedroom in Disney. Your ancestors came to this country to escape the oppression of divine right, primogeniture, and other accidents of birth.

At Ella's kindergarten graduation the kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. It befuddled me that the girl who replied "cat" got uproarious laughter while the "princess" response was met with abject approval.

When I'm calmer, I can take the time to tell Ella what we have in America in lieu of the princess. We have heroines like Sacajawea,

and Margaret Corbin, who defended Fort Washington alongside her husband and became the first woman to receive a military pension, and Francita Alavez, "The Angel of Goliad," whose actions saved many lives during the Texas Revolution. Not to mention the countless women, whose names are lost to all but their own kin, who quilted and cooked and doctored their families in harsh conditions across the country. Women whose skills ensured the survival of settlements that have grown into the shining cities we have today.

I understand that the princess story is appealing to the little girl in all of us. I got up early and watched Kate Middleton walk down the aisle and into the history books, too. ("She's wearing flats under that dress," I whispered to my daughter. "Real princesses don't wear slutty shoes.")

So it doesn't really matter what you put on the walls or if your daughter is carrying a "Sleeping Beauty" lunchbox to school. What matters is what we tell them about America, about women, about their history, and their future.

At our house we complement Grimm's Fairy Tales with "Little House on the Prairie" and Maud Hart Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" series, based on the author's childhood in the turn-of-the-century Midwest. I show my daughter fading photographs of her great-great-grandmothers and tell her stories about the one who stitched the fraying quilt on her bed.

I tell my daughter, this is America. We don't do princesses.

 

Enjoy your holiday.

 

Kia, Stop Right Now; Pixar, Looking "Brave."

Have you seen the new Kia Motors ad that promotes not only their cars' dual climate control but, whaddaya know, also promotes pedophilia and sexualization of girls? It won a prestigious Silver Press Lion award in Cannes. According to the Huffington Post:

The ad features a teacher lusting after his elementary school-aged student. On one side of the page, she appears as a young girl. On the other side, though, she becomes a scantily clad, buxom teen, seemingly as a product of the teacher's imagination.

It's clearly designed to shock, and is succeeding. The advertising blog Copyranter called it "one of the sleaziest car ads ever," and noted that it doesn't even visualize the benefits of dual climate control very well.

I say, arretez-vous, Kia in any language!

Here's the ad

Here's where you can tell Kia what you think--a petition by the wonder women and girls at SPARK, They're trying to gather 5,000 signatures so please pass the word.

Meanwhile, here's the Brave trailer that's playing with Cars 2. Thank goodness I didn't have to buy a ticket to that piece of garbage to see it! Looks good....but how about a female voice for the narrator?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tYg0VgPy6Uk

 

Little Boys Fly; Little Girls Curtsey

Blogger Lainey Feingold pointed out a little tidbit on the front page article in the New York Times in an article titled, "Stores Emphasize Mannequins with Personalities?" The piece is  about how retailers are using unique  mannequins in unusual poses or bodies  to entice customers to part with money in hard times.

Nike has made its mannequins taller, and added about 35 athletic poses. Armani Exchange has ordered models that will lie down to help shoppers imagine wearing lingerie. A new accessories-only store by Guess features glossy black mannequins in model-like poses on an actual runway, while Ralph Lauren’s new women's store in Manhattan commissioned mannequins with the face of the model Yasmin Le Bon.

Whatever. But get this one:

The Disney Stores chain has added little-boy figurines that fly from the ceiling and little-girl ones that curtsey.

Seriously? Little boys that soar and little girls that CURTSEY?  Is that one going to play with parents?

 

Why Won't Boys Won't Watch Movies About Girls?

Getting over-excited about all the fab comments on my last post re: why bringing up  Jessie in Toy Story is not an adequate comeback for "why hasn't  Pixar made any movies about women?" Thank you guys for such a wonderful conversation. One commenter (in fact the one who inspired the post--so double thank you!) asked about the idea that boys won't watch movies about girls. And added it's not like 5 year old boys are taking themselves to the movies (though they do have OPINIONS, believe me). But yes, conventional Hollywood wisdom is that boys won't watch girl protagonists. And every time a movie about a woman or girl fails or under-performs at the box office that is reinforcement. While if a movie about a woman succeeds it tends to be regarded as a fluke. Going  to movies with female leads becomes a sort of political statement--hence the hubbub around the first Sex & the City movie as well as about the current film, Bridesmaids.

 

In CAMD I talk about how that boys-won't-watch girls was disproved on TV by Nickelodeon, first with "Clarissa Explains it All" and later with "The Amanda Show" and iCarly. I'm not endorsing those shows, I'm just saying. They have had a fairly equal number of male and female viewers. So when left to their own devices at home on TV, boys apparently WILL watch girls.

And yet. Hollywood retains this belief, this core tenet. And for good reason, I guess.Take Bridesmaids which its first weekend in release made $26.2 million in 2,918 theaters--an average of $8,995 per screen.

 

Meanwhile, Hangover 2 made $85.9 million its first weekend on 3,615 screens--an average of $23,775 per screen.

Sigh. (Though congratulations to fellow Oberlin alum Ed Helms!)

Not that it's entirely Hollywood's fault. We condition boys from the earliest ages AGAINST seeing female experience as equally universal or relevant to them as males'. Even when we're well-intentioned. Years ago, I was asked to write a  jacket quote for a book for parents that listed children's books with strong, adventurous complex female protagonists for girls. It was a fine compendium, but I hesitated to endorse it. Why should  great books about female characters be only for GIRLS? Shouldn't we be encouraging boys from an early age to read books with female protagonists too? Didn't this just add to the idea that male experience is universal but female experience is specific?

We teach our boys from the earliest ages that anything associated with the feminine is not for them and even "bad." Hello homophobia, misogyny etc etc. I mean, remember the insanity around that J. Crew catalog with the photo of the boy in pink nail polish? Puh-leeze!

In CAMD I cite the work of Isabelle Cherney who found that nearly half of boys ages 5-13 when ushered into a room and told they could play with anything chose "girl" toys as often as "boys" toys--provided they believed no one would find out. Particularly their fathers. The youngest boys said said their daddies would think it was "bad" if they played with "girls'" toys, even something as innocuous as miniature dishes. Boys were also more likelty to sort playthings based on how they perceived gender roles (such as "Dad uses tools, so hammers are for boys"), whereas girls figured that if they themselves enjoyed a toy--any toy--it was, ipso facto, for girls.

I take heart in thinking about a birthday party Daisy attended a few months back. The host was a boy, as were all the other guests aside from her. For an hour or so, they ran around the birthday boy's yard, shooting one another with nerf guns. Then they all jumped in the family van and headed off to see....Tangled. Maybe there is hope after all.

 

 

Sneak Peek at Pixar's FIRST Female Protagonist

In case you haven't heard, Pixar's 13th movie will have a female heroine. They say that like they should be proud of themselves. As if it isn't a HUGE EMBARRASSMENT that they have done a DOZEN films without a single woman in a starring role? That in Toy Story I there were no females at all (except Bo Peep) and they didn't even notice? I'm just saying. Also, just to gripe a little more, after waiting patiently (and sometimes not so much) through 12 genre-busting films about male robots, male superheroes, male cowboys, male rats, male cars, male ugs, male fish and a small male mailman, it would have been nice if the movie was NOT about a princess, even a kick-ass princess. But there it is. It may well be great, but honestly, that was a huge failure of imagination. It will also be interesting to see if, as the Geena Davis Institute Reported, the movie despite its female lead sticks to the fewer than one-in-three speaking parts are female and fewer than one-in-five characters in crowd scenes. I noticed that was the case in "Rio" even though there were two female leads. I actually counted in the credits (counting young Linda and old Linda as one voice, to be fair, since they were the same character).

All that said, here is a picture of Merida, the film's kick-ass princess hero. What do you think?

 

 

Big Brother's Got Nothin' on Zuckerberg

Janet Boyd from the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana emailed me to say: "I posted to my Facebook wall this comment:'My mind is being blown by Cinderella Ate My Daughter...' A fraction of a second after I hit the Share button, 2 ads for other Facebook pages popped up on the side of my screen – the Cinderella page and the Disney Princesses page – with suggestions that I “like” them. Facebook is using a mention of your book to advertise for exactly what you are protesting against!!! That is so twisted that it could have come straight out of Orwell’s 1984." To which I say 1) scary. And 2) someone needs to fix his algorithm.