What's Next, Porn Legos?

When I started my career, back in the mid-1980s, I was hired to be an editorial assistant at a certain top tier magazine in New York City. As part of the job interview I took a typing test. I was also informed  that the guy I'd be working for had a reputation for groping his  assistants. "Can you handle that?" I was asked. Not "If it happens report him." Not "He is being brought up on charges." Not even "We're trying to deal with it and we're sorry." Just "Can you handle that?" WWAMD? I thought (That's "What Would Ann Marie Do?")

Of course, I said yes. I worked for the guy for over a year and "handled it" by keeping six feet away from him at all times--believe me, I earned my $13,500 salary. (Note: I also worked for two amazing, generous, encouraging editors and mentors to whom I owe my career: Adam Moss and David Hirshey).

I thought we'd evolved since then (this was pre-Anita Hill's testimony in the Clarence Thomas hearings) but my heart sunk while reading Amanda Hess'  amazing post on yesterday's XXFactor  about Lego's latest foray into reinforcing sexism among children:

When journalist Josh Stearns introduced his son to the world of Lego this year, he was disappointed to find that in addition to its trademark building blocks, the company now produces a Lego-branded sticker set that articulates the innermost thoughts of its little plastic construction workers. Alongside phrases like “MEN AT WORK” and “GETTING DIRTY,” the set includes an image of a Lego worker at rest, leaning back in a hard hat and a pair of cool-dude sunglasses, shouting “HEY BABE!” at an unseen target. It’s marketed to kids aged “1 to 101.”

Here is the photo that Stearns put on his tumblr:

Seriously. WTF?????

Meanwhile, my daughter is getting make-your-own messenger bags for her birthday with iron on transfers that say "spoiled" and "brat." (Not by Lego, I should say--this was a "craft" present a couple of years back).

As I've said before,  Gary Cross, an historian of childhood and author of the excellent Kid Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood once told me that toys communicate to children our expectations of their adult roles.  Criminey!

I wrote an editorial in the New York Times when Lego introduced its friends line discussing why promoting gender segregation in toys was a bad (though lucrative) idea. The wonderful women and girls at  Spark.org also launched a petition that garnered so many thousands of signatures that Lego  met with them to discuss how, at the very least, they could push the Friends line past hair salons. The company seemed to respond, at least a tiny bit, at least for the girls.

Not for boys. Apparently Lego has no problem reinforcing the idea among our sons that girls are "other," that they are subtly inferior and, ultimately, objects for their eventual enjoyment (and current scorn). I don't want the boys I know growing up with that message. I don't want the boys my daughter some day learns with, dates, works with, marries, raises children with (yes, I am already dreaming about being a grandma, so sue me) believing sexual harassment is "funny" or in any way ok. That's why I love  the Sanford Harmony Program's attempt to develop curriculum that, from preschool onward, encourages friendship and mutual understanding between boys and girls.

Stearns, who is doing his best to raise a decent, caring human (bless his heart) writes about his own experience going up against Lego. Their first response was classic defense: lighten up, it was a joke:

Charlotte Simonsen, Senior Director at LEGO’s corporate communications office told me that “To communicate the LEGO experience to children we typically use humor and we are sorry that you were unhappy with the way a minifigure was portrayed here.” 

Ace journalist that he is, he  kept pushing and subsequently received another note, this time, from  Andrea Ryder, the head of the LEGO Group’s Outbound Licensing Department. She wrote: “I am truly sorry that you had a negative experience with one of our products […] the product is no longer available and we would not approve such a product again.”

That's progress. Stearns writes that he appreciates Lego's responsiveness. I do, too. I'm also glad the stickers are off the market. But still. How did something like that get through their vetting process? And, if you spend any time on this blog, you know that these incidents (across toyland) are not rare.

Yeah, it's one toy. One little toy. But one among so many. As Stearns writes:

If we don’t call out these things when we see them, then even the little pieces of culture, like a pack of stickers, can serve to normalize sexist behavior and harassment. If you care about these issues here are some great resources and organizations to follow and support:

Couldn't have said it better. Thanks, Josh.

Photo  from a previous post on Lego:

Read These Now!!!

Looking for a  new “fight fun with fun” book for your middle grade daughter (or son….)? Honey, have I got two for you. Kepler’s Dream, the debut YA novel by Juliet Bell, is about 11-year-old Ella, a clever, compassionate  girl whose mother’s cancer treatment and father’s disengagement exile her to   “Broken Family Camp” for the summer: staying with her severe-natured grandmother in her peacock-ridden hacienda in Albuquerque. Neither of them is happy about the arrangement. Ella is afraid her mother may die, but all her grandmother seems to care about is her crazy library full of books When a rare and much-loved volume, Kepler's Dream of the Moon, is stolen, however, Ella decides it's up to her to find it. The result  could be the key to healing her broken family. This is the kind of book I used to love as a girl, back in the days before the vampires and zombies and murder-tainment (nothing against Hunger Games)  struck. Ella feels utterly real, her voice just the right amount of snarky, her struggles relevant and relatable. I loved that nearly all of the central relationships were among women (though plenty of complex men are in there, too), especially the initially-hostile  one between Ella and her friend-to-be Rosie. Just because they’re the same age doesn’t mean they have to like each other, right? There’s a mystery at the heart of Kepler’s Dream, which I won't spoil, but really, this  a family issue story in the tradition of Paul Zindel or Judy Bloom. As Kirkus said when describing this “utterly satisfying” book:

Ella learns how blame can tear a family apart and how forgiveness and the things of which dreams are made can heal. The credibly realistic resolution leaves Ella firmly grounded with deepened family ties, a new friend and some hard-won horseback-riding skills.

 

Meanwhile, back in the land of fantasy and fairy tales, Daisy and I have been riveted by the audiobook of Shannon Hale'The Goose Girl. It is performed by our beloved Full Cast Audio and, as usual, they do not disappoint. Amazon says this book is for 6th-9th graders and they may well enjoy it, but as a read-aloud, Daisy and I were riveted (and she’s 8 ½ these days). She has friends in second grade who are enjoying it as well.

You may be familiar with the Grimm’s story that inspired this tale, but Shannon Hale has taken what amounts to a (very bloody) sketch and turned it into a (less bloody) masterpiece. At 16, Anidori–Kiladra Talianna Isillee, Crown Princess of Kildenree is sweet, if naïve and cosseted. She possesses the gift of “animal speak, ” something little valued by her imperial—and imperious—mother, the queen. When she’s shipped off to a neighboring kingdom to marry its prince (and keep the peace) she is easily overthrown by a mutinous entourage headed by her lady-in-waiting. Ani barely escapes with her life. Eventually she disguises herself as a goose girl. Before the story is over, she learns lessons in courage, justice, perseverance and coming in to your own as a woman and a person. In the end, birthright doesn’t make Ani a princess—her character, forged by experience, and her brave actions do. I cannot recommend this audiobook highly enough.

Both Kepler's Dream and Goose Girl are about girls who face enormous obstacles they have to work hard to overcome--that only they can overcome. And through making hard choices, facing unforeseen challenges, they make not only their lives but the lives of those around them--friends, family, strangers--better. They come into power, and that is a beautiful thing.

Enjoy.

FIGHT THE MADNESS: PLAY NOT PRESSURE!

In CAMD I talk about “age compression” as a culprit in  the Kardashianization of girlhood. Here's how that works: products are initially pitched to older kids; younger ones who want to be “cool” like their older brothers and sister  latch onto them making them instantly anathema to the original demographic. Since for girls being cool means looking “hot” we’ve seen a downward drift of things like spa birthday parties (now the rage among pre-schoolers) and cosmetic use.

 

According to NPD group, for instance, nearly half of 6-year-olds say they use lipstick or lip gloss regularly and the percentage of 8-12 year olds who use mascara or eyeliner doubled between 2008 and 2010. 8-12 year olds are among the fastest growing sectors of the cosmetics market, prompting Walmart to launch its popular “anti-aging” Geo Girl line for elementary school girls. This month, Target introduced the Disney Fairies "PixiGlow" line of makeup (which "captures Tinkerbell's fresh-faced, timeless beauty" and includes--kill me now--the  "Straight on until morning eyeliner"). Target also carries Willa Beauty , which is aimed at girls as young as seven. Recall that an early focus on appearance creates a vulnerability to the most common mental health problems we see in girls: depression, low self-esteem, negative body image, eating disorders, risky sexual choices. That belies the argument--typically proffered by the people who sell this stuff--that "tween" cosmetics are "innocent," that they bolster girls' confidence by allowing them to “experiment safely with their femininity.” The truth is the opposite: girls' well-being is undermined by the message, at ever-earlier ages, that who they are is how they look and how they look is not good enough (unless you buy PixiGlow/Eco Girl/Willa makeup!).

But sexualization is not the only place we’re seeing age compression. In 2009 I wrote a piece for The New York Times Magazine called “Kindergarten Cram,” in which I talked about how, when I was a child, in the increasingly olden days:

We danced the hokey­pokey in kindergarten,  swooned in suspense over Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (that’s what Minnesotans stubbornly call Duck, Duck, Goose) and napped on our mats until the Wake-Up Fairy set us free.

No more. Instead of digging in sandboxes, today’s kindergartners prepare for a life of multiple-choice boxes by plowing through standardized tests with cuddly names like Dibels (pronounced “dibbles”), a series of early-literacy measures administered to millions of kids; or toiling over reading curricula like Open Court — which features assessments every six weeks.

According to “Crisis in the Kindergarten,” a report recently released by The Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, all that testing is wasted: it neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that truly is vital to their future success: play.

That report mentioned a survey of 254 teachers in New York and Los Angeles which  found that kindergartners spent two to three hours a day being instructed and tested in reading and math. They spent less than 30 minutes playing. Now the Alliance for Childhood is back with a new report, "The Crisis in Early Education: A Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure." It looks at the rise (and harm) of not only academic kindergarten but academic preschool. Nancy Carlsson-Paige, for instance, found this sad scene on a recent trip to kindergarten and pre-k classrooms in Miami.

[Classrooms] were barren--no materials whatsoever. No blocks, no easels, no play activities. Bare walls. No art.

Children sat at tables while the teacher did individual testing. The kids were copying from the board: "Class Rules. Sit in your seat. Raise your hand to talk. Keep your hands and feet to yourself."

One little boy sat quietly crying in his seat. I looked at his paper. There were messy letters trailing across the page. Clearly, he was nowhere near this task developmentally. It broke my heart to be unable to help him.

This is the woman who  raised Matt Damon, so she must know what she's talking about (she's also one of the country's foremost experts on early education and author of  Taking Back Childhood among other things, but that wouldn't catch your attention in the same way, would it?).

The new Alliance for Childhood report opens with this quote:

While early formal instruction may appear to show good test results at first, in the long term, in follow-up studies, such children have had no advantage. On the contrary, especially in the case of boys, subjection to early formal instruction increases their tendency to distance themselves from the goals of schools, and to drop out of it, either mentally or physically.

I’ve written before that guiding principle, whether we’re talking about sexualization or accelerated academics, is that kids should be allowed to be KIDS as long as possible. Our task as parents is to  resist  everything in this souped-up culture that pushes them beyond their natural development. Our babies only so few years in which they can simply play. Their internally-driven creativity, their fantasy lives, their imaginations are a precious resource that should be cultivated for their own sake, not harnessed to sell products or to create some super-kid who is smarter/faster/earns more money.

So, I'll say it again, and as often as I must:  play, draw, read, build, go for walks, stare at ants, climb, jump, pretend….Repeat (for as long as possible).

And for goodness sake, send your child to a play-based preschool!!!

 

Who Needs Lego Friends When You Have a Lego Granddaughter?

A reader named Leslie, whose daughter, Callie's eloquent letter about Lego's new "Friends" line was summarily dismissed by that company, just sent me this photo:  

 

Callie and her cousins made this Lego "birthday cake"  for their grandmother, who is unable to eat the real deal.  Here's the family of girls and women preparing to blow out the candles. I bet they wished for creative, open-ended toys that didn't stereotype and hyper-segment children.

And guess what, Lego? THIS IS WHAT BEAUTIFUL LOOKS LIKE!!!!!!

Of Legos and Lincoln Logs, Or: Whatever Happened to 1972?

In the wake of  my recent NY Times editorial on nature, nurture, gender and the new Lego Friends line, a reader sent me this photo of the gifts she and her husband gave their 5-year-old son this Christmas: her husband's old Lincoln Log and Tinker Toy sets. He was born in 1972. He (the husband/father) was born in 1972.

The Tinkertoys package explicitly states, "For boys and girls." And note the girl happily building a ranch on the cover of the  Lincoln Logs!

Their son's response: "I didn't know these were for girls, too!" Point made (my point, that is).

FYI, you can still get gender-neutral Lincoln Logs (with pictures of cabins on the box, no kids shown). But there is also this set:

 

Again, necessary? Why? How does it affect the potential for boys and girls to interact? Play together? Is it relegating girls to pink and pretty or just meeting them half-way?

You can also get  a girls' version of "classic"  Tinker Toys.

 

It allows them to construct, "a flower garden, a butterfly a microphone and more!"

Among other things I wonder: what's the microphone got to do with it?

Crotchless Panties and GAP short-shorts

By now you've all heard about  the Colorado mall store "Kids and Teens" that was selling crotchless thong panties for 7-year-olds (in addition to everything else, how does a crotchless thong panty WORK, exactly, I mean engineering-wise? I don't get it). It's unfathomable that someone came up with that product. It's unfathomable that some buyer in Colorado thought it was, what, cute? A good idea to put in a store? And the store's abhorrent defense was that it somehow got in there because they also sell items to teens. As if it would be somehow understandable if they were marketing crotchless thong panties (heretofore known as CTP)  to your 13-year-old. Or your 15-year-old. Or your 16-year-old. And why should "kids" be shopping in the same store as "teens" to begin with? Is that appropriate? Obviously, this particular incidence of age compression was so far over the line that parents flipped out, the media got on board, and the product was pulled. So the story ended similarly to the Abercrombie push-up bikini episode or the J.C. Penney's "I'm to pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me" t-shirt debacle or the KIA kiddie-porn ad.

But you can bet there will be more of these scandals. They pop up nearly weekly, whether it's lingerie for 10-year-olds, the hyper-sexualized rendering of Dakota Fanning in a perfume ad, Botox for baby beauty queens or Walmart's makeup line for 8-12 year olds (don't worry, Mom, it's non-toxic!). When they do pop up, much hand-wringing and righteousindignation ensues and I'm all for that. But I'd urge you to remember these do not and can not happen in a vacuum. There is a continuum of  products and images marketed to girls and their parents that made these obviously over-the-line items POSSIBLE. The risk of focusing on the Big Bad is that we become desensitized to the every day.

Consider, for example, this outfit from the current GAP "North Star" girls' collection.

Under the amusing headline, "Gap Kids Recommends Little Girls Eschew Pants This Winter" a Jezebel blogger writes:

I'm not sure what's more WTF about it — the weird insistence on "sexiness" or its stunning lack of practicality. What's a kid supposed to do with an outfit like this? Not go sledding, snow angeling, or ice skating, that's for damn sure. The implied sweater-wearing also means that more high energy indoor activities, like discoing or, uh, present opening would render the wearer sweaty. This is just a recipe for un-fun times.

I suppose this is what happens when five-year-olds are allowed to dress themselves using only Bratz clothing.

Does this  fall into the CTP category? No. But it does fall into the nearly 25% of clothing for girls aged 6-12 that contains elements that are both childlike and sexualized. As I've written before, citing a study released last summer, only 4% of girls' clothing is fully, overtly sexualized (the CTP being a case in point). I don't know who, beyond Mickie Wood, is buying that stuff. And nearly 2/3 of girls' clothing is considered entirely childlike. It's this 25% (more in stores like Abercrombie Kids and Justice) that mixes the message that I consider most toxic. Those are the things, to my mind, we REALLY need to examine and protest--and the mash-up is what makes that so hard to do.

Must go. Dog is chewing my desk. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

Pearls From Ruby

The best thing we can do for our daughters is to teach them, as they get older, to make their own courageous way through the woods of the girlie-girl culture. So what a thrill to read this  blog post by my friend Marcelle's 11-year-old daughter, Ruby. Ruby wrote it after she and her mom, who live in New York City,  went shopping for her Halloween costume. Needless to say, they didn't find one, though Ruby sure found her voice. It's one thing for us adults to talk to girls about the creepy (not in a good way) costumes, but how much more powerful to hear it from a peer!

So Ruby and Marcelle, you are my sheroes and here, with her permission, is Ruby's post:

TRICKS AND TREATS: RETURN TO INNOCENCE

by Ruby Karp

So, you know what time it is! That’s right, Halloween! When you dress up as a scary ghost or zombie, right? Not for girls my age (I’m 11, in sixth grade). For us, it is dress-up-in-an-inappropriate-way time. And I know I am in that inbetween age, where I’m still a kid and almost something else, but seriously. I love Halloween, I love trick-or-treating with my friends, I love the way the neighborhood turns into a magical place with cobwebs and spiders and everything spooky-safe. And ever since I was 7, it’s been hard for me to find a costume that isn’t above the knee or low-cut or has a choker involved.

Like this year, I wanted to be Elmo and my friend was going to be Cookie Monster but where were the fuzzy costumes? NOWHERE. Instead of fun costumes that I would have a hard time choosing between, I found super-short dresses that aren’t cute, they’re inappropriate for me. How does Snow White turn into a girl in a sports bra that’s blue and a yellow mini skirt and super high heels that are bright red? Tell me, how is that Snow White? I looked at a Little Red Riding Hood costume and it went up really high. I mean, the list goes on and on.

And you know, instead of just telling my mom, “So this year, I want to be a Ghoulish Girl,” and going to the costume store and picking it out in five minutes, we have to search for something and my mom has to inspect it! Can you imagine trying to decide what costume is sexy and which is not with your mom? Do you know how embarrassing that is? Well, believe it. I have to do that every Halloween. Now, it isn’t easy when my best friend and me had been planning to be something together and your mom tells you cant because it is too-something-gross. So this year, I’m borrowing my friend’s old pumpkin costume that her Mom sewed for her (yep, she’s got a Super-Mom) and it is perfect for me, a girl of 11 years old.

It is sad how for Halloween, girls have less and less options on what to wear, that they have to choose between ick and ickier. I used to love Halloween because you could dress up in public  like a fairy and not look weird! Now, when I look for a fairy costume, I look a little too weird. Why do costume-makers want girls looking like this? What is going to happen to the next generation? Maybe the GOOD costumes won’t even be here anymore, the only choice a 10-year-old girl will have is to be something with the word “vixen” or “sexy” in the costume title. Sigh. I can only hope for the best.

I have to search real hard for a good non-weird costume. And it shouldn’t be this hard. Really, the only thing we can do is hope that the costumes go back to the way they were when I was little, when you could be a Princess or a Baseball Player and not look like you were out to be anything else but that. And more appropriate. NOTE TO PEOPLE WHO MAKE THESE COUSTUMES: we are not 25. We are 11. Start making costumes like it. AND FAST.

What a gem. Thanks, Ruby!

Eden Wood, Wouldn't She?

Even though I don't like to harp on Toddlers & Tiaras contestants (because as I always say, looking at their extreme behavior desensitizes us to the every day sexualization "regular" girls face, plus they get enough PR) I can't help but be fascinated--and concerned--by the trajectory of Eden Wood. I wrote about her and her mother, Mickie, in CAMD back when Eden was four. Now she's quit pageants and, according to People,  it's become clear as to why: she's got bigger things going on. This week 6-year-old Eden made her Fashion Week debut modeling footwear for the kids' line Cicciabella:

 

Ahem. You're supposed to be looking at the boots.

The evening's hostess, Kelley Bensimon  (could this GET any weirder?) said Eden was just having a "fun girly moment." Because, you know, she's wearing PINK and all. But I guess that's the kind of comment  you get when you look to   a Real Housewives cast member for insight.

According to People, the fashion crowd adores Eden. No surprise--the industry has a history of sexing-up little girls   from Brooke Shields (here at age 10--a cropped version from the infamous nude photo series by Gary Gross):

to 15-year-old Jaime King (taken by Nan Goldin backstage during a Lagerfeld show):

to that 10-year-old in French Vogue that caused all the fuss recently. It's part of the fabric of contemporary fashion to make little girls look like sexual adult women, then urge adult women to try to look like those little girls.

Heads are messed with on all sides of that equation.

And yes, I'm aware that the two photos above are taken by real-and-true artists while the Eden Wood shots were taken by, you know, whomever. That is not the point.

It's not just fashion-types who are noticing Eden. People says in addition to her  "high-end photo shoot," and being dressed by Marc Jacobs, she is going to be a guess star on the TLC series, Next Great Baker where they will make a cake in her image. According to her mom, she also has two animated films and a live action film lined up as well.

I'm starting to become kind of interested to see what happens to Eden over time. Not that I wish it on her, but if any child is set up to completely implode in a Lohan-esque way it's this one.

At the same time, if Eden (or, more pointedly, her mother) is truly successful at becoming a star through the one-two punch of  premature sexualization and self-objectification, that will, no doubt, become a strategy for others. Eventually, it could become  normalized: imitated until it is mundane, even expected not only for those pursuing show business, but for all girls, at least to a degree. That's the path we've been on, though it's been slower. We will stop seeing it as unusual. And then, to get her own shot at the limelight, the next ambitious little girl's mother will have to figure out how to top it.

Man, I'd like to know what Shirley Temple thinks of all this.

Here's My 8-Year-Old's Halloween Costume

Ta da!  

Ha! I'm just messing with you. Over my undead body would my kid be wearing this Clawdeen Wolf  Monster High costume, available at  Toys'R'Us, in sizes "recommended" for  4-6 year olds.  So all that rot you Monster High fans are telling me about how the line isn't MEANT for little girls? Tell that to Mattel. Or to the 4-year-old rocking a  Frankie Stein costume.

 

Or the kindergartner who wants to dress as Cleo de Nile:

 

 

Now THAT'S scary.

Look,  I don't mean to pick on Monster High. These images just happened to come across my desk today.

A reader recently sent me this one:

Helloooo, Kitty!

It's no secret that  little girls' Halloween costumes have gotten sexier. The topic comes up in the media every October. But the issue is so much bigger. Two of the world's wisest  women,  Deb Tolman and Lyn Mikel Brown broke it down for HuffPo last year. Among their observations:

 

The constant visual cues suggesting there are only two options for what girls can be, not just on Halloween but every other day of the year, reflect a media and marketing machine that pits one type against the other, even as it sides with the consumer version of sexy. The reality, of course, is that there really are more choices. Girls can be whatever they want to be, but they have to be encouraged to find out what that is, and the media messages with which they are bombarded make that a harder task each passing day.

But for various reasons, we as parents have not said "no" to the retailers, because too often in this ever more consumer-driven society, we do not say "no" to our children. We're afraid of what can happen when our children don't conform or we resist too much, like the six year-old kicked off her cheerleading team in Michigan because her parents protested a sexualized cheer.

It's easy for moralizers to blame parents for saying yes and to blame girls for wanting and wearing. Placing the blame on individuals deflects attention from the rampant commercialization of childhood and the pornification of products marketers peddle to younger and younger children. Sure, we can say no. Many of us do. But we're up against corporations willing to invest billions to cultivate our child's desire for the right look and heighten their anxiety about not matching up.

Halloween can be just one more reminder that a girl has to be all sexy or she's nothing, or it can be an opportunity to explore what lies between the extremes. Help her discover all the amazing options available. Challenge her to come up with the most fun, fascinating, silly, scary costumes she can imagine. Unleash her creativity. Make it a contest, make it a party, make it a school challenge. Like the Connecticut cheerleaders who refused to wear skimpy uniforms that undermined their ability to perform, like the Texas teens who decided not to wear makeup to school, encourage her to make news with a protest, a petition, or a video that can go viral.

Raising a daughter with a chance at sexual health and sexual literacy is difficult enough; when sex is overused to oversell, it can feel like a Sisyphean task. It is more urgent than ever that we encourage girls to use their power to pull back the curtain on the paucity of what has been marketed as "choice" and reclaim what it means to be a girl.

So the problem is not Halloween. It's not Toddlers & Tiaras. It's the messaging that surrounds girls in much more mundane ways EVERY SINGLE DAY that reduce them and define them by their bodies. Yet, there are certain times, like Halloween, when those messages grow more intense. So how about it? Rather than bemoaning what's happening yet again, let's us adults do our job and get together, talk to one another and say NO!

Of course if you know my motto--fight fun with fun--you know "no" is not enough. How about telling your daughter to (or helping her to or challenging her to) make her own costume?  I suck at crafts, truly, but I overcame last year and got out my safety pins and glue gun and some muslin  to make a reasonably credible Athena costume. And the year before that, heck, my girl tossed on her karate gi and stuck a wooden sword in her belt and said she was a "martial arts girl." It  wasn't the most inspired  costume out there BUT SO THE F*CK WHAT???? She is a KID. It's Trick-or-Treat, not Project Runway (though speaking of runways, maybe a pilot??).

It would be invading her privacy to give away what she's going as this year (though she's been talking about it since 12:01 am on Nov 1 2010). But I guarantee you this: her costume will be  warm enough to wear outside without a jacket.

 

 

One from the OMG Files--and One from the TG (Thank God) Files, Too

Okay, yeah, just when I think Toddlers & Tiaras can't sink any lower, it does. And though I think the whole T&T business detracts from the real and (God, I hope) more subtle forms of sexualization most girls face every day it also desensitizes us and, as I have said (and said and said) can let viewers off the hook with its extremity, making us think, even unconsciously, "well, nothing I do with my daughter is THAT bad." Still, posting this video of a 4-year-old with FAKE BOOBS YES I SAID FAKE BOOBS is irresistible. They got me. I can't help it.

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But to do penance for posting that--and because it's FAR more important and worthy and necessary and totally mandatory viewing, here is a clip of my aforementioned Shero, La Rachel Simmons on the same show talking about the updated version of her classic, required-reading bible on girls' social dynamics, Odd Girl Out. Watch the vid. Buy the book, unlike the T&T stuff, you won't be sorry afterwards.

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Just as an aside, I wonder why the ad before this video is for men's shaving gel. Whatever.

 

KIA Ad: Cannes Award is Rescinded!!

Final word on the loathsome pedophiliac ad for Kia cars that I've blogged about several times. It has taken awhile, but the Cannes Festival stripped the agency that created it of both its Silver Lion Award for that iteration and the Bronze Lion for the Princess version. The upside: folks like us kicked up enough of a ruckus that KIA (which apparently never approved the ads) and Cannes had to act. The downside: they're not so much protesting the ads' content as that the Brazillian company that created them broke the rules: the ad was never approved by the company it purported to represent and never ran.

Meanwhile, it turns out that that same company was responsible for an earlier scandal--this 9-11 themed ad for the WWF:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mxDPhVc9iM

So their tastelessness apparently transcends gender. The people responsible for the ad are banned from next year's competition as well, though then they can come back.

Meanwhile, I still wonder--what's with those judges?

 

Being Part of the Solution for Girls AND Boys

Let's take a break from chronicling the problems today and--hey. in honor of women's soccer (woot!)--be a little solution-oriented. I just spoke with the magnificent Diane Levin and she mentioned an organization she's founded: TRUCE, which stands for Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment.

Our mission is to raise public awareness about the harmful influence of unhealthy children's entertainment and to provide information about toys and activities that promote healthy play. We are working to eliminate marketing aimed at exploiting children and to reduce the sale of toys and entertainment that promotes violence.

This is not specifically about girls--it's about the unhealthy messages beamed at both sexes. On their web site they have a fabulous set of action guides teachers and parents can download on play, toys and media for infants, toddlers and young children. They're totally grass roots, so if you do it and like it PASS THE INFORMATION ALONG!

I'll put this on my resources list, too!

Happy Friday!

 

 

It's Not JUST about Sexualization

Today's New York Times has an article about Kumon academic "enrichment" programs for preschoolers. At best, the article concludes, they are useless. At worst, they undermine kids' love of learning. I wrote a piece about this trend--accelerated academics among preschoolers and kindergartners--in the New York Times Magazine in 2009. It was called Kindergarten Cram. I am adamantly against accelerated kindergarten and preschool--and research backs me up. Sometimes I don't know whether I'm liberal, conservative or just radical on these issues, but my core philosophy is that kids should be allowed to be KIDS as long as possible and that we need to push back against everything in this culture that imposes traits that are beyond their years--whether it's sexualization, mind-numbing computer games, massively licensed products that co-opt their imagination, flash card drills or daily homework. They only have a few years in which they can simply play. The internally-driven creativity, fantasy play, imagination of small children is a precious resource and should be cultivated for its own sake, not to create some super-kid who is smarter/faster/earns more money. It's about "enriching" their HUMANITY not their elementary school grades.

Play, draw, read, go for walks, stare at ants, climb, jump, pretend....Repeat (for as long as possible).

I especially love Alliance for Childhood on these issues.

Also Alfie Kohn, a voice of reason in education. And Howard Gardner at Project Zero