"Sociological Images": Will You Marry Me?

Sociological Images is ruining my life. I can spend hours looking at their images tracking....well, everything  (God and the U.S. dollar) but especially the evolution of gender:  there's their current Lego  series; the periodic rants on  pet ownership; how  video game ads have changedmen's/women's toilet signs from around the world and the take-down of Zoe Deschanel-style "manic Pixie dream girls" (a term coined by Nathan Rabin at A.V. Club  and further explained by Feminist Frequency). Things you never think about, never notice, but that shape us all the same. Love. LOVE!!! One of my favorites, is from about a year ago:  a round-up of products for kids. Among them,  onesies that include a list of "ingredients" on the tummy. What are boys made of? Love, energy, and dirt:

And girls?  love, beauty and kindness:


Then there's this photo of ride-aboard trucks at Target:

The boys’ version is red and is, appropriately, called a Lil’ Fire Truck Ride-On. The pink version, on the other hand, is the Lil’ Princess Ride-On — because apparently there’s no appropriate vehicle to define as “girly,” so the easiest way to gender the toy was just to call it a thing for princesses and be done with it:


And finally a set of receiving blankies for newborns. Blue for the "little man":

and pink for the "little cupcake" (in case, as SI quips, your baked goods are cold)

Again, I thought this was 2012, but apparently we have all been catapulted back to the set of "Mad Men."

Check out the site yourself and you too can feel vaguely productive while getting no work done....

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!

Bucking the Tide or Caught in the Undertow?

Not sure how I feel about this new Tide ad in which girlie-girl Mom tries to come to terms with her non-conforming daughter . Like it? Hate it? Troubled by it? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9LTRbWsGOI

Jezebel finds it "a 30 second cocktail of gender stereotypes" that are hard to decipher:

Are we supposed to relate to the uptight, creepy mom who wishes her daughter wore pink, or laugh at her for being neurotic and over-the-top girly? At worst, the ad plays on the fearswe're supposed to have about girls like Shiloh, and at best it's just uncomfortable to watch.

Don't know whether I agree. I do relate to the idea that your child can sometimes, in her individuality, do things that make you wildly uncomfortable and that you struggle to accept. I also think if this were flipped and it was a pink boy on the rug playing the ad would've been more controversial. And I have certainly seen moms uncomfortable with kids who don't hew to stereotypes. So what IS going on here? Progressive? Regressive? Both??????

Thanks to my Obie-dobie Stella Kim for alerting me to this one.




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!



I Heart This Campaign

I've been critical of the Keep-a-Breast Foundation's "I Heart Boobies" bracelets campaign. But I also am a person who gives credit where it's due, and I very much like the early style, tone and message of their non-toxic revolution campaign.

I especially hope they focus on educating girls about potential carcinogens in cosmetics--during and just after puberty they are especially vulnerable. And short of questioning the beauty industry  in general, I at least hope KABF can make clean makeup the cool choice. And I'm not talking Cover Girl Clean (for you who grew up in the 1970s).

So we'll see. I'm rooting for them on this one. Though it does seem ironic that all those bracelets will end up as....land fill.

The Princess & The Science Museum

We live walking distance from Lawrence Hall of Science. It is, in fact, the only thing we can walk to from our house, except for nature and it is really hard to find a good cup of coffee in nature. Anyway, all this by way of saying we spend a LOT of time at the science museum. In addition to the rotating exhibits, there is a back area where there are lots of activities involving sand and water and tectonic plate motion (California, remember?) but are mostly an excuse for kids to run in circles until they're tuckered out. In the middle of all of this is a big, meandering pond with a bunch of flat rocks one can leapfrog among and plastic dividers to raise and lower to create currents, dams etc.

Most of the girls running and jumping around were wearing leggings or jeans with t-shirts and sneakers. But there was one little girl, around 6 I'd guess, who was wearing pink flip-flops with 2" soles, a "twirly" red dress and a pink headband with a gigantic bow on it that was too big for her head and required constant tending (plus her hair was long and thick and blew in her face, blinding her). It wasn't that she couldn't play. She played. But she wouldn't/couldn't/didn't leap from rock to rock and certainly wasn't making the big, scary jumps the other girls were making. She watched, but stayed safe, going among 4 rocks, playing more quietly, doing less, stopping often to adjust her hair or clothes. If she were the only girl out there, I'd probably think, "Well, there's a girl playing at the SCIENCE museum in her princess regalia--she's having it both ways!" But the fact was, compared to the other girls, her clothing and hair ornament were circumscribing and completely defining her play. She couldn't move freely. She took fewer risks. She took up less space. She explored less of the area. And she didn't, unlike the other girls, play with the boys because she couldn't keep up. The rest of the kids--girls and boys-- were all playing and working beautifully together making a dam. In fact, I was really touched at how kind the kids were being to one another, across age and sex. They weren't EXCLUDING her, she just couldn't reasonably join in--not given the distance between the rocks, her inability to run or jump in those shoes, her headband popping off at the slightest motion.

Maybe that girl had fun. Maybe she didn't care. But her choice of activity, experimentation, physicality and interaction with other children had all been defined by limitations of her outfit, by the need, at six years old, to look as pretty as a princess....

Ta-Tas Talk Back

Elizabeth Rosenberg of "Save the Ta-Tas" wrote to me with her critique of my recent Los Angeles Times editorial, "The Trouble with Those Boobies Bracelets." I told her I would post her response. So you'll find it below. But I still take issue: for one thing it says on the top of the site that a mere 25% of revenue goes to cancer-related causes. Compare that to National Breast Cancer Coalition where 86% goes to programs. So where's that other 75% going?

Elizabeth says:

"It pains me when I see that Save the Ta-tas® has been grouped with organizations that do very little to fight the war against cancer.    The ta-tas® Brand (est. 2004) and Save the Ta-tas® Foundation (est. 2008) were created by Julia Fikse, as a way to fight breast cancer using laughter and fun.  Julia’s message of hope and humor has reached thousands of victims and survivors of breast cancer and has helped them to fight the disease with both strength and courage. Members of Fikse’s own family have battled with breast cancer and were the inspiration for Julia launching this company and foundation.  (You can see that laughter really does heal here :http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,458625,00.html)

Formerly a designer for Jessica McClintock, Levi and Adidas, Julia started Save the ta-tas as the perfect combination of fashion design and supporting a cause. UNLIKE ANY OTHER BREAST CANCER GROUP, The ta-tas® Brand donates nearly 50% of their profits to the cause and over the last six years has donated $650,000+ to fund the fight against cancer, including innovative cancer research.

The Save the Ta-tas® Foundation currently funds three independent researchers who are working everyday to find a cure (http://www.savethetatas.com/index.php/foundation/).  The foundation is also in its 2nd year of an annual scholarship program where scholarships are given to high school seniors and college students who are currently battling or who have won the battle against cancer.  (http://www.savethetatas.com/index.php/community/scholarship/)"

Your thoughts?

Are You Racing for a CURE? Think again....

Just read on Komen Watch that only 15% of the money YOU give to/raise for the Komen Foundation goes to research. That's a REDUCTION of $17 million since 2010. It's also 4% less than the amount going to their administrative expenses. And the bulk? Goes to "education," which, guess what--nice but won't move that needle even a tiny bit closer to a cure. I think they might need to hear from us..... Here's a pie chart of last year's funding, thanks to The Cancer Culture Chronicles

When Men Were Men and Boys Were Girls

Fox TV is in its typical swivet over a J. Crew catalog image of a mom painting her son's toenails (gasp) pink. "it may be fun and games now, Jenna," frets Dr Keith Ablow, "but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your 'innocent' pleasure. This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such 'psychological sterilization' [my word choice] is not known."

Good junk phrase coinage, there, Keith: Psychological Sterilization. Zowie.

So anyone who reads my work and read CAMD knows that pink, when it was introduced in 1900, was for B*O*Y*S*, seen as a masculine version of red. Blue, which connoted faith, constancy and the Virgin Mary was for girls. Take a look at the old Disney movies--Cinderella, Alice, Wendy, Mary Poppins all wear blue. Michael, the littlest boy in Peter Pan, wears pink pjs. The switchover didn't really kick in until well into the 1940s and the assumption that loving pink was somehow genetic to females and that girls must be steeped in it for the first five years of life didn't start until the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, check out this photo:

Cute, isn't she? Pretty long hair. Lovely white skirt. Be-feathered hat. And those patent leather Mary Janes! What a sweet little girl!


Hold up. That's the 32nd President of these United States--Franklin Delano Roosevelt--at age 2 1/2 in 1884. Isn't he dreamy?

That's how they dressed little boys then. And, please note FOX, not just the Democrats. In case Keith needs any more convincing, according to my kids, clothing and gender guru Jo Paoletti, there is a lovely photo of Michael Reagan, son of another POTUS and toxic conservative commentator, as a young'un dressed in an all-pink suit. And he's not the son who grew up gay.....

More on the history of pink and blue at Jo's blog, in CAMD and in this Smithsonian online piece (thanks to Scott Newstok for tipping me off to it!) And the inimitable Melanie Klein wrote this elegant post on the J. Crew photo on Feminist Fatale


If I Were to Create a Parody of Princess Toys This Would Be It

So I saw this toy in radio shack. Teacup Piggies. They are little pink pigs with pink and white bows and an outfit (in the case of this one, a leotard with a purple top and silver lame tutu). Their gimmick is that they talk when you press their noses. Here is what the one named “Princess” says. “My name is Princess. I want to be a princess!”

“I’m going to marry a Prince!”

“I’m going to live in a beautiful castle!”

“I want to have a party” (said sort of whiny)

“Can I wear my new outfit to the party?”

“I like your outfit.”

“Would you take a picture of me?”

I swear to God. Oh, and did I mention that before every phrase she OINKS??????