Alone in a Room on National TV

So you know when you're watching CNN or MSNBC or FOX news orPBS or whatever and they have some talking head on a monitor chatting with the host? Well here's how they do that when you're the guest: you are sitting alone in a black-walled, darkened room staring into a camera lens. You do not see the host. You do not see the other guests. You do not see yourself. You have no idea whether or not you are on-screen at any given moment. You hear the host and the other guests through the earpiece and you talk earnestly at nothing at all. It's a seriously weird deal. But that's how it goes, especially if you live in California and most of the media is in New York. I never get used to it. But I did it the other night because I was asked to be on the PBS News Hour with Gwen Eiffel and, really, how cool is that? Anyway, here's how it came out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk_J6l_T2Jg&list=PLgawtcOBBjr-JeJG7XTRqPO-oeuWZK1De&index=2

Whoa. Hell no. Neigh, My Little Pony!

I'm trying to stay off blogging and social media for awhile while I launch a new project (procrastination is just too tempting) so this will be brief. I don't think there is much to say anyway except, whoa! Hell no! NEIGH to the evolution of my little pony!  

 

Here's Huffington Post on the new MLP, featuring a quote from me. I had a lot more to say, obviously, but what they quoted was certainly blunt.

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

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:

This Post Makes Me Hungry...And Sad.

A note on this blog post: I have been discussing Candyland for years--since I got it for my own daughter. I also mention it in my talks. It is one of the best examples, along with the other toys linked below, of sexualization of toy culture. This particular post was inspired by a post on my facebook page from reader Lisa Marie Norton, whom I don't personally know. In trying to write a quick post, I pulled photos from Google that were from Rachel Marie Stone's blog. She and her followers have been unhappy with that and I apologize. I was sloppy. I don't think of blogging the way I do my articles and books in terms of journalistic standards, mostly because it seems bloggers themselves don't; it is a new world to me.  At any rate, I hope the changes below will make amends. That said, please understand that my ideas are my own, they are long-standing (on Candyland, toys, and the sexualization of girlhood--the links in this very blog post are a trail of crumbs). I often see people writing identical revelations about princesses without quoting me. That is their prerogative. There were also many great books about the sexualization of girlhood before mine (Packaging Girlhood, So Sexy So Soon, The Lolita Effect). Mine was neither the first nor the definitive word on any of the issues I covered. Our voices all play a role in change. Thank you.  A reader on Facebook commented on how the imagery on the board game Candyland has changed over the years. I sometimes bring that up when I give talks but since I've got your attention, let's just take a peek together, shall we? Here is the original Candyland, circa 1949.

 Yum. Here is the game in 1978:

I dreamed of those ice cream floats....

Update: I hadn't realized that the photo above is a reproduction of the Candyland board done by Peggy Dembicer in seeds and beads! You MUST check out the original, it is stunning!

Things begin to change more significantly in the 1980s. That's when Candyland ditched the Dick-and-Jane outfits for generic his-and-hers overalls:

They also added some friendly candy characters: Plumpy with his plum tree, Mr. Candy Cane, Gramma Nutt, Princess Lolly, Queen Frostine. More on  some of them in a moment.

Then we hit 2010. Here's a photo from Rachel Marie Stone's blog on the game's evolution. On the upside, as she points out, Milton Bradley finally recognized, at least in some versions, that there are children who are not white and blonde (nothing against blonde white kids--I was one myself--I'm just saying):

Beyond that, though...Yikes! Check out today's board!

In case you can't see it: here's the new Princess Lolly (again--took the photos below from Stone):

And Queen Frostine turned into a Bratz doll:

Stuff changes. I know that. What played in 1949 is not going to play in 2013. Still, when the changes are all about skinny and pretty (and exponentially larger portion sizes--there's a mixed message for you) you have to be leery.  In addition to those characters, the game pieces themselves have slimmed down. If you look at more of Stone's photos, you'll see that Gramma Nutt has been replaced by the more fashionable Gramma Gooey (who has definitely had some work done) and Mr. Candy Cane has been replaced by some guy--maybe a prince?--whose giant muscles are only exceeded by the size of his triple-decker ice cream cone.

I've written before about other classic toys that have, without our notice, had skinny makeovers.  When our kids play with toys that we played with we assume that they are the same toys. It's kind of back to the Disney Princess thing--I watched "Cinderella" as a kid, so what's the big deal? The big deal is that it's not the same at all. It just has the same name. And the images our kids--boys and girls--are exposed to from the youngest ages are so distorted and so often sexualized (I mean, hubba-hubba Queen Frostine!) that it is no wonder that girls are self-sexualizing ever earlier. (Note that in the study cited in that last link they are using the different size game pieces from Candyland as well as Chutes and Ladders).

I think a lot about something that Gary Cross, an historian of childhood, once told me: that toys traditionally have communicated to children our expectations of their adult roles. What are we telling girls we expect of them with this?

Another update: I Googled  Candyland Costumes, just out of curiosity. Pretty good illustration of how we see girls and women--consumable consumers:

Little girl Candyland costume:

 

"Sassy" Candyland costume:

Disney Princesses Circa 2012: I'm Too Sexy For My Gown?

So, while we're on the topic of how the Disney Princesses--the brand that parents go to to stave off premature sexualization of their innocent girls--are changing, let's take a look at Belle. Recall that the message of "Beauty and the Beast" is that true beauty comes from within (though you could also argue it teaches that if you hang out with an abusive guy long enough he turns into a prince...). Now let's look at how Belle has changed since her debut in 1991. Here she is in the movie, just a girl and her book, singing, as one does:

Here she is, also in the movie, in her iconic yellow gown, the one that has made countless preschool girls rip the necks of their t-shirts because "princesses don't show their shoulders" (people tell me that all the time):

 

Now here is the BRAND NEW BELLE circa 2012 from the Disney store site, pictured on a girl's nightie:

 

Whoa. Hotsy-totsy. Like  I want my 4-year-old wearing pajamas with THAT expression on them.

Moving on, check out Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) circa 1959:

 

And the new, 2012, souped-up version:

 

Nor is it jus t classic princesses that have been remade. Here's Rapunzel in her movie:

 

And Rapunzel on the Disney Store site:

 

Subtler remake, but big on the vapid.

So, still think Disney is the antidote to girls' early sexualization? Or is it the enabler?

As always, I don't think Disney is involve in a CONSPIRACY or anything. The company's wares reflect the changing taste of their demographic and it's the  change that's disturbing. It's also right in line with a study of published last month in the journal Sex Roles  on self-sexualization among elementary school-aged girls.  According to a report in Live Science, psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois used paper dolls to assess self-sexualization in sixty girls ages 6-9 recruited largely from public schools. The girls were shown two dolls: one was dressed in tight, revealing "sexy" clothes and the other in a trendy but covered-up, loose outfit. Both dolls, as you can see below, were skinny and would be considered "pretty" by little girls.

Using a different set of dolls for each question, the researchers then asked each girl to choose the doll that: looked like herself, looked how she wanted to look, was the popular girl in school, was the girl she wanted to play with.

In every category, the girls most often chose the "sexy" doll.

The results were most significant in two categories: 68 percent of the girls said the doll looked how she wanted to look, and 72 percent said she was more popular than the non-sexy doll.

"It's very possible that girls wanted to look like the sexy doll because they believe sexiness leads to popularity, which comes with many social advantages," explained lead researcher Christy Starr, who was particularly surprised at how many 6- to 7-year-old girls chose the sexualized doll as their ideal self.

Other studies have found that sexiness boosts popularity among girls but not boys. "Although the desire to be popular is not uniquely female, the pressure to be sexy in order to be popular is."

Back to Disney. The new princesses reflect the changes in how girls' see themselves (and what they want mirrored in the toys they choose--not only the new princesses but Monster High, and the upcoming Bratzillaz and Novistars dolls). As the first foray into popular culture, the new royalty--which Disney is the first to call "aspirational"-- also both prime girls for  that sexualization and fuel the trend.

As always, it's up to those of us who care about girls well-being--parents, siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents, teachers, advocates, friends, counselors etc etc--to raise the alarm about what's going on and its impact. And to fight back hard and with lots and lots of fun.

 

 

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.

"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....

Prom Plastic Surgery and Girls SPARKing a Difference

When  we called people "plastic" back when I was a teenager, it was an insult. These days, apparently, not so much. Joe Kelly, over at The Dadman (an expert on how to father girls, as well as husband to Nancy Gruver, founder of New Moon Girls online community/magazine) sent me a press release discussing the 71% rise in chin implants in 2011, in large part driven by teen girls asking to have the procedure done...for prom. That's right, 20, 680 surgical procedures at $3,500-$7,000 a pop were performed last year. There has also been a spike in "ear-pinning," (for those up-dos) which Darrick Antell, a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, informally called "Clark Gable Wings." Antell told the Sunday Times:

At proms in the past, teens would line up for photographs and face the camera. But the rise of more informal images, captured during video chats or by smartphones when they are leaning over a buffet maybe, has shown them angles of their face they had not seen in a mirror.

Oh, well in that case....

The HuffPo asks in a poll, "Do you think getting plastic surgery for prom is excessive?"

Like we need to vote on that????

Whether or not surgery for prom (or any teen cosmetic surgery. Or, for that matter, any cosmetic surgery on anyone) is excessive is not really the question. Nor do I want to get into a debate over what those girls' parents were thinking. The issue to ponder  is, how, even as girls are higher achieving and better-educated than ever, did we get to this point? And how do we pull back from the brink?

Well, for starters, the culture that bombards girls  at unprecedentedly early ages  with an unattainable ideal of beauty, pressures them to define themselves from the outside in, tells them that the most important thing to their well-being and success is being the Fairest of them All. They learn over and over whether from their baby rattles or their  science kits or their flower seeds that who they are is how they look.

What's more, these days, even the people who embody the unattainable, ideal haven't actually attained it. That's different than when I was young, and it messes with girls' heads. One way to combat that is to make sure EVERY girl (and EVERY woman and EVERY boy and EVERY man) sees and discusses the Dove "Evolution" video. I've shown it to my daughter repeatedly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hibyAJOSW8U

Another good clip, especially for boys:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5_AFk9aOAA

We can also support girls who are trying to make change. Here's an opportunity: 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, a SPARK team member, has started a petition to ask Seventeen Magazine to run one--JUST ONE--un-altered photo spread a month in the publication.

I was a rabid fan of Seventeen as a girl. I sat down with my monthly issue the minute I got it and read it cover-to-cover. I mean that literally. I read every ad. I read every article. I didn't jump to the back when an article did, I waited until I got to that page. I kept every issue--I think I may still have them--in a footlocker in my green room with its white patent crinkle-leather beanbag chair and its green swag lamp. I knew all the bylines and the names of all the models. Years later, I met folks who had written for the publication and they were shocked when I could quote their pieces back to them. (You can read about a modern girl's love/hate with the iconic girl mag here). Seventeen is part of why I became a writer. It may also have contributed to the eating disorder I struggled with as a teen. So I don't take the magazine's influence lightly.

SPARK and Julia have  already gotten over 43,000 signatures on her change.org petition. I would love to see them get at least 50,000, so these marvelous girl activists know  that we adult women (and our daughters, sons, menfolk) are behind them.

In a supporting--and fun--activity, SPARK's partner site, poweredbygirl.org invites girls (and adults) to contribute an on-line spoof of the current Seventeen cover.  I believe understanding and taking control of media messages can be transformative for girls, turning them from princesses into heroines. Why don't you try it yourself and see?

 

 

(posted by avivajaye)

Foot Binding 2012: Of Princess Shoes, Parents, & Outdoor Play

I can't get this new study on preschoolers and outdoor play out of my mind. Initially brought to my attention by KJ Dell'Antonia at Motherlode, it found that roughly half of parents of preschoolers did not take their children outside to play regularly--suggesting that those children are not getting the level of physical activity they need (see KJ's post for important caveats). But here's the kicker: parents were 16% more likely to take preschool boys outside than preschool girls. Why? Researchers theorized it was ingrained (and probably unconscious) stereotypes about how much exercise girls need. This sets the stage for sedentariness in adolescence and beyond. Which, I'm guessing,  plays into distorted body image and unhealthy dieting. Great for the 60.9 billion dollar diet industry (with its 95% failure rate); not so great for girls. So you know I'm going to loop this back to the Princess Industrial Complex, right? Girls don't  seem to "need"--or even want-- to play outside when they're flouncing around in their princess dresses. What's more, you can't run, jump and get dirty  when you're wearing your  miniature high heels (or even your sparkly flats) or worried about chipping your nail polish.

Think that’s a stretch?  Melissa Wardy over at Pigtail Pals recently wrote about an exchange that she overheard between her daughter Amelia, and a friend:

“Your shoes are ugly,” said Amelia's kindergarten classmate.

“No they are not,” replied the 6yo Original Pigtail Pal, Amelia.

“They are. Look how pretty mine are,” the classmate taps her toes for emphasis.

“They are the same pair of shoes. Like the exact same,” explains Amelia.

“They aren’t the same. Mine still have all of the pretty sparkles. I didn’t get them messed up,” boasted the girl.

“Listen, who cares about pretty? All I care about is playing,” retorts Amelia.

"...Amelia, you should care a little bit about being pretty or you won’t get a boyfriend,” says the classmate.

On her girls' studies blog Rebecca Hains broadened the lens of that exchange  with pictures from her local Stride Rite store. You remember Stride Rite, don’t you? They used to sell cute, sturdy footwear for little ones? Like these saddle shoes (which I had and loved ever so much) from an ad in the 1970s?

No more. Rebecca reports that girls are now instructed to “Sparkle with Every Step”..... like Cinderella, whose glass-slipper shod likeness graces the display.

 

 

As for boys? They get …Spiderman!

Rebecca went to Stride Rite's web site and found more of the same: "Girls are meant to be looked at, so their play shoes are a route to prettiness, while boys are meant to be active, so their play shoes are made for play." Her excerpts from Stride Rite's gallery below:

Cinderella sneakers “transport your little princess to a world of fantasy”

Hello Kitty Keds are “the cutest sneakers on the block”

Glitzy Pets sneakers help girls “to really shine and steal the show”

Spiderman sneakers offer “light-up powers,” “no matter what kind of web he spins”

Star Wars sneakers with “lighted technology” are good for “your little adventurer’s feet”

Lightning McQueen sneakers, also with “lighted technology,” let boys “be as fast as the legendary Cars Lightning McQueen on-and-off the track”

Rebecca connects this to Colette Dowling’s Frailty Myth which holds:

Boys learn “to use their bodies in skilled ways, and this gives them a good sense of their physical capacities and limits.... Girls hold themselves back from full, complete movement, Although it’s usually something girls are unaware of, they actually learn to hamper their movements, developing a ‘body timidity that increases with age.’”

So. we may not be stunting our girls' piggies' by wrapping them in cloth bandages, but we seem to be binding their feet--or binding them through their feet--all the same.

My personal blow against the Princess footwear industry (which, mark my words is priming girls for a lifetime of painful, sky-high—in both price and scale-- heels that will leave them be-bunioned and miserable) was to allow Daisy to pick out a pair of classic Van’s slip-ons. Her choice of flame skater shoes became her “trademark” from preschool through first grade, one that her classmates, male and female, admired and even copied. Remember my fight-fun-with-fun philosophy? There it is in practice. D got to wear fabulous shoes that were comfortable, cool, and broadened her notion of femininity. She also got a tacit lesson in the benefits of individuality over following the crowd. Beat that Cinderella.

As a culture (based on box office receipts) we are currently obsessed with one of the most radical and self-determining female  characters ever to appear on screen: The Hunger Games' Katinss Everdeen.  Check out her shoes.

“Exceptional” girls and women  like Katniss  crop up periodically in the culture, female warriors who transcend stereotypes and gender norms.  Ripley of the Alien franchise is one. The girls in  Mirror, Mirror, as well as the upcoming  Snow White and the Huntsman  and Pixar's Brave appear to be as well.  And, of course, there was Buffy, who took a glorious stand against the "chosen" girl in the series' last episode with this speech:

From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

I recalled  those lines as I read the end of Pigtail Pal's sparkle-shoes post:

Amelia tells her friend: “You should care less about being pretty and more about playing with us. My mom says there’s lots of different ways to be a girl,”

“I don’t want to mess up my shoes,” says the classmate, which is met by an audible sigh from Amelia, who sprints off to play in her busted up not-so-sparkly-anymore shoes.
I'd like to see a world in which girls like Amelia--girls who play hard and often, who live fully--are not  the exception.

 

Fat is a Preschool Issue

Yesterday I posted a link on my facebook page  to an article on CNN.com called “Fat is the New Ugly on the Playground,”  which featured a few nice quotes by yours truly. In response to the post were comments including the following:

Excuse me in my experience fat has always equalled ugly on the playground, ain't nuthin new here, take it from a former fat kid.

'Fat' has always been ugly on the playground, or any where else for that matter!

I'm not sure why this is all of a sudden breaking news.

Absolutely true. Fat kids—boys as well as girls—have long been tormented, demonized and excluded by their schoolmates. In CAMD I talk about the history of American attitudes towards fat—the reasons it came to be seen as a moral issue, a character flaw;  how it became particularly taboo for women whose avoirdupois was once considered sexy. Check out an exotic dancer in the 1800s:

 

I struggle openly in CAMD  and elsewhere  over how to imbue a daughter with a healthy body image. In fact, I've been writing about women and weight since the late 1980s, so it's not like any of this is a surprise.

What’s new, however, is the ever-earlier age at which children—girls particularly-- become conscious of weight. In  Schoolgirls I cited  a study revealing  that 50% of  9-year-old girls were dieting (check this  Wall Street Journal article  by a reporter who, to see for himself, interviewed  a group of girls  when that study came out; he talked to them again recently as adults).  But now, it appears, by age three girls equate thinness with beauty, sweetness, niceness and popularity; they associate "fat" meanwhile with laziness,  stupidity and friendlessness.

Yes, I said three. In a 2010 study researchers engaged 3-5 year old girls in games of Candyland and Chutes & Ladders asking them to choose among three game pieces--a thin one, an average-sized one and a fat one--to represent themselves. While in the past children that age showed little ability to distinguish between average and thin weights, today's wee ones  grabbed thin pieces at higher rates not only than fat ones but than those of "normal" weight. When asked by researchers to swap a thin figure for a fat one, the girls not only recoiled but some refused to even touch  the  chubbier game piece making comments such as, “I hate her, she has a fat stomach," or "She is fat. I don't want to be that one."

Again: preschoolers.

As  I’ve written before on this blog, toy manufacturers have lately classic toys on a diet, claiming (apparently rightly) that “Girls won’t play with childlike dolls any more.” So take a look:

 

 

 

Our friends at  Pigtail Pals, in a recent blog about this baby-fear-of-fat phenomenon posted a photo of how Barbie--whose figure has reflected the idealized female physique for decades--has also whittled her waist and hiked her heinie. Meanwhile, the doll's demographic has dropped: she's now marketed at 3-6 year olds (her original audience was 8-12).

 

There's no more grace period. From the get-go girls are bombarded with images of women whose bodies range from unattainable to implausible (Disney Princesses, anyone?). Even  G-rated films and educational TV present thinness not as healthier (which it may or not be, depending on how you get there)  but morally superior.

Given the mental health vulnerabilities an ever-narrowing standard of beauty creates in our girls--not to mention the negative impact fat-shaming has on overweight kids--are we really okay with letting this slide?

 

 

C*O*N*T*E*S*T* W*I*N*N*E*R*S!!

Last week my publisher ran a contest on my facebook author page  in which readers posted examples of the "princess industrial complex" run amok.

I could not POSSIBLY choose only three from the bounty posted. So I wheedled an extra couple of books out of my publisher. I wish I could put a winner's wreath (NOT a crown!) on everyone because each entry illustrated the reach and impact of princess/diva culture on younger and younger girls. You can see all entries by scrolling down the facebook page and hitting "older posts."
Meanwhile, would the winners  please email your addresses to my publisher at: Erica.Barmash AT harpercollins.com to claim your prizes!Now, drum roll:GRAND PRIZE (signed copy of CAMD; a copy of Girls Like Us  and a Harpercollins book tote): For Illustrating How Bombardment By Princess Products has Undermined Little Girls' Imaginations and Flattened their Individuality: 

Beth Tischler Becker. When the children in her daughter’s class "disguised" a flock of paper turkeys for Thanksgiving, the boys came up with a range of ideas—turkeys dressed as baseball players, Spiderman, grass(!). Every. Single. Girl (with the exception of Beth's own) decorated her bird as a princess. 4 out of 6 chose Disney Princesses. Limited, much? Beth also posted the Charlotte La Bouff doll— she's the white girl from "Princess and the Frog," who has, unlike secondary characters in any other Princess movie, apparently been elevated to princess status; the pending Eden Wood fashion line (so your daughter, too, can dress like the "Toddlers & Tiaras" star!!); and the Disney Princess "pop art toaster," which imprints crowns etc. onto your daughter’s bread). Beth, seems like you could've written "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" yourself!

RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Start 'em Early:  Katie Miller for submitting Fisher Price's "Brilliant Basics" girls' and boys' teething ring/rattles which highlight both gender hyper-segmenting and the downward creep of Kardashianization: The set for your "darling baby girl" features a purse, diamond ring and charm bracelet; your  boy gets a saw, hammer and wrenches.
RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Princesses Need to be White and Blonde Melissa Pantel-Ku for the Melissa & Doug hand mirror surrounded by (straight) blonde hair topped by a tiara. Note, that Melissa & Doug, with its old-fashioned, wooden toy ethos purports to be the more wholesome alternative to Disney and Mattel. RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Girls Will Only Like Math if They Think it's Pretty: Terri Wiley for the Princess Math app. (For more on this issue see my post "Science Sans Sexism")
RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): Product that Only the Parents of an ACTUAL Princess Could Afford:  Hyphen Dorothy HP for the $47,000 pink princess Fantasy Coach bed.
RUNNER UP (signed copy of CAMD): For Making My Jaw Hit the Floor Sarah Lozoff for her photo of a female firefighter at Legoland (built out of LEGOS) who is putting on lipstick rather than battling blazes (the male police officer next to her is speaking into a walkie talkie).

Science Sans Sexism

The very first blog post I ever wrote was about the Mindware catalog's spa science kit and its not-so-tacit message to little girls. As I go around the country giving talks I now show a series of pictures from similar   "science kits for girls" (which are flooding the market) to illustrate how they're designed less to teach interest in that subject than to cultivate an obsession with beauty and consumerism. Janet Stemwedel at Scientific American just wrote a great blog post about this. She talks, for instance, about this--yet another  "Spa Science" kit:  

 

...the packaging here strikes me as selling the need for beauty product more emphatically than any underlying scientific explanations of how they work. Does a ten-year-old need an oatmeal mask? (If so, why only ten-year-old girls? Do not ten-year-old boys have pores and sebaceous glands?)

...Maybe the Barbie-licious artwork is intended to convey that even very “girly” girls can find some element of science that is important to their concerns, but it seems also to convey that being overtly feminine is a concern that all girls have (or ought to have) — and, that such “girly” girls couldn’t possibly take an interest in science except as a way to cultivate their femininity

There are so many of these kits on the market today. This one, for instance:

 

And this one:

And this one:

 

The company Wild Science is kind enough to break their products down on "boys" and "girls" pages, just for those of us who may not be able to determine who is supposed to get the "perfume science" kit and who is supposed to get the (I kid you not) "physics and chemistry" kit.  Please. Click on the links. You have got to check them out. Go ahead. Compare and contrast. I'll wait.

Are you back? Are your teeth still in your head? I especially love that boys get "chemistry and physics" and girls get "perfect perfume lab."

Oh, wait--Wild Science ALSO has a whole section called "cosmetic science" featuring a "Pampering Boutique" for girls ages 8+ that "puts all the 'good' ingredients back in the skin after a tiresome day at school." Bonus points for reinforcing alienation from education (and that "pretty" and "smart" are incompatible!!)

Other "cosmetic science" products? Clay Mask Lab; Cleansing Boutqiue; Cosmetic Cream Lab; Enhancing Boutique (perhaps experiments involving botox?); Purifying Boutique and Shampoo Factory.

It's not just science kits, either. Craft kits, which once promoted art or, I don't know, at least CRAFT have also become focused solely on appearance. Faber-Castell, a venerable, 250 year old art supply company, owns Creativity for Kids whose craft kits for girls include the following:

 

 

There are so many of these cosmetic-fashion-jewelry craft kits I could go on forever. Look 'em up.

So imagine, for a moment: you're in third grade and you wake up on Christmas morning or light the Channukah candles on consecutive nights and as a budding scientist you get a perfume science kit. And then you open the next gift and because you're interested in art you get a fashion angels project runway kit. And then because you do love dolls you get Frankie Stein from Monster High. What is the larger message those gifts are giving? According to Stemwedel:

The message seems to be, “Look, there’s a bit of science that will interest even you. (And go put on some lipstick!)” Heaven knows, we couldn’t even get girls interested in building Rube Goldberg machines, or launching water-rockets, or studying the growth of plants or the behaviors of animals, or blowing stuff up … except, these are just the sort of things that the girls I know would want to do, even the pretty pink princesses.

She suggests if your little girl--or boy--is into science, you should check out the kids pages on the American Chemical Society site. There you will find hand-on activities (using stuff you probably have around the house) such as nine fun experiments with soap and detergent. And here's a list of books and books and books full of science experiments that any child would love.

Merry Merry.

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!

Don't be a "Trick" or "Treat" This Halloween

My beloved friends at SPARK have teamed up with HollabackPhilly and Beauty Redefined to sponsor a "Taking Back Halloween" contest for teenage girls. I wish they'd extend it down to 5-year-olds, whose costumes are getting sexier all the time, but hey, it's a start.  Here's what the site says:

Submit your spookiest, creepiest, punniest, funniest, most creative and brilliant costumes to our Costume Contest for the chance to win amazing prizes (including an iPod!). But we don’t want just any store-bought costume–like SPARKteam member Melissa says below, this contest is about creativity.

Over to you, Melissa:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hqs-TFQFaBA&feature=player_embedded

 

SPARK has created a fabulous space where girls can talk back to the media that tries to define and narrow them. It's also a great resource for us adults looking for "what we can do." Take a look at their SPARKit! Action ideas.

There. Now I feel a little teeny bit better about October.

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.

 

 

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.