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:


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:


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.

Disney Princess......Cancer?

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

Isn't that magic?

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

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

Not me, baby.

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

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

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

Here are Breast Cancer Fund People discussing the findings.

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


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.

A Break in My Break

Quick break to post a photo of this week's most egregious Princess product. Trying to imagine the parents who would drop $2k on this one....  

Yes, it's a Princess Bathtub. An ugly one. From the folks at American Standard. Boys can get a fire truck!

Well, the economy should make THIS go away, no?

Thanks to the inimitable Marjorie Ingall who alerted me to this via a post on the blog daddytypes.

Marjorie also pointed me to this great essay in the UK Guardian about how Hermione Granger's bookish, brainy persona was made less threatening and girlie-d up over the course of the Harry Potter movies. It starts out questioning the glaring "I can't" our girl uttered when faced with destroying a horcrux. I do recall sitting in the theater and thinking, "Whaaaaaat??????"As the essayist writes:

Did Hermione Granger really say "I can't" during the climactic battle in the final chapter of the Harry Potter film saga? Presented with her chance to destroy one of the horcruxes she had put her life on the line to hunt, she backs away and needs her almost-boyfriend Ron to insist that of course she can. Sorry, filmmakers, that quavering girly-girl is not Hermione.

She continues:

There's almost a direct correlation with actress Emma Watson's growing prettiness through the course of the films and Hermione's decreased bookishness and pragmatism. Screenwriter Steve Kloves may have liked Hermione best when he was first given the job of adapting the books but as she became an adolescent, something shifted. It's one thing for a girl to be the brains of an operation when everyone is prepubescent. But an adult woman who is brainy and takes charge is "domineering". A very scary witch indeed. Presumably Kloves didn't want any young male filmgoers sneering (or crossing their legs nervously) when Hermione was on screen.


It's also discouraging. Hermione is a great role model who doesn't care if her bookishness or activism (absent in the films) are laughed at. She knows the power of books.

Hermione steadily became blonder and sexier in Deathly Hallows, wearing jeans so tight you'd think her legs would break if she tried to run. When it comes to film, something about a smart, fearless woman who doesn't care about her looks makes Hollywood leery; even if, in this instance, she commands a loyal and loving built-in audience before the film begins.

Why is it so difficult for proudly brainy, bookish, outspoken girls of any age to see themselves on screen, especially in major studio films? Where are the girls who don't make an effort to fit the "feminine" stereotype and are still admired and even loved anyway?

And where will girls learn and be validated in their belief that they don't have to compromise fundamental aspects of their personalities to prosper? That there is never any reason to say "I can't"? Books, for a start.




Pretty Woman or Pretty Tricky?

I'm going to take August off of blogging and (if I can control myself) all electronic media. But before I go I wanted to direct you to someone else's blog--that of the excellent organization About Face, which "...equips women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self-esteem and body image. We do this through our three programs: Education Into Action media-literacy workshops; Take Action, which enables girls and women to develop and execute their own actions; and, our web site." What's not to love?

In her latest blog post, inspired by the banning in Britain of two adds by L'Oreal for an anti-aging foundation which depicted heavily airbrushed portraits of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington, Jennifer Berger, the Exec Director of About-Face, discusses how "we — everyday women and girls — can help ourselves out of this body-hatred spiral without totally disconnecting from culture altogether."

Among her suggestions:

"Pass the  Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 2513). H.R. 2513 would authorize grants to promote media literacy and youth empowerment programs, to authorize research on the role and impact of depictions of girls and women in the media, to provide for the establishment of a National Task Force on Girls and Women in the Media. Shall we all get behind this legislation? Yes, let’s do it!"

"Educate ourselves with some solid media-literacy skills instead of just 'turning off the TV' and closing the magazines, and never using the Web. The media coverage of this issue makes women sound like naive victims who can’t think for themselves. So, we need to work hard to make these images less powerful in our own psyches by understanding the insidious nature of photo-retouching and how it affects the way we look at our own, sometimes-bumpy, skin. And we need to reject what we see."

"Person-by-person resistance: Celebrities! Help your sisters out! We need actresses’, celebrities’, and models’ help as our allies. They need to understand that a) we’re not against them and b) more women than they know would see their movies/buy their stuff even more if they seemed to be on our side. Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Portia de Rossi, and Cindy Crawford have done a great job of criticizing insane photo retouching, and we need more celebrities to demand minimal retouching instead of full Photoshop makeovers so as not to mislead young women." [Note: as a post-40 woman, I'd like to give a big shout-out to Jamie Lee Curtis on this one, too!!!]

And finally:

"What really bugs the crap out of me — and what girl advocates should watch for — is the response from L’Oreal. Their PR machine is calling the Julia Roberts image an “aspirational picture”. This just speaks volumes about how ad agencies and advertisers talk about and think about images of women.

'Aspirational.' Meaning that we should keep aspiring (and aspiring, and aspiring, while buying more L’Oreal products) to skin that is literally as perfect-looking as a Photoshopped image. And we wonder why microdermabrasion and facelifts, and Botox injections are so popular. We are Photoshopping our own flesh.

In short: Watch the words used by the beauty industry carefully. They can make “fear of being ugly” sound like “hope of being beautiful!” pretty easily.

So let’s put our blame in the two places it belongs: corporate interests that need squashing, and our own, sub-par critical-thinking skills that we should improve.

Aspirational, incidentally, is what Disney says about Princesses....Never too early to tell girls they aren't good enough as they are, is it?

I don't know how I feel about an outright ban on airbrushed ads--haven't mulled it enough to comment. What about you guys? What would it look like if air-brushing was no longer allowed in advertisements? Or if, at the very least, there were warnings on cosmetic ads that "the results achieved aren't typical"--something akin to what's on weight loss products? We do have truth in advertising regulations, don't we?

Just so you know what we're talking about: here's Julia Roberts in real life and in the ad, for instance:

And Christy Turlington


Go Jennifer. Go About-Face. Go read more about them!

And now...have a great month. See you in September!




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:

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?


Kia Ad: Silver Lion Jury Head's Clients Include Mattel,Toys'R'Us, Colgate-Palmolive

KIA apparently didn't know about the reprehensible, pedophiliac ad for its cars that won the Cannes Silver Lion Press Award, but what about those judges? They're all big guns in the advertising field --perhaps THEY need to be called out? The president of the jury was Tony Granger, Global Chief Creative Officer, Young & Rubicam USA.

Y&R's  client roster includes numerous children's brands such as several Mattel products ("Just Like You" American Girl dolls, Polly Pocket, Disney Princess, High School Musical, Beauty Cuties, Radica computer games, Holly Hobby) and Toys'R'Us. They also represent "family friendly" companies like Colgate-Palmolive. The American Girl account alone is worth $15 million.  In a June 6 interview about his Cannes experience and "what he looks for in great advertising" Granger said:

“I love ideas that feel effortless – that reveal a truth and connect with you."

And what is the "truth" he connects with in the Kia ads? Let's repost those award-winners, just to refresh your memory.


How about we let Granger's clients know that  an agency whose GLOBAL CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER gives these ads  awards shouldn't be representing companies that sell products to children?

I encourage you to post the following to Twitter (or facebook) along with a  link to this blog post. And pass it along.....

Head of "Kiddie-Porn ad" jury's agency @YoungRubicam reps @Mattel_Inc @AGShineOnNow @ToysRUs @Colgate Parents ok w/this?

And Granger's Twitter account is @Tony_Granger. Interestingly, he tweets that on one day they saw 900 entries for the award. And THIS is what wins?????

Let's see what we can do!

(FYI, here's a list of the rest of the jury)

KIA: We Care About Girls EVERYWHERE, Not Just the U.S.

So now KIA is saying they knew nothing about their despicable kiddie-porn ad that won the Cannes Silver Lion Award. But check it out. The company is being VERY CAREFUL about the wording in their statements. According to this news report, the company says: “We can guarantee this advertisement has never and will never be used in any form in the United States.” Notice that they don't say anything about the rest of the world. It's not clear whether whether Kia’s headquarters in Seoul contracts with Moma [the advertising firm that created the ads] and/or approved this ad.

So perhaps it’s true that KIA America wasn’t involved. Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it okay, does it? Given the global crisis in child prostitution and trafficking, it’s actually more offensive that KIA believes that selling cars via child  pornography is no problem as long as they don’t do it in the U.S. What's more, Moma is located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country that is said to have the worst child trafficking record in the world after Thailand. No wonder the agency thought the ad was "clever."

Tell KIA we care about girls EVERYWHERE, not just in the U.S.


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

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

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

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

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

Here's the ad

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

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


Rape, Murder and Necrophilia--To the Beat.

Over on my facebook page, we're talking about the new Rhianna video, "Man Down," a catchy reggae-inspired tune about a young woman who kills her rapist then feels sort of bad about it.

I'm really torn about the video. Chris Sosa wrote a piece about it on On facebook he told me, "I thought it was a confusing video for a young audience. Disturbingly graphic, uncomfortable racial undertones, and most importantly, nothing for the young audience to take away from it. Jamaicans were posting on YouTube about the racial implications. And some posters were *blaming the victim* for the rape. If Rihanna wanted to address the issue, she could've done a much better job. Instead she went for "edgy." And the song itself doesn't even mention sexual assualt, it's just a wanton murder tale."

Another follower chimed in: "It strikes me that many popular videos involving male artists just show them being thugs who don't have to be justified to be cool (even though I personally find them offensive). But girls have to be good, even when they are bad. Rhianna has to be justified, preferably by an assault to her lady parts, in order to make her violence cool. Not that I want her to just be a gangster and just have a video be about that. I'd rather see her invent a new form of clean energy or something else admirable. But it seems to be a double standard."

But a third reader, Renee Randazzo brought up an intriguing post on the crunk feminist collective ("for hip hop generation feminists) that said, among other things: "In Hip Hop and pop culture where rape is glorified and celebrated, this is a welcome intervention. The video reinforces a very basic point: the choice to be sexual and sensual on the dance floor should not be read in any way as consent for future sexual activity. For once, the critique of rape is unambiguous. It is wrong; it is not the woman’s fault; and it should be punished."

I find the issue confusing. I don't like the message that the way to be a strong woman is to resort to violence any more than I like that as the message of how to be a strong man. At the same time, there is so much graphic violence against women in videos and it's  often how male artists signal that they are "rebellious" or counter-cultural. Treating women badly or dehumanizing them or even assaulting or murdering them is how male artists often get street cred and who complains?

A cbs news blog reported that a group called "Industry Ears" issued a statement that read, "If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop." Really? Did the world stop when Kanye West released his "Monster" video which started with a woman in lingerie hanging dead from a meathook in a slaughterhouse and continued with the artist (ahem) in bed with two other apparently dead women in lingerie posing them like sex toys?

Honestly? I couldn't get past the first 30 seconds or so. It made me sick. And I know that's what he wanted--to gain points with kids, especially young men, by provoking attack from women like me who suddenly seem straight, uncool and anti-sex (as if fetishizing the rape and murder of women to sell records has anything really to do with sexual empowerment).

My nephew loves Kanye West. What effect does that video--even if it is ultimately banned--have on him (beyond the obligatory shrug and eye roll when I ask him about it?). Especially troublesome given the statistics on rape on college campuses. I'm not saying a+b=c, but it's a culture, an environment, a dehumanization that is tagged as cool for guys.

So Rhianna made a shallow video about shooting a man, except in her case the shooting was not something she "wanted" to do--it didn't make her tough or cool and she was agonizing over it (rather than glamorizing it?). And she challenged the idea that being  sexy and flirtatious makes her rape "okay."....So yeah, I get some of the objection. I get that it was confusing and provocative. I get that it was answering violence with violence (then again, have you heard "I Shot the Sheriff?" Not a great message either, but there was no video back then to bring it home). And ultimately, these days, it's so hard to determine a performer's sincerity because the music industry is so commodified and sales-driven that we'll never know if she was trying to make a flawed but authentic statement or if she was just going for shock to boost sales....


Botox is Not the Problem

Yes, I know everyone's talking about that San Francisco mom  pumping Botox into  her 8-year-old.


That is so obviously sick. But it's so over-the-top, like the toddler beauty pageants, that I think, in some ways, it distracts us from the real issue.

The item I found more compelling this week was a study that found a third of clothing sold to girls ages 6-12 is sexualizing. Researchers looked at 5,666 clothing items (why not 5,6667? I don't know) on the web sites of 15 popular stores and coded them for sexualized characteristics: those that emphasized or revealed a sexualized body part, had sexy qualities and/or had suggestive writing. They also coded for childlike characteristics, such as fabric pattern (think polka dots) or a modest, non-revealing cut.

The good news: 69% of the clothing items had ONLY childlike characteristics. A mere  4% had ONLY sexualizing characteristics.

But here's the tricky part and what we often miss in hand-wringing over the extremes: 25.4% of the clothing had BOTH childlike and sexualizing characteristics. That's what I believe is confusing and controversial among parents. That's what's hard to navigate. I mean, whoever is buying that 4% overtly sexualized stuff, I don't know what to say. But when over 1 in 4 items in any store--and apparently more in "tween" stores like Abercrombie Kids--is both childlike and sexualizing, the message is far more pernicious. Because a parent can convince herself that maybe it's not so bad then. Instead of thinking that the mash-up is the problem. That dual message of childlike and sexual teaches girls that it is normal and correct, even as children, to view their bodies  as objects to be judged by ridiculously narrow (and  often sexualized) standards of attractiveness. And then to hang their self-worth on that.

Obviously, this is not only a problem with clothing--you see it everywhere. Look at the debate that is STILL going on on this very blog regarding the Monster High toy line. If there weren't something redeeming, fun, and positive about Monster High no one would buy it.  But it doesn't change the part that is not just inappropriate, but given the larger cultural context, potentially damaging to little girls' ideas about their own bodies, beauty, sexuality and self-worth. And when the two are mixed--healthy and unhealthy values and images combined--how are girls to understand it?

So, yeah, I get that people get upset about the Abercrombie push-up bikini for 7-year-olds (which, incidentally, they didn't pull off the shelves--they just changed the name!) or the Botox for 8-year-olds. All of it. But this mushy middle, this innocent-sexy axis is where the real conversation has to happen.

And just to bring it back to my favorite topic, princesses, Carolyn Castiglia wrote a great post on Stroller Derby yesterday noting that the Disney Princesses are getting slowly more sexualized themselves in the most stereotypical of ways. Check out these two images, and the rest that she's posted on that blog.

Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) then and now


Belle in 1991 and 2011: bigger eyes, slimmer face, coy expression....

Big Brother's Got Nothin' on Zuckerberg

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