Posts Tagged ‘media literacy’
My daughter has been raised with stories about strong girls. Since she was a baby, it has been one long and steady stream of girl empowerment. If a female character was passive or needed rescuing, or used her beauty as a weapon or currency, she didn’t make the cut. She has been given a narrative of girls who are clever and brave, adventurous and kind. Hence, we’ve been rather light on the Disney Princesses here. (Yes we love Merida, and Mulan is pretty rad, too.)
Amelia has been given a different narrative for what it means to be a girl. More “Violet the Pilot”, Ramona Quimby, and Amelia Earhart (her namesake) stories than Sleeping Beauty. Amelia doesn’t own a pair of play high heels, but she does have purses and a tiara stuffed into her dress up drawer, along with her swords and capes and binoculars. She has fancy dresses and mermaid tails, and superhero masks and pirate outfits. She gets to decide what her story is. We don’t buy packaged or character dress up outfits.
Amelia has been raised with a different narrative. She sees things differently. She defines things differently. Not better, just differently.
Amelia loves mermaids, and there was no chance of keeping Princess Ariel out of the house. My husband let her watch the movie this summer, and she regularly checks out Ariel books from her school library. I take it all in stride, even though that is the Disney Princess I loathe the most. But Amelia doesn’t like Ariel’s story, and spends hours at our kitchen table writing and illustrating different versions. Amelia has a different narrative for what it means to be a princess, to be a girl.
I look at one image, and see a girl ready to take on the world. I look at the other image, and see much less of that.
Amelia will be given the space to define herself and her place in this world.
So far, I really like what I see. I like how my little girl plays princess.
The 7yo Original Pigtail Pal asked me an interesting question while she was playing mermaids in the bath tub last night. She was deeply concerned that most of the Disney Princesses did not have mothers. She had just checked out a book about Ariel from the school library (groan, another post for another day) and apparently had been giving it quite a bit of thought. She was upset and quiet, asked me to come and sit by her tub, and close the door because she didn’t want her little brother to hear.
I said that I had noticed that too and that it made me sad because family is so important. I reminded her that Merida and her mother Queen Eleanor loved each other very much and nothing could take them away from each other. And in “Tangled”, Rapunzel was reunited with her mother. We haven’t really watched any of the other Disney Princess movies, but she knows most of the princesses do not have living mothers. In OPP’s library book it features the story of how Ariel lost her mother and why King Triton bans music from the kingdom.
I told her that I think the story writers know how very important mothers are, so that is the element they take away in the story to draw the reader in. Amelia said she understood, but didn’t like it. I then reminded her that this is one of the reasons that our family focuses on other stories.
“It just feels like they are trying to break apart the girls, like they are trying to split us up.” -OPP
“Honey, the world has known for a very long time that the most powerful place to be is in the center of a circle of women. There are many, many examples of people trying to break apart or control women. Our family doesn’t believe in that. That is why you see me being connected to Gigi and our aunties and cousins, and why I love my girlfriends so much. You may have boys that are your best friends or you may even fall in love with a boy some day, but I think you will find there is nothing like an awesome group of girls to surround yourself with. Your girlfriends will feel like sisters.” -Me
“Well I don’t really like stories where the girls are broken apart. I like to be in circles. Animals do that. But I guess the guys who write stories are scared of groups of girls.” -OPP
“I think that is one of the reasons why we need more girls writing the stories.” -Me
I’d be interested to hear how you explain to your kids the absence of mothers in so many of Disney’s stories. Taking into account the role of women in society during the time these stories were originally written, do you approach the idea of women being used as cautionary tales with your kids? Why are so many of the stories about women being cruel to each other and jealous of each other, specifically over the ideas of youth and beauty?
Someone asked me the other day why I hate princesses. I don’t hate princesses at all. I hate the way their stories are being told. I want a different narrative for my daughter. I want princesses who don’t give away their voices or freedom, whose end game is marrying a prince. I want princesses who define their own stories, not sleep peacefully waiting for a magic kiss.
When I first picked up the Merida doll at the Disney Store (first ever purchase from there, 6.75 years into parenthood) I was annoyed Merida was in the dress she was stuffed into by her mother to await her fate and see who would win her hand. Darn it! I thought, that goes against the whole point of the movie. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the dress had been torn in the places Merida had needed to break free, loose her arrows, and determine her own fate. Purchased immediately!
Media aimed at my daughter will tell her to beautify herself, quiet herself down, and be well behaved. It will tell her to look a certain way and she’ll accomplish a huge feat in life – attracting a man. Whether she is four or fourteen or twenty four, this is the message media will try to send to her.
That’s just not how we roll. So it is not that I hate princesses. I’m just really choosy about the ones I introduce to her. Here are three princesses she received as gifts for her birthday last night – Cinder Edna, Princess Smartypants, and Merida.
Many times when I’m sharing discussions I have with 6yo Amelia as she and I work through our hyper-sexual culture, I tend to get a comment or two about she or I being judgmental towards other females. While I do very much think that is a valid concern, that is not what I am teaching my daughter.
I want to make very clear this is not about judging others, but rather this is about interpreting and thinking critically about cultural messages to determine if they align with our family’s values. The focus is on us and our family, not the outside source. I ask her questions about how she would feel, how would she react if ______, what reaction would Dad and I have, and what consequences might occur (being cold, being sent home from school for dressing inappropriately, not being dressed appropriately for the kind of event, etc).
I ask her to constantly challenge the body image, sexualization, and sexism she sees in the media. I do the same when we encounter racism, as those things simply do not align with how our family practices respect towards other people and ourselves.
I am walking a fine line of being sex positive while teaching Amelia to be empowered and respectful of herself and others. At the same time I am not teaching patriarchal ideas like modesty or slut shaming. We’re working on building a “personal brand” for her, so that she has a rock solid understanding of who she is and what decisions help reinforce or weaken that faith in herself. I’m teaching her that private parts stay private, and that putting them on display for public viewing is not empowerment. Later on down the road we’ll talk about attracting boys (or girls) with personality, friendship, and humor…..not shoving her boobs up to her chin and objectifying herself through actions and clothing. I think she is starting to view Barbie (some of them) and other dolls as sexually objectified (without having that vocabulary). Just like Santa Claus, that is a revelation I want her to come to on her own.
In the past two weeks in particular I can see her really sorting it out (thank you, NFL cheerleaders, for sparking that discussion). At the same time, I don’t want to introduce my six year old to the concept of “sexiness”, nor do I want to issue a blanket statement like “Those dolls are too sexy for you.” Whose idea of sexy? Not hers, I hope. I want Amelia to have the space to develop her OWN ideas and feelings about what that means, in her OWN time. That is was PPBB is all about.
Being sexy – feeling sexy – is great, and even super great when you are the right age for it and when it is defined on your own terms. Having “sexy” be a personality description as a young girl = not great. My daughter, whether she be six or sixteen or twenty six, is more than a collection of sexual body parts. Using sex appeal (or actual sex) as your calling card leaves a lot to be desired, and frankly, sells a girl or woman short of the whole person she could be, and be seen as.
A couple of days ago I was out shopping for a special t-shirt for my 4yo son to start pre-K with next week, just something simple to help ease his nerves. I was happy to find t-shirts with his favorite characters Jake and the Never Land Pirates, on sale to boot, at JC Penney. My enthusiasm last twenty seven seconds, at which point I realized NONE of the 2T-5T tees carried by JC Penney featured one of the shows main characters – the girl pirate named Izzy.
This show is really popular with the preschool and early elementary ages, and while it fits nicely into the Smurfette Principle and only a couple of episodes pass the Bechdel Test, for the most part I approve of it for my children. There are episodes when a pirate princess (of course she’s a princess!) and mermaids help to balance out the gender scale. I talk with my kids about why there are so few girls in the show, and what more girl pirates could be doing in the episodes if they were on the show.
The situation with the t-shirts made me really sad. Not one shirt featured Izzy on it. Not. One. She is an important cast member, and the only female. I then remembered that I was in the Boys section, and thought surely they would have girl designs. I walked across the room to the Girls section (because boys and girls have to be segregated, you know) to look for the girl version of the Jake and the Never Land Pirates. Nope. Nada. No Izzy, no girl pirate shirts.
What?! This show is super popular with boys AND girls right now, why would there be no shirts for girls, and no trace of Izzy on the shirts?
Your answer is: because of sexism and gender stereotypes. Did Disney and JC Penney think boys wouldn’t wear a shirt with a girl on it? When I showed Benny his new shirt, he got a huge smile on his face, immediately followed by a look of confusion. “Where’s Izzy?” he asked. I told him I guess she wasn’t on the shirts, and I thought it was the strangest thing. He got really mad, and said he didn’t want the shirt and to return it.
“I doun wanna wear a shirbt that doun has allub my frenz.” He didn’t want to wear a shirt that didn’t have all of his friends. He said Izzy’s feeling are probably hurt, and he wanted to be a friend to all of them and not make her sad. My 6yo daughter Amelia came in the room, and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Hey! Why is Izzy not on that shirt?”
Kids notices these things. Girls notice when they are missing, and so often they are missing.
What message does this send to little girls who love the show, saw the shirts, and realized there was no representation of Izzy? What does that teach these girls about the value a girl holds?
What message does that teach boys about girls?
Why is there only one girl character to choose from in the first place?
Why the ever-loving hell would a show built on cross-gender friendships and teamwork intentionally remove that element in its merchandise? Why only sell to boys? Why not market to girls, too? Why not market to children instead of sexes?
To be fair, there are selections exclusive to the Disney Store on their website that feature Izzy, and I’ve been told by several parents those shirts are sold out. No wonder.
But why does that not carry over to their licensed products to other retailers? The shirt selections I saw at JC Penney and Target had no Izzy on them.
While I was shopping, the discovery of the shirt above made my head explode. Apparently whoever licensed and produced these tees for JC Penney decided boys would absolutely not wear a shirt with a girl on it, so in this depiction of the cast, they replaced Izzy’s head with a gold doubloon. The gator and the coin get a spot over Izzy. We get it, Disney. We know where females rank.
Thankfully, I’ve taught my kids to reject this kind of thinking, and after viewing the t-shirt choices from the Disney store, both immediately went to the kitchen table to color Disney a very strong message of complaint. I asked Benny if he was sure he wanted to return his shirt and he said now he wanted to keep it but also wanted a shirt with just Izzy on it, like the one we just saw from the Disney store. But even the Disney store has their apparel selections notes “For Boys” or “For Girls”. Amelia said she wanted a shirt with everyone because you don’t exclude people when you are on a team. Benny then asked how to spell “Boss of Everything” and Amelia asked permission to use the word “jerks”.
When we talked about this with the PPBB Facebook Community, there was lots of folks upset and expressing frustration. So many parents are sick and tired of the gender divide in childhood.
Janessa Hall: “This conversation reminds me so much of looking for Dora outfits when my oldest was a little younger. He loved Dora, and they only came in pink, sparkles, bows, etc.”
Katt Mikaboshi: “My daughter loves Yo Gabba Gabba and saw a shirt in the “girls” section,but when she opened it up it only had the boy charters on it and no girls(?) I never encountered this before,but it hurts my head. My daughter asked me “why did they forget the girls?” “
“At some point you have to wonder if this crap isn’t purposeful. And then you have to wonder why they’ve chosen to do this to our little girls.”
–PPBB Community Member Miranda Lollis
In response to the image below, from this post about Barneys NY and Disney teaming up.
We’ve had a go of it at our house lately. Taking our stalker to court after a year of being scared and harassed, wasp stings, and this week: Oral Surgery. It was a rotten way to spend a week in the summer and I decided to go a little overboard. I guess I just wanted to make everything right again in her little six year old world. The Original Pigtail Pal’s deep love of the ocean has naturally expanded into mermaids, and she has been saving up her Chore Chart money for this one below.
With OPP having four teeth pulled on Tuesday morning, puking blood and feeling generally miserable for a day, the Tooth Fairy knew she would have to bring her A-game for this one. The Tooth Fairy looked high and low for waterproof mermaid toys OPP could take in the tub and pool, ultimately Barbie seemed like the best (only) choice. OPP was so happy when she opened it, and has brought up several interesting body image talks while playing with her, showing me she is getting the message as best a 6yo can. And, the Tooth Fairy felt the Barbie mermaids were pretty awesome as far as mermaids go and they didn’t make her head explode. I, uh, I mean the Tooth Fairy, thought the Barbie Mermaid line was pretty wholesome and wasn’t sexualized (other Barbies take that prize). There was some unpacking to do for body image and Beauty Myth, but every once in a while it is good for the Tooth Fairy to get off her soap box.
Yes, I really do put this much thought into buying a Barbie. If Merida came in a wet suit I’d be walking on Easy Street.
Since OPP is reading everything in sight, I intentionally left this link displayed on my laptop this morning while I stepped away from my desk to do some chores. I saw her reading the article a few moments later, but waited for her to bring up the issue. I just wanted to get her wheels turning.
OPP came into the kitchen after awhile and said, “So the dotted black lines is where the surgeons would cut ya?” I answered yes, that is how a woman would have to be surgically altered and cut apart to look like Barbie. OPP then asked if I liked Barbie, to which I answered that I had liked them very much when I was her age, but as a mom I was concerned about some of the body image messages the dolls gave. I said all Barbies have the same body and their faces look the same, and that I felt that left out all of the other ways a woman can be beautiful. I said people with rounder bodies or shorter bodies or wider noses or slanted eyes are all beautiful too, and you don’t see that with Barbie. OPP then said she liked the woman in the photo below because it looked like me. I agreed, my body actually looks identical to the woman above, but that I would never cut myself to try to be beautiful, or to look like someone else.
She answered with this, “Well, I know Barbie is a grown up because she wears lots of makeup. And I’m not to worried about being skinny, because who cares a flip about that? But I really wish I had blue hair and a glittery tail.”
How can you argue with that? I told her blue hair and a glittery tail would be awesome indeed. I’m glad I could meet Amelia halfway on this one, because I have had to say no to several of the toys she has shown an interest in as of late.
And I am secretly relieved that not once in the past two days has OPP said anything about not being pretty or embarrassed because of her new (temporary) toothless smile. In fact, today I was taking a photo of her and her little brother eating strawberry shortcake and OPP said, “Make sure you get in my one good tooth!”
I don’t know if this body confidence in her will always be there, but I pray it will. I pray hard for that.
I need 4 minutes and 34 seconds of your day. I need you to watch this — every woman, man, girl, and boy — and I need you to absorb it.
I need you to give yourself permission to start loving and enjoying the body you have been given to live this life with. All of the advocates and bloggers and celebrities in the world cannot do that for you. YOU have to do that for you. Whether you are a parent, a friend, a mentor, a teen….you have to start appreciating your amazing body. It will impact how you live the rest of your life.
Forget what the media is telling you about you. There is nothing wrong with you. YOU write your story. In that story, make sure you are awesome.
Please watch this with your boys and girls. Share it with your classroom, your sports team or Girl Scout troop or church youth group. Share it, because we are spending way too much time thinking about what our bodies look like in life, instead of LIVING LIFE.
Go live. You look amazing.
The 6yo Original Pigtail Pal was stung four times by a wasp today. While I as at the pharmacy getting medicine for her, I was looking for stickers or something little to cheer her up. I passed a bin of plastic cups with bright, smiling Disney characters on them. All the usual suspects were there: Cars, Tinker Bell, Mickey, Jack and the Never Land Pirates, the Princesses. OPP is in a big mermaid phase right now, so I looked for an Ariel cup, momentarily getting over my dislike of the DP’s because four wasp stings hurt like hell. I found an Ariel cup, but she was dressed as a pink princess, not a mermaid, and her head was down, her face and eyes obscured by her poof of hair. She looked timid or bashful. So I kept digging, hoping maybe there was a design I had skipped over.
And there is was. One lone Merida cup. My favorite Scottish adventuring princess was standing there, arms crossed over her chest with her head up, eyes straight ahead, and a triumphant smile on her face. Her bow was slung across her shoulders, and her wild untamed hair was a magnificent red crown around her head. I literally let out a squeal.
When I got home, Amelia was laying in our sitter’s lap, crying and upset that the wasp had stung her so many times, confused and heartbroken because she hadn’t done anything to bother it or upset it. I had her close her eyes, and I pulled the Merida cup out of the bag. When she opened her eyes and saw Merida, she let out a sigh and gave a small smile.
I told her that even when life gives us a bite, we have to be brave and see our way through it. My little poppet looked at me with her one good eye (the other was swelling shut from a sting) and said, “I can be brave, like Merida. I know just what to do.”
And it is Merida’s narrative that makes all the difference. It is directors and writers like Brenda Chapman who make the difference, who see to it that girls get the heroines and the stories they deserve.
A few weeks ago there was a story ALL over the press about a young teen from Maine, Julia Bluhm, who was asking her favorite magazine (Seventeen) to print one photo spread a month of natural, unretouched girls. There were tv interviews by the plenty and complete coverage on the blogosphere, and that is fantastic for Julia and all the other young activists who worked so hard on that campaign. GREAT job, Ladies!
But during all of that press, there was a HUGE hole in the story. There are magazines out there getting it right, featuring authentic girls and stories that fill up brains and hearts. There are magazines that are already ad free, and don’t run articles on how to achieve the perfect shine on your gloss so that your beloved will want to kiss you. No one talked about the good magazines, so I will.
There are already magazines of quality for girls, and they were missing during all of that reporting. One of those magazines, my favorite, is NEW MOON GIRLS.
Nancy Gruver and Joe Kelly created New Moon Girls for her twin daughters in 1993. I have spent time with Nancy, and I adore her. You should know how passionately she believes in the messages that NMG gives to its girl readers. It comes off of her in waves when she talks.
New Moon Girls has always been ad free, and 90% of the content is written and edited by girls. There is a print copy of the magazine, and an on-line edition. I could not love this magazine more. Maybe if it had more baby animals. But really, it is perfect. My daughter Amelia is getting a subscription for her eighth birthday, and in every year to come. Though my nieces are little, this will be part our annual Christmas present to them when they are big enough (NMG says ages 8+). It is a perfect magazine for girls and young teens.
I believe in New Moon Girls so much, I was willing to affiliate them with my brand (and we all know how seriously I take that!). I began to carry their beautiful, inspiring posters in my online boutique. Click here to see this gorgeous artwork.
New Moon is based on the belief that girls need to express themselves and need to be respected. New Moon’s mission is “To help girls discover their unique voices and express them in the world.”
New Moon Girls now needs our help. For nearly 20 years, NMG has inspired, honored, lifted up, and given voice to thousands and thousands of girls. But the recession hit hard and they are getting beat by the big guys. Like Seventeen, full of harmful ads and airbrushing. They are losing out to beauty industry-saturated Teen Vogue and to the thirteen year olds reading about delish sex positions in Cosmo. C’mon, Parents. Really?
I encourage you all of the time to put good media in your home. Do this. Do this with New Moon Girls, and help support a media company that has ALWAYS supported our girls. Your girl. My girl.
New Moon Girls has a legacy of being amazing. Let’s keep them going. I just bought a subscription for my daughter’s elementary school’s library, since my daughter is still too young for NMG. The way I see it, they are all my daughters, and I want them to shine. From the inside out. And as brightly as the sun.
You can order New Moon Girls for a daughter, granddaughter, niece, school or church library, hospital,or women’s shelter by clicking HERE. Pool your money with a like-minded friend or two. Post this post on facebook or twitter and spread the word. Send it to your feminist aunt who is loaded. Tell your girlfriends you are staying in on Friday night and instead of spending $60 on martinis, you’re all staying in for mani-pedis and each getting a subscription for a girl who is just like you were not so long ago. Ask your boss to match your subscription. Have your partner ask his/her boss to do the same.
Do this for our girls. They are worth it. Really, really worth it.
Renew or sponsor a membership: https://www.newmoon.com/customer-service/register/