And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Girly Girl Revisited

So here's the problem: women like to look pretty. What little girl hasn't dreamed of some 'princess' moment in her life. The moment you walk down the aisle and your husband to be sees you. Swirling on the dance floor in your prom dress.
Do those moments come true for every woman? Yes and no. My husband did look happy when I walked down the aisle toward him. I can't remember it I was so amped on adrenaline and the only photo we got of it, he has such bad red eye that he looks like a really happy demon. Prom? Let's just say that most of us wouldn't like to revisit our awkward teenage choices.

What is it about us that wants to be beautiful? Are we the peacock of the species, rather than the peahen? Is it just preening to attract a mate? Is it competition?

But it is.

The authors of Packaging Girlhood hate Angelina Ballerina. (A cartoon about a ballet-obssessed mouse) They deemed it one of the few shows you should just boycott because of the negative stereotypes portrayed therein. I was a little surprised at this. So she likes ballet, is that bad? In the series Angelina is portrayed as a star student. Ballet is hard, I think being superb at it is a good thing to emulate. There are a few characters who indulge in particularly 'catty' behavior; the female sins of gossip and backbiting. They always 'get it' for this type of behavior. I always shudder when I watch these episodes because it's so eerily accurate. Unfortunately girls do that, I appreciate that the show depicts these as negative and punishable. In other episodes Angelina leads a protest to save her favorite tree and sneaks on an all boys hockey team (and is one of the best players). That's kind of awesome.
Is anyone else frightened that I have really well informed opinions on toddler programming? Because I kind of am.
I think the one lesson that I took this book is to pay attention to what my child is learning. Not only to the explicit messages but the implicit ones as well. What is Angelina Ballerina teaching my daughter? That it's fun and good to be a ballerina? That's an okay message. That the only she can do as a girl is to be a ballerina? That would be bad, but I don't think it's teaching that. I think it's important to point out here that a large majority of the shows available for Emma to watch feature male protagonists and males in active roles and females in passive roles. That is an implicit message to watch for and counteract.

Here's the thing, men and women are different. We have made a mistake in this culture to say it's bad to be a woman. Then we have made a mistake in saying that to be successful you must be male or act like a male. Hopefully we can move past this and celebrate each gender and then each individual. We can be equally happy about a boy who excels in ballet and a girl who is excellent in ice hockey.

Hopefully my daughter can watch her mother who runs every morning and backpacks and know she can do whatever she wants rather than take her cues from television.

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