Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oh So Pretty....

A friend posted this picture on Facebook last night:

Sorry for the blur but I think you can still see enough to understand my horror. "Yes my darling little pop- bellied toddler, you SHOULD wear a tee shirt that totally emphasizes an unachievable tiny waist and a low cut neck line to boot." This comes on the tails of the news frenzy over the mother who botoxed her little girl. And it comes at a time when I'm already thinking about gender.

On a gut level, my response to these things is just intensely personal. Why would I ever suggest in any way or form that my beautiful girls are some how not already perfect? Yes, I know, say what you will about perfection but my girls are perfect to me. When I see them, I literally have to catch my breath at their beauty which is reflected not just in their looks but in their strength and their minds.

The issue on a cultural level is two fold. First, when companies develop these lines of tee shirts, the subtle message that your body is not good enough begins. It's the start to a vicious cycle of body hatred and dieting. It plugs children right into that huge market. Capitalism in so many ways feeds on the not good enough mentality. Your T.V., your car, your house, your clothes, your body....never good enough. Buy some more and maybe you'll get a little closer to that good enough moment.

Second,  is the emphasis on beauty attached to the gender designation of female. Not only is the market aimed at little girls but it's a market that suggests that girls need to be concerned with physical appearances. They need to be pretty like a princess. And this in many ways leads back to my last blog post. Would this shirt be ANY BETTER if a boy wore it? Would the offensive message it contains be more platable if a child with a penis wore it? I think not. I wouldn't want this on my son anymore than on my daugther. I was really quite pleased that NONE of my children ever really wanted to look like princesses. Piper went through a stage for about three months but then it was over. They still have the dress up clothes in a bin but it's bin they rarely get into anymore. And when they do they come up with...odd...pairings. Darth Vader capes with Snow White dresses.

Essentially I have to wonder if revolution is going to come from allowing our boys to dress up like princesses. Maybe a better question is to ask what kind of damage we are doing when we suggest that anyone should desire to be a princess.


S said...

I have mixed feelings about the whole body image/princess/consumerist stuff. I have a terrible body image, but I feel like it's connected completely to my mom. I never looked at my mom and thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world because she repeatedly told me that she was not. As I grew up I wasn't into girly type stuff and I can't put the blame on t.v., magazines, or billboards. The voice I hear in my head is my mom's and has nothing to do with what I saw or read.

I say all of this because I let my girls love princesses and dressing up, Barbies and makeup. I hope that they are more influenced by my perceptions of my self than what a cartoon character looks like. I could be wrong of course, but I try to make a point of talking about health, mindfulness, and the beauty of the world around them.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

When I was little I used to play with Barbies all.the.time. I LOVED Barbie but I don't remember wanting to LOOK like Barbie. The first time I started to think of myself as not beautiful was when I was about ten. I began to compare myself to the pastor's daughter who just happened to be blond and blue eyed. I don't think it was Barbie directly that lead to my low self-esteem but Barbie was part of a discourse about beauty in our culture.

I don't think any of these things: our mothers, Barbie, princesses, etc can be blamed solely for women's issues with weight and looks. They are all part of a cultural standard of beauty that effects how we see ourselves. They piece together an ideology of beauty.

Now I think your daughters are very lucky to have someone who is aware of the problems with how beauty is seen in our culture. But there are many parents who don't even think about this stuff. That worries me.

Anonymous said...

I like the way your post points towards the fact that the link between capitalism and body image is 'desire': the object/idea/image that is forever unobtainable, out of reach.

I do think that ideology creates, shapes and influences us all. And not only through media and objects, but by the people around us as well.

Awesome moms like you guys are able to discern and guide their children as they are being shaped by the ideology surrounding them.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous aka H. :)

The Perpetually Pregnant Papist said...

That is one of the more bizarre things I've seen out there. Geez. A princess belly shirt.

S said...

I know there is no single cause for poor body image, and I totally agree with the connection to desire. It's an endless cycle to want more, and better, and faster. I just sometimes feel like we are putting the blame on inanimate objects and faceless corporations when it's the living people around us that have the most influence. Now if those humans prize possessions above all else, then those objects will hold more sway. I wasn't trying to argue with you :) I think you make very good points. I just hope to counter the cultural by sending messages of unconditional love and acceptance for all. ;)

It's going to be so much fun to talk to you two when you move here. I love thinking stuff like this through.