This is one of those posts that has been milling around in my head for awhile. It actually stems from an internet argument that caused me to leave a message board. At the time, I was pregnant but didn't know the gender of the baby as it was to early to know. The argument may have been even more relevant since it turned out to be a girl. But the argument is all over the place lately - I like to call it the princess debate. It has more to do with the blatant coloring of everything for little girls in one shade. Pink. Which is helped along by one of my favorite companies ever. Disney. Yes, I said it. I LOVE Disney.
Let me preface this whole thing by explaining that I am a geek. Like, I met my husband at a LARP (live-action role play for those who don't know the word) geek. Like I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons geek. Like, I'm a girl who likes science and math geek and even more so if they're puzzles (like sudokus). Like, I watch Discovery Channel for fun geek. So I may bring a different perspective to this. I think I also have a unique perspective because I also teach the product of years of US culture. High school students.
The argument that so much pink is bad for girls is one I won't argue with. There's no reason to have the same toy for a baby boy and a baby girl but make the girl one in pink. Last I checked, babies liked variety. So you won't catch me buying the girl a pink toy if there's a more colorful one right next to it. After all, I didn't have pink everything and I came out just fine, thank you very much. But part of the argument goes on to the princesses, which tends to target Disney, since it's probably their princesses that started the whole thing. Ahhh, Disney princesses. I love Sleeping Beauty. And Cinderella. They're my favorites. And I fully expect that the girl will have a favorite too.
Here's the thing. I don't expect that a love for princesses will cause her to turn into a vapid idiot. Nor do I think that she will spend her whole life as an imbecile searching for Prince Charming to come along. Because I don't expect to teach her those things. And that is where I differ from the hundreds of feminists and other people who would like to roast the princesses on a spit because their very existence means that my daughter will be like I described above.
Anybody who honestly thinks that the influence of the media is more relevant to their child than the influence of their parent is off their rocker. Does this mean that the media does not affect them? Of course not. My son wants everything he sees with Lightning McQueen on it. He's watched that movie waaaaaay to many times. But he likes it and I'm trying to use this obsession to start to teach him that we can't have everything that we want. And toddlers are obsessive anyway. If it wasn't Cars, it would be something else. I recall my brother being obsessed with Transformers. And I'm fairly certain that before there was media children were still obsessed with things. They were probably just obsessed with things in nature. And eventually I'm pretty sure that my son will discover the joy of bugs or lizards or some other equally disgusting thing. And I wouldn't be surprised if the girl does too, since it's becomming all to clear that she's obsessed with her brother. Look at that - 3 months old and already obsessed with something. I don't think she's likely to want to turn into a boy. Although, I guess you never know.
My point is, that there will always be something. I have several obsessions myself, although I tend to refer to them as hobbies or collections. I have several dragons in my bedroom (I am a dragon, according to the Chinese calendar, so maybe that's why I like them so much?), I have a box of scrapbooking supplies, I love to travel (and take pictures of said travel, hence the scrapbooking supplies) and oh yeah, Disney pervades my house. My movies, a few sculptures, art books and some clothing all with Disney as their focus. Does it surprise you that my son like Disney? Do you think my daughter will? I would bet yes.
I'm also willing to bet that they will learn to love food and travel, because both my husband and I do. I'm also pretty sure that they will develop a love for nature and all things science, math and puzzles because so do I. If they don't that's ok, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out they enjoy those things. I feel confident that MY values (Disney is awesome) was far more important in my son's attachment than a tv commercial. Because who exposed him to Disney? Me. Yes, on purpose.
Do all kids love Disney? Uh, no. In fact, I teach kids (and I've been teaching for 7 years now, so I've seen a fair few of them) who abhor Disney. So, I guess they missed the marketing message. I see lots of girls who shun the color pink. I see lots of girl who are total vapid morons and I don't think it has anything to do with Disney (ever heard of a beauty pageant?). There are a million different things that can cause girls to be idiots, but I am fairly sure that every time that message came from one place initially. Parents.
Now, does media reinforce some things? Well, of course it does. There is far to much objectification of females in the media. There is far to much marketing directed at kids. Both of those things mean that parents must be paying attention. Talking to their kids. Teaching their values. That's where this can be fixed. Companies make pink toys because ADULTS buy pink toys. Adults, who should be able to think for themselves. Who should be able to talk to their kids and tell them why that's dumb.
Bottom line? Let the corporations do what they will. Let the other side yell about how horrible the corporation is. In the meantime, I'm raising my kids over here and I'm trying to teach them how to be polite, responsible adults who think for themselves. And if my daughter likes pink, well, that's ok with me.