This is a post I've wanted to write for a while but it's such a huge topic I didn't really know where to start. To be honest it can also be applied to bringing up boys but, for the moment, I'm just bringing up a girl so that's my view point.
I'm still not really sure where to start, there's so much crap welling up in my mind that makes me angry and I see more everyday. On tuesday I had a job interview and while I was sitting in a cafe before hand trying not to eat my own arm out of nerves I was distracted by a billboard for matalan where four girls aged about eight or so where lined up (a la sex and the bloody city) holding hands etc and wearing really quite adult clothes and sporting handbags. I'm guessing the range of clothes came from Matalan's Candy Couture range "funky prints and grown up style- the latest fashion must haves for girls age 8-13 years". But this is from the shop that lists padded bras in the featured items of it's girls essentials line.
I know it has become the mantra of grauniad readers for a while now to let our children be children but I really do want to let my daughter be a little girl until she's ready to grow up. And it scares me that children have so much exposure to things that try to force them to grow up early. This applies to both girls and boys as it seems (mirroring adult life) that girls should be trying to turn themselves into objects to attract boys from early on, hence the padded bras, while boys are encouraged to look at girls as objects to be possessed. I've heard vague stories of teenage boys referring to their girlfriends as "my gash". Do I want my daughter to be called that or to think it's acceptable to be called that? No I bloody don't.
The epitomy of the clothing directed at girls that makes my skin crawl is the primark t-shirt with the "future wag" logo. I don't go into primark (not wishing to wear clothes made in a sweatshop if I can avoid it) so I don't know if this t-shirt is still stocked but I can imagine there are many similar slogans.... It saddens me that it's seen as acceptable by a major high st brand to encourage girls to aspire to nothing more than being the grammatically incorrect hanger on to a rich man. Add this to tesco offering a toy pole dancing kit and endless other tales of retailers getting things so totally wrong and growing up just looks like a minefield.
What really worries me though is that there are so many of these tales of pole dancing kits, inappropriate clothing, inappropriate everything that over sexualises our little girls that more and more is slipping under the radar. So the padded bra is somehow ok and acceptable and the playboy pencil case is just a laugh.
I think a lot of this goes back to the very innocuous "girls will be girls, boys will be boys" attitude but it has me wondering, what comes first? Do girls all really love pink to the exclusion of all else or do we tell them they love pink so they take on the "pink persona".
Don't get me wrong, children love dressing up and make believe and I remember as a child pretending to be a princess and having a dressing up box containing some fabulous dresses, including my mother's wedding dress, I used to mess around with her makeup on a fairly regular basis too, apparently once drinking some nail varnish but I also remember dressing up as pirates and having dens in the woods and getting messy and muddy and generally having a thoroughly good time. Possibly with lashings of ginger beer.... But I find it hard to imagine a little girl running round the great outdoors and throwing her imagination to the wind while wearing heeled pumps and a padded bra.
I think what bothers me is that I see a link between things that are meant to be harmless and things that aren't. Baby girls dressed head to toe in pink which links to barbies and disney princesses which links to plastic and completely unobtainable body images which links in the to the big wide world of playboy, topless models (run up to page 3 girls hitting 16 or whatever age it is so they can get their tits out legally, makes me shudder) which all links in to the only validation a girl can have about herself is from the way she looks. It's so sad and it's not what I want for my daughter.
Pink Stinks is a great organisation which campaigns for real role models for girls and generally expains all the half formed thoughts jostling in my head better than I can here!
I can't hide all this from Jess but I have to make sure that I arm her as much as possible with an enquiring mind, I encourage her to question what she sees and I give her a sense of her own value being what it is and not based on flimsy.