Friday, 1 October 2010

Bringing up girls

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.


  1. Hear, hear, Lou!

    You know that I agree with you - I've been particularly angry about the Playboy merchandise. I also hate how page 3 is acceptable, but programs or pictures featuring natural naked bodies come with a warning - I want my children to have a healthy attitude to nudity and the body. I also hope no-one convinces any child of mine that pole/lapdancing is empowering. It's difficult, as you say, because you can't hide it from children - thanks to porn, I'd be worried about any sons growing up with a skewed idea of what a woman's body actually looks like - but all we can do is give our children the confidence to question the way things are. xx

  2. Excellent post.

    My nephew recently discovered porn and my sister reacted by smiling and saying that it's very natural and she didn't want to scare or embarrass him - I thought Fair Dos. But when I suggested she give him the feminist angle (perfect timing - learn this issue fully, not arses first) - there was no way she could. So basically - it's harmless and natural to view women with semen on their faces, but too 'real' to talk about the politics - WHAT?! I'm in no way dissing the sister - this is her business, but it does strike me as MENTAL that this is the situation. He'll be 11 in January - he's a clever kid, he would understand perfectly well if explained to the real situation for women with semen on their faces - this is not a choice women make. And blah blah - some women do choose it, some Muslim women in the UK choose to cover up - does this mean their view rules when they're in the total minority? The majority should rule and the majority of women in the sex industry do not fucking choose it. Why is it always feminist issues that have that tone "well some women lie about rape" - oh OK then, since 0.001% have done, let's make it really easy for men to get away with it. Again and again. So it's a woman's responsibility to education herself and her children and face porn directly - too long has it been shunned as a bra burning/hysterical topic, we're getting laughed at by slimes, and they're carrying on regardless.

    Bean will grow up very fast in one way - I'm not going to shy away from these issues, she's a feminist now and always will be. I think Gash like us needn't worry though - our kids will be as strong as horses. Gash - - honestly, I can't take that seriously..

  3. Thanks for your comments. I do agree, I think we're doing our children an injustice to think they won't understand these things. If a child is old enough to watch porn they're old enough to understand the consequences and the reality of it.

  4. Good point, brilliantly made Lob. I just can't help wondering if this is what the Women's Lib Movement intended. We really haven't moved on at all if girls are encouraged to see themseleves as WAGS! In this age of equality shouldn't there be HABS? Apparently not.

    Just to point out you still help yourself to my makeup!!