I always wanted a girl. Growing up I had images of playing with my little girl baby like I’d play with my dolls. We’d get dressed up in matching outfits (hey, my mother was into Laura Ashley, okay), shop, play house, have tea and read Anne of Green Gables together.
Firstly, I’ll have to beware of calling her my Little Princess. Because the title of “Princess” is gender-normative and sexually repressive. That’s right, if you expose your little girls to princess culture they will inevitably hate math, love boys and want to do nothing but play house in big, fancy dresses. I loved princesses and grew up to loathe housework, wear pants and pursue a career, but “studies show“…pardon me while my eyeballs roll to the floor.
Secondly, the little princesses inevitably grow into underage sexpots. It’s the Disney Disease, I guess. Who knew Annette Funicello would start a trend when she dared to go against Walt’s advice and wear a two-piece? Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are two of many pop stars who, according to artists like Chrissie Hynde, are responsible for creating a “porn culture” for kids to role model. The sad thing is, Hynde is right. Toddler shirts that brand girls as princesses aren’t all that different from teen shirts that brand girls as sexy trophies. Same style, same idea, scary thought.
When I began to think I must be blowing this out of proportion, I came across one mom’s account of a recent romper room experience with her daughter:
“Hey sexy lady” boomed from the speakers of our local indoor inflatable play facility while a Dance Revolution digital dance screen gyrated largely on the wall. Hip thrusts. Shoulder shimmies.
Provocative moves for the little ones to mimic. Which most did after being called over by the “Party Host” to have the final dance party of the day.
Luckily, not mine.
I watched my five-year old invent her own moves and dance, completely unaware of what was happening around her. Or what was being sung in the song. And I was thankful that in this moment she seemed unphased by the world that wants her to grow up too fast. And I wondered how this particular song and these moves were approved for a child’s play environment for kids 18 months to 8 years old?
Creepy. Every baby book and website encourages you to listen to music with your children from the minute they enter the world. Listen to anything, they advocate, even the pop music you like. Who wouldn’t want their little baby jamming to Blurred Lines? After all, they don’t know what the words mean, they’re just rocking the beat, right? That’s why my cousin blasts pop music with his little princess in the car… and sings absurdities over the lyrics. The one time she caught a Beyonce video on television they had to censor her dance moves for a month.
Sure, kids live in their own world and bring their own interpretations to what they encounter in the culture around them. Hence, little girls can be princesses who grow up to become engineers. At the same time, by exposing them to everything with no filter attached, what are we gearing them to expect from themselves and the world around them? Hynde observed:
‘I don’t think sexual assault is a gender issue as such, I think it’s very much it’s all around us now.
‘It’s provoked by this pornography culture, it’s provoked by pop stars who call themselves feminists. Maybe they’re feminists on behalf of prostitutes – but they are no feminists on behalf of music, if they are selling their music by bumping and grinding and wearing their underwear in videos.
‘That’s a kind of feminism – but, you know, you’re a sex worker is what you are.
We’re told not to raise princesses. At the same time, we’re told to let our teenage girls wear what they want, embrace their bodies and imitate pop icons. It’s a twisted kind of femininity we’re passing on to our daughters, one that tells them to sacrifice their girliness in order to be engineers by day and sex goddesses by night.
Sure, my boy will have his share of cultural “norms” to contend with. He’ll probably be told he’s too energetic and not sensitive enough. At least one parent will disapprove of the fact that he’ll be playing with toy guns (from his mother’s childhood collection). But at least he won’t be incessantly sexualized at the expense of his individuality or boyish nature. Mothers of sons like telling me that it’s better to have a boy because “girls are a handful.” I doubt it. It is our culture that makes raising a girl a job and a half. It’s time to rethink the way we approach parenting little girls.
Images via Shutterstock