Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What we are telling our children-part 1

I was sitting listening to one of the little girls in my class talk about how much she loves princess. She was wearing a princess shirt, her whole room is "in princess", she even has a princess car. Several of the other little girls started talking about all the princesses stuff they had as well. Of course all of them were talking about the Disney princesses and I thought back to this video that Manila Ryce had done on YouTube and I saw when it was linked last night at the BG Salon.

And that got me thinking abut the messages that society sends to our children, especially our little girls
1. They are little princess which of course means they have to be dainty and "ladylike".
2. They have to look a certain way which is super skinny and white. Now granted there are some of the princess or Disney females which are supposed to be another ethnicity such as Jasmine in Aladdin who is supposed to be Arabic, but really don't they all look the same except maybe a bit darker skin? But the skin is also never too dark it it?
3. They are weak and men have to be there to save them and in many cases their lives are controlled by the men such as Jasmine, again, who Aladdin as the song goes, has to show her the world. She is not able to discover anything or think without being told what to think and what to see.
4. They have to dress a certain way and that is either very scantily like Jasmine or the little mermaid or in long dresses and what would be considered very feminine such as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.
5. Also, they have to ensnare the men as the men are not intelligent enough, I think of the Jungle Book here, where although there is only really one female character and she is right at the end, the little "man village" girl that Mowgli sees and is so entranced by and that is when he decides that he will go back to the village.

I am sure if I continued to think about this, I could come up with many many more stereotypes that are perpetuated by the Disney princess (some of these will be addressed in part two). Now I worry, of course, about the little girls and their self perception, but I also worry about the little boys. We have begun to tell the little girls that they can be anything they want to be, that they can grow up to be strong individuals and as they get older that they can be independent. I don't believe we do a very good job of reversing the damage that we do in the beginning by inundating the little girls with these images, but at least we do something. We, as a society, do nothing for the little boys. We do not tell them that this is not how we should expect women to act. We do not tell them that little girls are not helpless. We do not tell our boys that women can be strong and independent. We do not tell our boys that women can think for themselves and that we as men need to allow and encourage the women around us to be their own person. This leads to men who are confused when they grow up and the women do not reflect what they saw in the movies growing up. This leads to men who expect women to need to be rescued. This leads to men who feel that women need to be controlled. This leads to men who see women as merely objects for them.

I know there are plenty of women out there who I am sure help their male children to break through much of the misogynistic bullshit ( I am thinking of my mother for one), but is this enough? Are we able to help children to get beyond what Uncle Walt tells us and become the generation who increases equality across all lines whether they are gender, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation?


FranIAm said...

I was at the salon for the first time the other night and meant to go to the video, but never did.

So thanks for posting it here.

Wow. I am just dumbstruck by this, really great.

In a rare moment I am lost for words.

Comrade Kevin said...

Actually, children like to be tricked. I told my nephew once I was taking him to Disneyland. Instead I took him to an old burned-out building and said "look, Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried. I thought about taking him to the real Disneyland, but it was getting late.