Friday, January 30, 2009

Commercializing Girlhood

While girls everywhere struggle with Barbie as their role model and the pressure to become "just like her" two girls don't have to imagine what they would be like as Barbie dolls - they've already been made. TyGirlz has come out with the Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha dolls to capitalize on President Obama's inauguration. Yes, these dolls are plush instead of plastic, but they've got the unrealistic "beautiful" infant/alien eye to head ratio as well as the top-heavy structure girls everywhere have come to know very well with their Barbie dolls. Yes, Malia and Sasha, even though they are 7 and 10, in doll form have breasts. This also conjures up thoughts of Pocahontas who in reality was 12-14 years old at the time of the colonists' arrival, being made a woman overnight in the Disney movie Pocahontas to fulfill the romantic angle Disney wanted to prescribe to little girls.

The Malia and Sasha dolls aren't a part of a romanticized plotline but once again a company has sexualized and commodified girls for the sake of making a buck. In doing so, they perpetuate the message we're seeing everywhere these days: that girls will never be "just girls" but girls on the verge of being teens and everything that marketers have come to associate with being a "teen." (i.e. sexy, fashionable, into makeup, and don't forget sweet). It goes to show that marketer's have no respect for any girl - even the First Daughters! Even they can be used, as the post on Packaging Girlhood points out, "to encourage little girls to play with teen dolls and everything marketers think "teen" means. That is, Bratz and their followers party, have a passion for fashion, drink "juice" drinks in cosmo glasses, fly in jet planes, shop, and hang out in hot tubs."

The copy for the Malia and Sasha dolls reads "The magnificent beauty is Marvelous Malia! Malia looks great in a long sleeved shirt with butterfly detail and capri pants. This modern maiden is ready to look stunning in spring." "Sweet Sasha is one of the nicest girlz you could hope to meet! With her pigtail braids and clever combo of a shirtdress and leggings, it's easy to see that this sweetheart has style."

There you have it: Beauty is a look and sweetness is a style. Both are up for sale.

At least their names weren't "Oo Lala" (Olivia) or "Sizzilin'" (Sue).

Check out Susan Linn's editorial from Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood on how the President (acting at First Father?) should take on coporate America.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are Girls Responsible for Dating Violence?

Two recent articles in The New York Times and the Boston Globe have reported on youth violence, specifically dating violence. While the articles describe efforts being made to prevent this violence, a recent commentary notes how they are based on gender-stereotypes and hold girls responsible for stopping it.

"This seems to be the thread running through both of these recent stories: that we still live in a country where gender stereotypes (men are violent and uncontrollable, women are passive and responsible) in collusion with systemic invisibility, lead us to continue making the same ineffective interventions. Our short-sightedness and sexism is, in itself, a sort of violence. It prevents us from empowering the next generation to live better, more peaceful lives," writes Courtney E. Martin.

Statistics on dating violence have shown the degree to which the problem is both troubling and urgent. According to a study from The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, more than one-third of the 920 students questioned were victims of emotional and physical abuse by romantic partners before they started college. Similarly, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found an increase in dating violence by more than 40 percent since 1999.

"But what about the young men? Do we really think teenage boys so depraved that they can't respond to an education on emotional management or be asked to take responsibility for preventing and ending interpersonal violence?" Martin writes.

To read the full commentary, click here. What do you think? Weigh in!