Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today I Started Reading a Book.

The title of the book is Packaging Girlhood. It reminds me of Cinderella Ate My Daughter a lot. It’s all about the subliminal (and blatant) messages behind everything businesses, companies, and the media sell to our daughters (starting as young Ash). It’s a very interesting, albeit slightly depressing read. They (the authors) also have a book titled, Packaging Boyhood.

In their book there is a lot of negativity towards the Disney Princesses. These authors look at the princesses as the beginning of feeding little girls the idea of needing to be valued by boys and not being able to make lives independent of romance. They think that most of the clothes, toys and tv shows in our culture are un-doing everything the feminist movements worked so hard to change. I don’t have any personal issues with any of the Disney Princesses (except the Little Mermaid), but that may be because I am the stereotypical mother and proud of it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with portraying that. The messages that bother me are those of absent parents, weakling fathers, and children who are rude and disrespectful to their parents and family members, over-the-top sibling enemies, sexual innuendo, anti-religious propaganda, political messages, and sexed up preteens.

There is a lot in this book that would be good for the parents of girls to read. It does make me sad though. It’s pretty messed up culture we have our kids swimming in. I do feel some confidence that we can keep our girls young longer because we’ve made the decision to home school and limit tv shows to dvds we’ve already viewed (though the authors claim that just turning off the tv won't work, I disagree). I also plan on being choosy about my childrens’ friends and will be doing everything in my power to help them put each other first. Family loyalty is more important, in my eyes. I do realize that as my children age, things will get more difficult. It will be less black and white and my kids will be making more and more decisions for themselves. My job now is to protect them the best I can and nurture our relationships so that communication is always open and flowing. The minute my kids feel like they can’t tell me something or bring up a touchy subject is the minute I lose as a parent.

In this book, they talk about the importance of boy-girl friendships. They are worried about the increasing objectifying of boys that is happening in our culture. It’s not ok for boys to do that girls, so why do we think it’s ok in the reverse? There’s also a lot of boy bashing -- also detrimental. I grew up spending most of my time playing with my next youngest sibling. A boy. We played He-man, Star Trek, Star Wars, paperdolls, My Little Pony, and Narnia together. There weren’t any lines drawn over what was ok for boys to play and what was ok for girls to play. We just played. It was good and natural and as it should be. I have bought my girls cars and dinosaurs and they are getting a train set for Christmas that I know they will love. I hope that they will have a brother someday, or boy friends (platonic, of course), so they can have healthy interactions with the opposite gender.

So – even though I’ve only read about a fourth of the book, I think I can recommend reading it.  Notice I said, "think."  I haven't finished it and it is a rather depressing book.   I haven't read anything I wasn't already aware of, but I like that it is food for thought and may even be a wake-up call for some parents.  And if you have boys, you could check out their book about boyhood and let me know what you think.  Or you could read Cinderella Ate My Daughter, which is the same concept.

I don't agree with everything they've written in Packaging Girlhood.  They tend to repeat themselves a lot.  I think they could have condensed it quite a bit.  They tend to be negative about everything and bash all stereotypes (like stay-at-home mom), which to me is a little insane and unrealistic.  We humans like our labels and titles and as long as they are positive and not hurtful, I see nothing wrong with that.  I do agree that the majority of what is offered to us, the consumers, seems to be a lot more limited than when I was a kid.  And there are a lot less toys that are targeted for both girls and boys, which is too bad.  I also like how the authors constantly bring up the importance of talking to your kids and even give you some thought-provoking questions to ask. Communication is key. And as hard as it is, being non-judgmental is pretty darn important too.

I'll stop there because I could keep yammering on and typing as fast as I can to keep up with what my brain is thinking, but I'll spare you.  Plus, my poor husband has fallen asleep next to me and the bedroom lights are still on.  Would love to hear all your thoughts on this.  I, for one, want to keep the majority of popular culture out of my house.  How about you?


Amy said...

I agree with you on many points. It's scary out there!!
I totally agree on the objectifying thing. I want my kids to respect others as children of God, not turn them into playthings. (I was very boy-crazy as a kid. I want to try to lean AWAY from that because it was just silly.)
I also think that a lot of times, adults read too much into what stories their kids are watching. When I was a kid, I wasn't analyzing the underlying themes of Sleeping Beauty and thinking: well, I should just go to sleep and Prince Charming will fix everything. No, I just thought it was a pretty story that I liked.
So yes, great food for thought. I don't like how much the authors of the book seem to bash things though. Sometimes I think people need to just calm down.
Great post, Jamie!!

My Journey With Candida said...

I always have a book going. I agree with you about our culture being messed up... really messed up.

AudreyO said...

Sounds like an interesting read. I have two girls. One thing that was suggested to me when my kids were young and it was some of the best advice I ever got was to make my house the hangout house. That way I'd know who their friends were, what they were doing etc.

Vicky said...

Raising 4 girls terrifies me. The culture that we live in today is horrible but unless I move to some remote deserted island there is no way to get away from it. I try hard to make my girls understand that they can be anything they want to be, what other people think doesn't matter and that they should be sheep and follow the crowd. I've also banned all those annoying teeny dramas on the disney channel!!!

mun said...

Why do you have an issue with the Little Mermaid?

What I Did Today said...

@mun - My issue with Disney's Little Mermaid is the same issue I have with Finding Nemo. The kids have bad, disrespectful attitude towards their parents. And while I understand that kids act that way at times, I'm not going to encourage it through their media (which they tend to emulate). I looooooved Finding Nemo until I became a parent. And was so bummed when I realized that he's kind of a brat to his poor, clueless father (another thing that now bothers me). So, there's a long answer to your short question. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on just about everything.
Our culture is totally messed up and I feel so sorry for my kids.
I hope that we can do an excellent job raising them to make the right decisions in life.