March 1, 2011

The Princess and the (Downward-Facing) Dog

Originally posted at Elephant Journal.

Can Yoga Combat the Limitations of the Princess Brigade?

Yogini and New York Times best-selling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein, thinks so. In a recent addition to her growing resource  list on her book‘s website, she states:

Girls want to do ballet in preschool. And that can be fine. But most of them won’t want to do it anymore once it gets “real”–and given the body image concerns about ballet, most of us don’t want our daughters pursuing it anyway (I don’t mean to put a knock on ballet, which I respect, or certainly any other form of dance, I’m just saying the world of ballet can be very tough. I’ve seen “Black Swan….”). Anyway, in addition to, or instead of, ballet how about kids’ yoga? It’s graceful, you can wear a leotard if you want, and it’s something that can actually be the building block of a lifelong healthy practice that promotes POSITIVE body image, confidence, competence and inner strength. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The Pepto-Bismol pink and glitter strewn world of “princess culture,” one that has exploded in the last decade, is what has been referred to as a gateway drug. It is a gateway drug that leads to the narcissistic, ego-driven world of the diva. As Orenstein describes in one chapter of her book, Wholesome to Whoresome, and a point that is made in a recent interview, Cinderella and the growing pantheon of princesses aren’t inherently evil. The problem rests with the aggressive and highly sophisticated marketing tactics that have placed greater and greater emphasis on the hotness quotient and severely limited girls’ choices. It is the cradle-to-grave brand loyalty that is forced upon children at ever earlier ages. In fact, marketers have hyper-segmented to such a severe degree that not even infancy is off-limits. The hyper-girlie, overly marketed, painfully pink “princess industrial complex” has increased the pressure young girls feel, limited their measure of self-worth, and decreased self-esteem.


January 18, 2011

An Open Letter to TLC: Cancel Toddlers & Tiaras

Originally written for Pigtail Pals- Redefine Girly by Melissa Wardy. Cross-posted with permission.
Recent beauty pageant contestant. She is two years old.

Dear Producers of Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC, and Discovery Communications LLC:

It is an extremely thin veil that hides the atrocious “Toddlers & Tiaras” as a documentary-style show for your network. For the past four seasons the show has done a good job, not so much with teaching, but of giving viewers a voyeuristic peek into the children’s beauty pageant world. We don’t need to see anymore. As Season 5 reaches its midpoint, the show now continues to do little more than become complicit in the exploitation of the little girls at its center. At best, it is now a mockumentary of the visibly unbalanced mothers (and a few fathers) who force their children to spend long and uncomfortable hours participating in these expensive pageants. Many of these children are too young to say whether or not they want to participate. When these children act out and demonstrate they do not enjoy what is happening, or do not want it to happen any longer, they are still made to participate by their pageant moms. Let us be clear from the outset that after this season it is time to cancel the show.

I’m sure inside your producer heads you think this is crazy, especially as the show has received some buzz-worthy, controversial attention recently and continues to pull in advertisers and an average of 1.3 million viewers each week….but as your mission statements goes, it is the job of the Discovery channel family to satisfy curiosity. TLC has done its job with this show, as almost everyone who has been exposed to the program finds it distasteful and widely condemns the child beauty pageant circuit. Our curiosity has been satisfied – as demonstrated with the several thousands of negative and disapproving comments left in the last couple of weeks alone. We’ve seen it. We don’t like it. We’re over it.

The idea of two year old girls strutting around with cones protruding out of her bustier and five year olds who sit trembling and screaming in a chair at a salon as she is enticed into a painful beauty treatment will tend to leave a bad taste in our mouth. It leaves us less interested in the pageants themselves, but more interested in gawking at and judging the deranged mothers who subject their poor daugthers to this twisted world of judged fake beauty. That might make for good ratings, but it doesn’t make for a happy and healthy childhood of the young girls who hold the title of this show. Just like their overbearing mothers, you exploit these children. A shameful act on both parts.

The duration of this show has coincided with a large effort by a small group of dedicated experts to raise awareness to the general public about the sexualization of girls. The parents we have reached now understand the emotional, psychological, and physical harm a young girl is exposed to when she is sexualized.  As the 2007 American Psychological Association’s task force report showed us, early sexualization can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and early promiscuity.

Contestant on the children’s beauty pageant circuit.

“Toddlers & Tiaras” is a petri dish of sexualization. Little girls are taught, often times forced by their domineering mothers, to act coquettishly, learn suggestive dance routines, wear sexualized costumes and bathing suits, endure hours of hair and make-up, and are even put on restrictive diets in order to lose weight for competition. This is perverse. While TLC continues to air “Toddlers & Tiaras”, the network becomes an agent of this sexualization.


August 15, 2010

Just What Every Toddler Needs to go With Those Heels: Skinny Jeans!

As if high heels, padded kiddie bikinis, thong underwear, stripper poles, and denim diapers weren’t enough, parents are now able to buy their toddler their own pair of skinny jeans.

Skinny jeans are just the latest item in a larger cumulative force that is turning babies, toddlers and children into miniature adults, in large part through overt sexualization.

Between the celebration of gyrating 7-year-olds, Baby Gaga‘s featured on Youtube, sexy toy makeovers, virgin waxing, glammed up toddlers in fashion advertising, and clothing with sexualized content such as “I’m a boob man,” “Lock up your daughters” or “Does this diaper make my butt look big? girls and boys are being harried into premature adulthood by corporate marketing forces seeking profit.

Cross-posted at Elephant Journal.

July 28, 2010

"Pretty" is not enough!

It was only a matter of time before the younger half-sister of the Kardashian clan, Kendall Jenner, joined in on the money making fun and modeled for a bikini photo shoot.  Kim posted the photos on her blog this past week and praised Kendall’s ability to do what the Kardashians do best: looking “pretty” (and reaping mega profits).

They turned out sooo gorgeous!! I am so proud of Kendall. She’s going to take over the modeling world… you just watch!

Now, where shall I begin?  I am beyond bored with the one-dimensionality of the Kardashian claim to fame.  The issue here is not necessarily that Kendall is wearing a bikini at age 14 or really even the fact that she has decided to pursue a modeling career.   The issue here in my mind is the fact that this is not surprising at all.  But then again, the Kardashian legacy is looking ‘pretty.’  The incessant downplay from the entire family  and her mother’s orchestration of the shoot doesn’t leave Kendall much room for growth outside of posing in a bikini and reiterates that the only component of self that she can have will be reduced to her looks.  I feel the same way when looking at these photos that I did when I found out the mom, Kris Jenner, was the one who convinced Kim to pose for Playboy– saddened and confused.  I was pretty surprised at the amount of acceptance this photo shoot received and am even more surprised as to why this is considered to be “typical” 14 year old behavior.  Shouldn’t her mother be trying to shield her from the inevitable dangers of the modeling world which is notorious for sexualizing girls at an earlier age and essentially chewing them up and spitting them out?


June 29, 2010

Why American Apparel Sucks

Interview: Jennifer Berger on About Face and American Apparel

Originally posted at Feminist Frequency. Cross-posted with permission.

For full post, related articles and transcript, click here.

Aditional links provided by Feminist Fatale:

June 19, 2010

Did you forget you're a role model, Katy Perry?

Katy Perry is at the top of the pop star game with her latest single California Gurls currently at #1.   As it turns out, if you have a catchy tune no one really questions or cares about the lyrics which is in this case is good for Katy Perry because she says nothing of any substance.  At all.   This, however, shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise seeing as her claim to fame was “I Kissed a Girl”, a song that did nothing but sell a girl-on-girl heterosexual male fantasy in the form of a CD.  Go figure.  Granted, she does write *most* of her own lyrics and therefore is the only one to thank for the enlightening and empowering messages young girls are consuming all over the country right now:

California girls
We’re unforgettable
Daisy Dukes
Bikinis on top
Sun-kissed skin
So hot
Will melt your popsicle
Oooooh Oh Oooooh

To be quite frank, I don’t personally understand the appeal to her music as I find it to be beyond lame.  It is a classic example of just how devoid of originality and substance our pop culture landscape is and it does a perfect job of keeping women in an overly sexualized one-dimensional category.  It is songs like this that reinforce our ever growing need for more sheroes and a deconstruction of the messages that we are financially supporting and constantly consuming without batting an eyelash.

In a recent Jezebel post by Dodai, the pop message is explained crystal clear:

Tale as old as time: Love me; I’m pretty! Her cupcake boobs and suggestive frosting-licking are campy fun, though disappointing on some level, since the only message seems to be: I am here for your consumption. Eat me.

As if the lyrics weren’t ridiculously dull enough, the cupcake filling shooting out of her cupcake breasts left me at a complete loss, extremely confused and in search for some sort of justification.  Upon further investigation and a quick visit to Wikipedia, I learned that Katy Perry  had quite the religious upbringing, raised by two Pastors.  In fact, she started singing in her church at the age of nine and her first CD was a self-titled gospel album.   So, naturally after her tweet blasting Lady Gaga’s new video  this past week as “blasphemous” I couldn’t help but spot the irony.  I mean, it’s kind of hard to miss in a skintight  rubber dress.

The fact of the matter is that Katy Perry (lame music and all) is extremely popular right now.  Whether she likes it or not she is a popular public figure and by default a role model for young women  and girls. What exactly does it say about our present female ‘role model’ that the best she can come up with are insipid, sexually explicit lyrics that promote her as nothing more than a Candyland piece waiting to be eaten up by Snoop Dogg?

January 29, 2009

PETA and the Superbowl

PETA’s sexy veggie ad has been banned from the Superbowl, sparking controversial debate on both sides:

NBC states: “depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards”

Says a PETA rep: “PETA’s veggie ads are locked out, while ads for fried chicken and burgers are allowed, even though these foods make Americans fat, sick and boring in bed.”

Courtney at

PETA’s incredibly ridiculous ad trying to convince all those hot wing munchers to convert to vegetarianism during the Super Bowl has been rejected. Shocker. It contains thin white woman prancing around in their underwear rubbing vegetables all over their perfectly toned bodies. I’m not even going to post the video, cause it’s, well, inane. Suffice it to say that, once again, PETA proves it has no notion of intersectional exploitation.

October 8, 2008

More sexy girls…ugh!

On September 11 and September 24, I wrote about the gender socialization of young boys and girls, specifically the construction of sexuality.

One of my students turned this advertisement for House of Dereon’s (Beyonce and Solange Knowles’ clothing company) children’s line.  This is the first I had heard of it.  Apparently, it made a debut back in May and there are numerous responses to be found online that echo the same sentiment: disgust.

I can’t help but think of the obscene childhood photos of JonBenet Ramsey and the infamous spoof in, “Little Miss Sunshine.”

September 24, 2008

Sexy Girls, Sexual Boys…

…and it starts so early.  I’ve posted several items in the last few weeks exploring the early sexualization of younger and younger girls from heels for infants to stripper poles and “virgin” waxing.

Gender socialization is not a recent phenomenon. From color codes to silly head bands on bald baby girl heads, parents and society expect that clues about the infant’s anatomy will be provided through the use of various sign systems. Right or wrong, this has been around for quite some time and certainly lends itself to lengthy conversations and analysis.

What is more recent and more disturbing, in my opinion, is the blatant sexual socialization of younger and younger members of our society in line with the sexual expectations society dictates of heterosexual men and women.

Girls/women are sexy. Boys/men are sexual.

I’m almost 6 months pregnant and I am having a son.  As a budding feminist in my early twenties, I imagined myself raising an empowered daughter.  My best friend and I used to joke about the inevitable likelihood of giving birth to a son.  As expected, 15 years later, I have been given the task of raising a conscious feminist boy.

I spend a lot of time browsing the internet for baby gear. In doing so, I am sick and tired of running across crass sexual messages for infant boys proclaiming their sexual prowess long before they can hold up their own head. I mean, seriously?  Boob man?  Lock up your daughters?  You’d be hard to press to ever find a onesie for a girl reading: Penis gal!  Lock up your sons!

In either case, do we need to thrust these sexual/sexy messages on newborns?  I can’t help but recall a scene in The 40 Year-Old Virgin where one of the main characters puts his unborn son’s sonogram on a big screen TV and points out the large penis his boy is packing in utero.