03 June 2015

Girl Stuff

My girls are super into things that would be definitively designated as "girl stuff."  Monster High, Ever After High, My Little Pony, LEGO Friends, American Girl DollsDisney Princesses...the whole bit.  At first I chalked it up to the general popularity of such things in their age group.  Additionally, these were media franchises that were available to them despite our lack of cable.  I didn't mind this. While they feature the usual litany of ridiculous beauty standards, the content itself is about girls working together (often with boys as sidekick or as equals) and getting stuff done.

This last point being key.  @Artists_Ali pointed out on Twitter that of course little girls are all over the Disney Princesses, it is the only place they see girls together in groups.

This was a total eye-opener for me.  These franchises really are the only place that girls see groups of girls doing things that do not center around boys.  Which raises the important point: girls may not be into "girly" things by virtue of being girls, but by virtue of those "girly" things being the only venue by which media/toys/marketing allows groups of not-man/boy centered girls to exist. 

Of course, in thinking about this I did come to an interesting realization regarding the Disney Princesses. While the expanded Disney Princess Franchise often features the girls together and doing things that don't directly center around the princes, the movies themselves rarely even manage to feature two women talking to each other. In Aladdin Jasmine never speaks to another woman.  She only interacts with her father who plans to sell her like a commodity, the evil Jafar who wishes to buy her as a commodity, Genie who is a commodity and Aladdin who will save her from it all, presumably with the magic of his penis. Even the freaking pet tiger is a boy.  Belle in Beauty and the Beast (still my all time favorite after Fantasia) only ever speaks to generic townswomen who scorn her for being nerdy and anthropomorphic household goods, one of whom devotes and entire verse of a song to self-fat-shaming. When women do talk to each other in more than passing, odds are one of those women is the antagonist (Tangled, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid).

LEGO Friends on the other hand, is an entire world based on girls.  In most LEGO sets women are seriously underrepresented and are just the occasional piece with lipstick or painted-on boobs.  The LEGO Friends world is all girls.  Girls who are vets, scientists, hair stylists, chefs and so on.  Not "lady-firemen" who happen to be in the set. In all the discussion about parents not buying cross-gendered toys, maybe we have ignored the fundamental fact that kids may not want cross-gendered toys because why would you want a toy that nothing to offer you? Why would you want a LEGO set that in no way represents you, what you look like, or the activities you are into? As an adult, I am not into video games.  Not because I can't play play them, or that I am not interested in that kind of story telling, but because I don't want to spend weeks of my life playing in a world where there is literally nothing there for me.  Much as I don't want to have to role-play as a man in a made-up world where women are sexual commodities, my girls don't want to watch TV shows, read books or buy toys that have no freaking girls in them.

My point here is that I get it, when Monster High and My Little Pony are the only places you can see girls doing anything that doesn't focus on boys/being pretty enough to get boys, they are going to be an instant favorite.  Especially for Lizzie who is not quite reading yet and therefore has slightly more trouble accessing media that appeals to her.  So, from now on, when they want to read another Ever After High book, or see the Rainbow Rocks movie for the millionth time I will try to remember, they are making an important feminist choice.  Even at 5 and 8 they understand that it is not worth consuming media that doesn't speak to their own lives.  Nice job!