Thursday, November 10, 2011

Embracing My Voice

Our computer has been on the fritz, one of several dark clouds in my sky this week.  But, the plus side is that I've started to tackle that stack of books I ambitiously took out of the library.  Packaging Girlhood has been a very interesting read.  It covers the impact of the media and consumerism on our growing girls through clothing, TV & Movies, books, music and activities.  There are many worthy topics covered in it & many conversations have already started with my daughters (and my son!).  BUT.  At times, the book really ticked me off.  (and now I'm going to rant about it--consider yourself warned--but forgive me.  It's been building up all week.)

Like any politician, there was a certain 'spin' about the book and it's examples.  I was first cautious when the book mentions that little girls can't do all the things they need to do in dresses.  God forbid we allow our girls to enjoy clothing or fashion--a theme that starts early and goes throughout the book.  My girls all love dresses, and I often find myself trying to get them to wear something else.  But, it never keeps them from doing the things they want to do.

(My Curly Q jumping in leaves, swinging and running about the yard in a floor length, frilly dress I let her wear for Halloween and she now slips into whenever I'm not looking.  It's quite adorable).

And while the book talks about the terrible choices of clothing available in retail for teens and girls, it never once encourages girls to get into the fashion industry and make a change for the better.  Nope, better to steer all girls into math and science, and sports--although not cheerleading!  Anything but watch a girl be in a supportive or nurturing role.

I also found the section on "What Girls Read" to be a bit sad.  There was a lot of space wasted spent on books by Limited Too and American Girl.  I guess these books fit with the premise that our culture is encouraging young girls to be consumers, though I wonder who confuses books like that with real literature?  There was very little time spent giving us the great female characters we can look to-and there are many.  Not even a mention of Charlotte's Web?  Could Charlotte the spider be a stronger or more interesting female character--and working mother?  And the idea that Hermione and Dolores Umbridge (Did they even read the series?) are the only strong female characters in Harry Potter?  Molly Weasley only raises six children, is willing to take Harry into her home (which is focused on love and family), supports the Order of the Phoenix, and (spoiler alert) takes out the evil Bellatrix in the last book.  Sadly, they might have found her unworthy because she was just a housewife.

The final blow for me was their ridicule of Home Economics.  Why learn to sew when we buy our clothes and cook dinner from a box??  Take that, consumerism!  There was a lot of talk in the book about encouraging girls in sports, but while I played two division I sports in college (while majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience), I haven't played competitively in over 10 years (and I hated working in a lab).  I've had to feed and clothe myself and my growing family every single day.  As I've gotten older I found it to be so very, very sad that there wasn't a better Home Ec. program in my high school.

(Here's me sewing together one of the very, very special dolls I had made for my girls from an Etsy site...a doll which was found--and played with--by the dog.  Oh, sad, sad day.  I certainly wish I could have mended it better.)

Learning to sew & cook are just smart skills to have--as are woodworking & automotive care.  Whether you are man or woman, at home or with a career, you can only benefit from these skills.  You can benefit from a sense of fashion or design or decorating as well as sports and math and science.  We ought to be proud, as women, to be nurtures, to raise babies into contributing members of society, as well as being doctors and lawyers.  The fact that we allow some of our skills to be thrown into those stereotypes of being a female, and allow our society to make those skills negative or weak, is absurd to me.  Feminism is not about making certain choices, it is about women being free to chose from it all.

Be proud to be a woman.  I am.  Hear me roar!

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