Thursday, March 3, 2011

Girl Ends Woman Begins: Removing Barbie from the Equation

There is a fine line between girlhood and womanhood. Determining when a girl transforms from a maiden to a woman is not as simple as when she begins menstruation. Biologically, that may be true, because at that point it is possible for her to become a mother. However, that is not enough.

A significant overload of hormonal influences (both physical and social), bombard the general population in our Western culture; studies indicate that the onset of womanhood is progressively occurring earlier. We know simply by turning on the television – if that is part of your world – that the advertisements, programming and daily news confirm the message of the importance of women as sexual beings. Fashion choices, magazine covers and ads along with most contemporary music suggests the same; a woman is only as good as her body and willingness to exploit herself, even if it means being sick to attain the image.

Combine this social atmosphere with the lack of a stable nuclear family, poor role models, little or no supervision, one parent families, and hormones in animal products present in most diets, and the line between girlhood and womanhood begins to blur.

One of the key factors in slowing down our exploding misogynistic society is to honestly invest time and guidance in our daughters. Of course this is true with our sons as well, but this piece is about girls.

My first suggestion is to ban Barbie Dolls. When children play with dolls, they are role playing. Most of us are aware of Barbie's unrealistic body. Her vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate. 1

This image is almost impossible to attain, and in attempting to do so is an invitation to eating disorders. I preferred Barbie’s little sister, Skipper. It was not easy to go against the masses when many friends and relatives insisted on giving my daughter Barbie Dolls. By the time my daughter got her hands on Barbie Dolls of her own, she was about eight years old…not great, but better than three, four or five.

I was aghast when the interactive Barbie Channel recently popped up (uninvited) on my Dish Network Guide. Out of curiosity, I watched it. It is an animated music video featuring a sexy, frilly Barbie with her friends and dog, who also happens to portray a sexy image. It is a nauseating pink cliché of what everyone should steer their daughters away from at all cost. It is a clever marketing tool designed to lure children to beg their parents to purchase the program so that they can “interact”. The message perpetuates the idea that you are lacking if you do not have access to this channel. The sleazy marketing tactic is that anyone (children) can access the channel to see the videos, but you must purchase the actual program to be able to play the games. In all fairness, like other pay channels, it should be blocked entirely unless the subscriber wishes to purchase. They are smart and hooking the children. Parents who cave in to this pressure are either too wrapped up in their own lives by allowing this sort of activity to replace quality time together or ignorant by believing that their child needs to have whatever is dictated by an outside marketing source.

Parents must step up to the plate and filter this garbage. It is an insult to our beings and the wrong road for our daughters. Before investing in programs like this, take the time to investigate. Ask yourself the following questions:

Will my child learn from this experience?
If so, what will she learn?
How much time will she invest in this activity?
Does it motivate or inspire positive thoughts and actions in everyday life?
What is the message?
Will it provoke clarity of thought?
Am I caving in to a marketing ploy for a temporary fix?
Do I agree with the main/ underlying philosophy?
Am I being selfish with my time by plugging my child into an activity that will keep her occupied and out of my hair?
What is the emotional cost?

The idols in question when my daughter was an adolescent were the Spice Girls and a young Brittany Spears. It was a bit easier for me without the constant pressure of public school; we were a classical home school family. However, we were not isolated or in a bubble at all, and my daughter was exposed to the negative outside sources that we must all sift through on a daily basis. I actually listened to the Spice Girls and was impressed by their musical talent. If you can set aside the visual sexual image and listen, they actually have great composition in many of their pieces. I had a problem with their obvious sexual message aimed at little girls. (They sold lollipops; you cannot deny that young girls were their prime targeted audience).

Sex sells. We have little girls in school, malls and on the streets wearing inappropriate/provocative clothing and make-up. Television shows – “Sixteen and Pregnant” glamorize teenage pregnancies. Unsupervised internet social sites and texting make communicating at an otherwise awkward stage easier and more accessible. Information that cannot be stated in person (face to face) can be communicated with ease on the computer or cell phone, igniting potentially risky behavior. None of this is news.

The importance of being an advocate for your daughter is vital. If you cannot protect, guide and love her, she cannot do the same for herself. We must teach our daughters to respect and honor themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. It does not mean that we turn them into ruthless warriors, slaughtering the gentle side of femininity.

We want our daughters to be strong, independent and free thinking, yet not at the cost of their true feminine selves. This way of being will insure the transformation of the individual girl into a self assured woman who understands that if she honors and loves herself; respect and wisdom will help to restore the collective feminine soul that has been disintegrating universally for thousands of years. We will find peace in the balance.

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