A few weeks ago, my friend Rian wondered aloud at the way her children have been going on and on about the “Black Friday” sales. The thing is, her kids have never been to a Black Friday sale. So how did they know of them? Experts now say that, on average, Americans are exposed to more than 2,000 images, stories and ads per day. These ads seep into our brains through newspapers, radio, print, billboards, television and internet. They tell us, not only what to buy, but who to be. And they generally carry some pretty nasty messages about girls and women through repeated images.
I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize the images as I describe them:
The shockingly skinny girl.
The woman posed as a child.
And the child posed as a woman.
The assault ad.
The insult ad.
The TV shows that force girls to grow up too soon.
The toys and products that do the same.
(Oh, this? This is a padded toddler bra. Yep, I said toddler.)
These ads and products remind me that:
81% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
In the 1970’s the average age of a girl who started a diet was 14. By the 1990’s, the age had fallen to 8.
Americans spend over 60 billion dollars a year on diets and diet related products.
42% of 1st through 3rd grade girls say they want to be thinner (source: America the Beautiful II).
Black seems like the right color for a day when the “girl” aisles offer great deals on sexualized dolls whose professions are limited to teacher, nurse and fashion designer. I have to remind myself that there is good stuff out there for girls. You won’t find it on the shelves at Walmart, or in Teen Vogue but it is out there. And it’s worth looking for if you want to counteract some of those 2000+ messages our kids are getting.
There are some great websites for girls but my favorite (which has a corresponding magazine) is New Moon Girls featuring poetry, stories and articles written by girls, about girls. The focus is generally on friendships, body image and adventure with resources for parents and some great features like this virtual “button” that girls can use to identify ads that are not respectful of girls and women and celebrate those that are.
Books with Great Girl Characters:
Lovell, Patty. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. Ages 4-10. Molly Lou Melon barely flinches as she systematically sets out to prove herself.
Yolen, Jane. Sleeping Ugly. Ages 5-10. Sleeping Ugly reminds the reader that beauty is more than skin deep.
Hannigan, Katherine. Ida B. Ages 8-13. Ida B. is a fourth grader whose story will resonate long after you have put this book down.
Cushman, Karen. The Midwife’s Apprentice. Ages 11 +. Our heroine befriends a cat, names herself Alyce, and learns something to deliver babies.
Donelley, Jennifer. A Northern Light. Ages 13 +. Mattie's frank and humorous voice reveals much about poverty, racism, and feminism at the turn of the twentieth century.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Ages 13 +.
Amazing survival story set in a post apocalyptic future.
Bray, Libba. Beauty Queens. Ages 16 +. Teen beauty queens fight for survival on a "Lost"-like island.
Anything by Carolyn Mackler, Laurie Halse Anderson or Laura Ruby are fabulous!
New Moon Girls
Bust (for older girls)
Books to Learn More:
Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne
So Sexy So Soon by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Who’s Raising Your Child? Battling Marketers for Your Child’s Heart and Soul by Kathleen McGee
Films for Parents and Older Kids:
America the Beautiful
Still Killing Us Softly
This year, I skipped the
|Watch Juliet's video here|