I’m reprinting one of my older posts because I’m fresh out of new material and now that I actually have a readership, I’d be interested in feedback about it.
This was written when my daughter was in Kindergarten. She’s now 7 and going into second grade.
I have real trouble understanding the culture we live in here in the America. I went to a birthday party for 6 year old girls two weeks ago. The theme of the party was Hannah Montana. I didn’t know much about her, except that she is the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, the character is 14 years old, and she is apparently idolized by every 5-6 year old girl in my daughter’s kindergarten class.
They spent a small amount of time at the party singing Karaoke of a Hannah Montana song about having “the best of both worlds”. All the girls (11 of them) knew the words to the song except my daughter. I felt a slight pang of sadness that my daughter noticed that everyone knew the words except her. The sadness lasted only a moment, when I realized just what the words were:
You get the limo out front
Hottest styles, every shoe, every color
Yeah, when you’re famous it can be kinda fun
It’s really you but no one ever discovers
In some ways you’re just like all your friends
But on stage you’re a star ….
You get the best of both worlds
Mix it all together and you know that it’s the best of both
(You know the best) You know the best of both worlds
Pictures and autographs
You get your face in all the magazines
The best part’s that you get to be who ever you wanna be …..
It just totally blew my mind that these little girls, barely out of the princess dress up phase are well versed in this song (I know this because the girls not around the Karoake machine sung the words without seeing them).
And then there was my little girl, who knew nothing about Hannah Montana, who wanted to sing along too, but couldn’t because she didn’t know the words. And while all the singing was going on, I noticed the birthday girl sobbing in the corner with her dad giving her some sort of lecture. I had to wonder if it was just all too much, and the little diva was having some sort of nervous breakdown because she just couldn’t cope any more. The father finally snapped her out of it (by what I’m not sure, but I could guess a bribe or a threat), and the girl stopped crying and went on to have cake and ice cream and open presents.
The birthday girl received lots of Hannah Montana things – about 4 Hannah Montannah dolls and a Hannah Montana toy guitar, and some other barbie dolls that had rockin’ outfits on. [For the record, I’m not against Barbie – in fact I have a few sets – Dr Barbie and Dr Ken, and Veterinarian Barbie and Teacher Barbie that the girls and I play with from time to time].
From us, she got a set of lip glosses and a sticker set with Disney princesses as a theme. I know, I am making my daughter so uncool, but in the end, the birthday girl still screamed just as shrilly as she did with all the Hannah Montana stuff.
But I really don’t get it. Why do mothers encourage their girls to grow up so fast? While my girls are still into princesses and dressing up, they aren’t into being pop-stars or Hannah Montana clones. While her counterparts have Bratz dolls, my daughters have Groovy Girl dolls.
While other 6 year old girls apparently come home from school and memorize the lyrics to Hannah Montana songs, my girls come home from school and are learning about math and science. We explore the natural world in our neighborhood, plants seeds, play math games and do science experiments. My daughter talks about being a teacher when she grows up – not a pop-star. I don’t have specific goals for my girls – just to be innocent for as long as possible, to enjoy their childhood, and to go into adulthood with their eyes and minds open to the world around them.
What has happened to America these days, that six year old girls aspire to be Hannah Montana clones? Is that what parents want for their girls? To raise bubble-headed girls with their eyes set on being stars? What happened to feminism and the push to raise independent-thinking women? It’s not that I’m all that impressed with the feminist movement in America either because they went too far in the other direction at times, but at least working hard at establishing independence gave us women choices. (Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate more some time about what I mean in a followup post). What kind of choices do girls have when you allow mass-marketing to tell you what a girl wants?
Do mothers really think this is “harmless”? To aspire to become the next pop star? Are American mothers just too busy to care? Are mothers too weak to buck the tide of hyped-up mass-marketing?
I just don’t get it. I really don’t. It’s appalling that mothers in suburban America have so little respect for girls and womanhood that they are willing to allow their daughters to be reveling in such materialistic and unrealistic things.
Why not create a female Doogie Howser. MD type of character? How about making a TV series for girls with a smart, strong lead young female role for girls to aspire to be? When I was growing up, we had plucky little Laura Ingalls Wilder to model.
I dare to be different. If my daughter ends up being the class nerd, I can handle that. I’ve been there myself, and I grew up to have a lot of choices I wouldn’t have had if all I was ever interested in was the latest trends.
Since I wrote this post, I have to update how things are now. That very same daughter is now 7, and she’s in her second year of science summer camp and having a blast and she loves doing science experiments with me at home. She’s reading at a grade 5-6 level and obsessed with the Harry Potter series (though she’s currently reading an adapted version of Tom Sawyer) and she does third grade math problems at home for fun because the math in her first grade class was too easy.
She prefers to play pick-up games of baseball with the boys down the street, and I’m lovin’ that they like to include her and feel she’s one of “them”.
She’s an awesome kid and I love that she has her own mind and isn’t afraid to be herself. I admire that about her. She’s an awful lot like me in that regard and I am so grateful that she puts learning new things above keeping up with her friends. I hope she continues to have positive school experiences, though I’m still waiting for the day she will be criticized for being different. I will be ready for it though.
[Oh, and yeah…I could make a follow-up post to this about how the very bright young boy down the street just commented to me how he was going to be a highly paid baseball player when he grows up, so I know the unrealistic, materialistic goals the kids have these days are not the sole province of one gender or the other. It really saddens me to see these views in our young children].