Is this really what mothers want for their daughters?

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].

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14 Responses to Is this really what mothers want for their daughters?

  1. teachingyoungchildren says:

    Don’t get me started now 🙂 I think it’s awesome that you raise your girls in love of science and nature and you give them so many outlets for their creativity. Your girls are not only highly intelligent, they are also highly privileged. They have an educated mother who stays at home and focused on them. They have a stable home. They don’t spend their time dreaming of a different life because they hate the life they have, and the life on TV looks so much better. In other words – they are lucky and I hope they will stay that way throughout all-important years of early childhood .

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Okay, for the record…I’m not trying to get anyone “started”.

    And, for the record, I’m not any more privileged than my neighbors in this suburban neighborhood. I live in a home built in the 1970s. I live modestly, just like everyone else. Most of the mothers here are educated and the homes are stable. Yet 11 of my daughter’s friends adore Hannah Montana who cares only about materialistic crap.

    No one in my neighborhood is truly underprivileged, that’s true, yet they all love HM, who is materialistic and narcissistic and just plainly an idiot.

    My kids watch TV too. Sometimes a lot more than they should. I even let them watch Spongebob (I personally like Spongebob myself, even though I’ve heard the word stupid used more than a few times).

    But I refuse to let them watch HM and ICarly and High School Musical. All things that other modern KINDERGARTEN girls are into. What does a kindergartener need to know about High School issues?

    Have you actually WATCHED the bad acting and the poor values the HM show espouses? Really, do 5 and 6 year old need to be watching a show about a 15 year old? Come on. No, they don’t. Yet modern mothers don’t seem to see the problem here with a show that is materialistic and well, downright crappy all around. That’s the point.

    All I’m saying is what happened to shows like Doogie Howser, and Little House on the Prairie? Why can’t they have tv shows about kids inspired from books like Cam Jansen or the Magic Treehouse Series? Something that sparks the imagination, not sparks discussions among kindergarteners about shoes and getting your picture on a magazine?

  3. Papa T says:

    Do mothers really think this is “harmless”?

    Do mothers really think at all??? [Present company excluded.]

  4. Jennaviere says:

    Oooooooh!!! I LOVED Little House!!! I read all the books and watched the shows!! I wore my air in braids all the time and me and my sister and the neighbor girl would take turns being Laura cause no one wanted to be Mary.

    Ok, with that out of the way…
    I am not sure HM is all that bad in small amounts. Small amounts.
    Is it really so different from the typical fairy tale princess story? And heck, even I know most of the words to the song, just because it seems to be everywhere.

    I don’t feel like it will turn our wholesome girls into fame-/shoes-/limo-lusting divas. I remember singing along to Madonna’s Like a Virgin song when I was far too young to know what it meant.

    Pippi Longstocking. There’s a good one. She was a mouthy, messy, truant who lived with a horse. And I idolized her!!! 🙂

  5. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Yeah, Little House is a great series of books and was a great show.

    I believe HM a huge, un-neccessary distraction to young girls. The early years of childhood are laying down the groundwork for a lot of neural development in children. Why fill them up with garbage like HM?

    She (the actress) is a terrible actress. And her character is extremely annoying and I can’t even watch her without being embarrassed for her.

    I’m not against dress-up and role play. My girls dressed up as Harry Potter, Professor McGonagal, and Ron and ran around for 3 days casting spells.

    Even dressing up as princesses is more harmless than dressing up as HM who, as I saw on the only show I ever saw of hers, was given a credit card by her father with a $300 limit on it. You know what she did? Blew the $300 on clothing and accessories, then tried to sell her costumes and a real set of earrings she wore on stage on an internet auction to cover up her mistake.

    Is that harmless? If that is, boy, I am soooo naive.

    I re-printed this topic after reading someone else’s opinion of HM which reminded me of my own loathing of the show and the character:

    http://misomanythings.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/rather-strange-kinda-odd-sorta-creepy/

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Now here’s a birthday party that looks awesome

    http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com/search/label/Birthday

  7. I can’t contribute to the conversation because I don’t have daughters, but I have a memory and while it’s fading now that I’ve reached the half century mark, I do remember what it was like when I burgeoned from child to young woman.

    Even though I physically matured faster than my friends. I developed earlier and was the first to perspire in underarm sweat rings (the kids teased me and called me “Saturn Pits”) but I took it all in stride and gave back as good as I got.

    I entered the 7th grade with hairy legs, no make-up and I still wore socks with my shoes. Then I met this boy who turned my world upside down. Socks became hose and suddenly all those attempts to self consciously cover boobs were no longer foremost on my mind. I was in love…like a woman…I should at least try to look the part.

    But as the ubiquitous “they” say, Maybelline aqua eye shadow that could rival pool cue chalk, does not a woman make.

    Then it all became such a blur. It seems as though I took a nap at age 14 and like Rip Van Winkle, I only woke up last week. I might be 50, but I still feel like a kid. Maybe that can explain that time lapse but I am living proof of that old adage that you are as old as you feel.

    I might even change my name to Jane Maine and star in a poorly acted, patheticially plotted, sophomorically written “sticom” (and I use that term loosely) on the Disney Channel. Not to mention, market my name and image on everything from hair spray to stool softeners.

    Now, if I could only get my 79 year old father to grow his hair long.

    LK

  8. raisingsmartgirls says:

    LK – You are one funny lady. It’s been a LONG while since I laughed out LOUD. No seriously!

    Thanks for the laugh! I sorely needed it. Feel free to come back any time and add a touch of humor.

  9. Jennaviere says:

    I just think we don’t give kids enough credit for being able to distinguish between real life and the HM crap, is all.

    That said, I admit don’t know any 5 or 6 year old that watches it. My 10 year old neice has before (and I say has because they don’t actually have cable — but she has the album and sings along to it) and I guess that’s what I am basing my opinion on. She still has good parents that keep her grounded in reality and into well-rounded activities (she goes to camps and she reads and does crafts) and I just don’t see any signs of this feared HM corruption in her. In fact, she’s the one that is very excited about our upcoming dissection party!! 🙂

    On the other hand, I am (was) related to another little girl that was inundated with the princess/spoiled/hottie/diva crap from a very early age and allowed to wear the halters and minis and makeup and whatever she wanted pretty much from birth. She is *absolutely* intolerable and I don’t even want her at the house anymore. Period. No more. But it has nothing to do with HM, it has to do with *complete lack of parental attention* over the years. She has never been taught moderation. As a result, she’s overweight, haughty, spoiled, bratty and just generally unpleasant to be around. HM didn’t do that to her, the folks did.

    So yes, I still think it could be harmless, as long as there is parental involvement — setting limits, making sure the kid has other interests, and so on. The show is not the problem. Materialism is the problem and only the parents can either support that or prevent it.

  10. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Okay, yes…I see your point. I do agree that lack of parental involvement makes a huge difference.

    We went to subsequent parties where HM was the rage. Two twin sisters, friends of my dd, also got HM for things for their birthday, again except from us. One of the girls was appreciative to get something, the other turned her nose up that it wasn’t HM and my daughter heard her say something unkind. Of course, this was a girl who lived in the million dollar home/gated community 3 miles from our modest subdivision, so she’s used to getting what she wants.

    HM is really big out this way…and they all ask for that (or HS Musical) gifts for birthdays.

    I hope by second grade, they’ve moved on to something else. It’s really getting old.

    Eh…I personally can’t stand the way the girl overacts and how irritating her voice is, so I guess I’m biased against HM on many levels.

  11. Jennaviere says:

    I promise you the following is a true story! It just happened a little while ago.

    Tonight we (me and my two youngest) met my ex to go have dinner and then we all went to the grocery store. So, back home I was getting the toddler out and AW (my 8-y.o.) was helping get grocery bags in. I thanked him for helping with the bags and he responded by saying thanks for taking him to dinner. I then said, “well thank you for being so good during dinner,” to which he responded, “well, you should be thanking yourself.”

    “Huh? What do you mean?”

    “Well, you are the parent, and you taught me, so thank youself.”

    😀

    Oh yes. This really happened! ~ sigh ~ These moments make it all worth it, doncha think!!!

    Ok, so let me say one more thing… Would you be more proud of your kid for not developing an obsession for a Disney show purely because she’s never been exposed to it or would you be more proud of your kid for being exposed to pop culture, along with many other things, and still not develop an obsesssion for Disney shows simply because she has so many other engaging interests?

    And you know, I am sure you are not the only member of the Down with HM Club. She is unbelievably annoying, I agree.

  12. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Oh, that’s an awesome story.

    I see your logic, and yes, it does make sense…but I am not about to test your hypothesis!

    I’ve relaxed some of my censorship about certain things (like the Junie B. Jones – awful writing and a real brat of a character, but I’ve let my dd read them even though I hate the series), but I just can’t bring myself to tolerate one…moment…of HM.

    I’m not against obsessions about pop culture – heck, my daughters are obsessed with Harry Potter!

    But I draw the line with HM.

  13. joanna says:

    OK, finally catching up here, so really late on the comment.

    We don’t watch any kid’s commercial TV around here. It’s PBS or a DVD. My 6.5 y.o. knows who HM is because she’s in Kindergarten and not deaf or blind! But she has never watched the show. I want to keep her from all that “stuff” for as long as I possibly can. She loves movies (“obsessed” might be a better description) but she also loves to read and draw and dance. I try to nurture these gifts in her (and in the 3 y.o. when he starts to show his talents) so they will know their own abilities and authenticities when the cookie cutters come to call.

    I think parents are being irresponsible for not allowing/teaching their children to think for themselves or helping them discover their own hearts. How could a child possibly know what they like if they are only ever watching TV?

    That was a long response to basically say I agree with you!

  14. raisingsmartgirls says:

    “I think parents are being irresponsible for not allowing/teaching their children to think for themselves or helping them discover their own hearts. How could a child possibly know what they like if they are only ever watching TV?”

    Well said! I wholeheartedly concur. I’m glad I’m not the only one trying to be judicious with the use of media.

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