By guest blogger – Lucy Lawrence
Thank goodness for experts! I mean, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t know how I should feel on any given day – happy, sad, guilty, pleased – yes, even smug.
And today I am allowed to feel smug, according to ‘parenting expert’ and author of the ‘Yummy Mummy’ guides, Liz Fraser. Because IT’S NOT MY FAULT! You cannot blame me for any of this!
You see I am merely the mother of a son. And according to her recent article ‘Make up and high heels at seven?’ it’s only the mothers of girls who are responsible for the early sexualisation of their pre-pubescent daughters.
And much as that would be a weight off my mind, and I could turn my back on Pink Stinks and return to arguing with my boy child over the remote control and the computer, (things I’m sure girls aren’t interested in because they’re probably too busy putting on make-up with their mothers’ full consent) I cannot, and do not take her comments seriously.
From her ivory tower in Cambridge Ms Fraser argues that: ‘It’s all too easy to point a finger at the media, and blame the images shown in magazines, over the internet and on the television.’ Oh yes – it’s all too clear to Ms Fraser – ‘the buck stops with each mother’ she declares.
She practically recoils in horror when a friend confesses to allowing her daughter to watch Trinny and Susannah – awful rubbish I know, but I don’t remember them ever making-over anyone under the age of about 35. Liz is incredulous, she continues, that she has friends who say Big Brother has become required family viewing for 10-year-olds. I would like to know exactly how many families she knows who sit round the telly with a cup of cocoa tuned into that drivel. And surely the 10-year-olds should be in bed by then?
Just turn it off! she implores you mothers of girls. Stop letting them watch television unless you’ve vetted it first. Because if you don’t, and she includes herself here, ‘we are simply shrugging our shoulders and washing our hands of our responsibilities’.
And she doesn’t stop there, you naughty people, you. No. Then there are the toys of course. And it is ‘a mother’s role to take control – and hang on to it.’ We can, she says ‘vote with our wallets by deciding which toys we should – or should not allow our daughters.’
But there’s no mention here of the companies behind the toys and the responsibility they hold. She doesn’t once address the lack of choice for parents when it comes to girls’ toys.
So what about Mattel (Barbie) or MGA Entertainment (Bratz)? They don’t care about the effect their products have on children. Bratz makes over $500 million profit a year and in 2008 the two companies ended up in court. It turned out the designer of Bratz (a man, natch) was employed by Mattel when he designed them. So Mattel sued on a matter of principle. I suppose the fact that Bratz sales are eating into Barbie profits had nothing to do with it.
And why aren’t we grilling Mattel’s Executive Vice President, Ellen Brothers, who was quoted in the New York Times in 2003 as saying ‘girls are growing up too fast’? Interesting also that of the nine top execs on the Mattel website she’s the only woman. And what about the insidious row upon sparkling row of pink presence and presents in toy shops. What about the dolls and their baby buggies that only come in pink? What about Emma’s problem trying to buy a girls’ dressing gown that isn’t pink? What about the fact that when I buy my son a pair of shoes it comes with a computer game while little girls’ shoes come with free make-up?
Yes, parents do have a responsibility to guide their daughters and love them and help them enjoy the freedom of simply being children. But Yummy Mummy (aren’t we all?) and media darling, Ms Fraser, is wrong to simply blame their mothers (and fathers for that matter) for the early sexualisation of girls.
It’s hard enough being a parent at all. I cannot imagine anything more tiring and divisive than repetitive arguments about TV, make-up, which magazines to read, what hair styles can be worn et cetera. Years ago these arguments started during the dreaded teenage years. Now they start aged seven?
No-one, not even the privileged Ms Fraser, can put all the blame on mothers for that.