Friday, May 14, 2010
I'm an (8 year old) single lady?
I hesitate to even blog about this because I am uncomfortable about embedding this video or linking to it...
First: yeah, "not my daughter." Hell no. I won't even buy her a secondhand knockoff Barbie at the thrift store. Why? Because I want her to have more images of women than the caricatured sexuality that is Barbie to internalize as she grows up.
Beyond that initial parental instinct, though, this video presents a particular fraught and acute version of the dilemma I regularly face as the fem theologian mommy of a precocious daughter: how to separate out the genuinely childlike joy of dress-up, pretend play, movement and dance and song--and the horrible metanarratives our patriarchal--no, let me go further: subtly misogynistic--culture provides for the acting out of those beautiful children's instincts. How can I help my daughter separate out the desire to be beautiful and wear princess dresses from the helpless passivity of all these godforsaken ubiquitous princess narratives she soaks up like a sponge? How can I help her enjoy the gift of her body without learning that she can only enjoy it through the process of making others desire it?
(Further complicating that is the problematic stuff associated with any sort of public high-pressure competition for children, but let's just bracket that for a moment. Those concerns apply equally to children's beauty pageants, dance competitions and national spelling bees...)
So here's how I parse things out. Is it wrong for these girls to be up on stage dancing? Is it wrong for them to enjoy the ways their bodies can move and enjoy being good at moving their bodies? Absolutely not. But let's have a reality check here. Those girls did not choreograph their own dance routine, choose their music, make their own costumes. Some adult(s) in the background made those choices for them, and made them without any consideration (apparently) about what those choices would mean for the girls they were supposedly acting on behalf of. Do these girls have any idea what their skimpy outfits--outfits designed to display the sexual characteristics of female bodies they haven't even developed yet!--or movements like hip thrusts or shimmies are actually communicating, given the cultural context of this performance? Not to mention the awesome lyrics of a song that literally, verbally, reinforces the message that women are property who should be properly marked as owned before they give away their sexual favors. Maybe these girls have some dim idea--which is actually worse than having no idea at all, I would think. But what the adults in control of this situation have done is encourage these talented girls, who surely have developed their talents in dance at least partly out of the sheer joy of movement--to offer themselves as sexualized objects in order to do what they enjoy and are good at. Lesson learned: the only way to be who I am and do what I want is through the mechanism of being an outstanding object of sexual desire, even before I get my boobs.
Oh, that's awesome. Congratulations to everyone on that.
Not to mention, this gem of a video is on youtube, and when these amazing girls grow up and, say, apply to college, and later for jobs, there it will be. Forever archived on the ol' intertubes. That's gonna really help them out later on in life, isn't it.