Monday, May 08, 2006

Material Girl, Part II

Rereading my last post, I can see how someone would get the idea I was ripping on femininity. But I am not. My point is that pre-teen girls seem to get confused and overwhelmed by the images the media sends. Femininity, instead of becoming a part of who they are, seems to become their ultimate goal.

My point was is that at this stage as a teen age daughter, it is overpowering any other interests, almost like a fixation. Almost as if they are afraid to express their real interests in fear of being ostracized and instead focus all (or most) energies on "the look."

I think Pipher mentioned it in her book, and I see it to, not only with my daughter, but with all her friends, there is no balance between femininity and their "selves". To them, the goal is to achieve "femininity" as portrayed in the media, the skinnieness, the docility. The pressure is great, and it causes, if not outright eating disorders and self-mutilation, depression and sadness, almost hopelessness because the goal of absolute femininity is not realistic. It is one-dimentional, focusing all energies on a "look" and denying what lies beneath the surface. But the allure and social pressure is so strong, girls' other interests tend to be derailed. It is very difficult for teen girls to find balance and to know it okay to pursue something besides being a size 1 or the perfect outfit.

Maybe I see this particularly clearly with my own daughter because of personal circumstances which place us, a large family surviving on one income, in a wealty school district where kids (or at least their parents)have the finances to perpetuate this ideal of femininity, to buy the clothes and things that fads dictate on a whim. We don't have a lot of money to be keeping up with the latest fads, whereas her friends want a new $30 t-shirt and $60 jeans at "Hot Topic," most of their parents have no problem accomodating that, even on a regular basis. Many parents here are buying into and promoting (at least subconsciously) this image. I hear it all the time, "Well, so-and-so has this!" So the pressure an my daughter, in particular, is great. She does not have the means to keep up with her peers.

But it is not just the keeping up with material things. It is also body image. When I listen to her and her friends having a conversation, much of their conversations consist of fat they are, and their thighs are so fat, and don't I have a big butt, and so-and-so is so skinny, I wish I could be her.

Like I mentioned before, I don't know where to begin to remedy this lack of balance. I have always tried to be a good role model, but maybe I have failed. Or maybe the social pressure is just too great. Whatever the case, I hope that my daughter, all of our daughters, can find balance between what is feminine and what is her identity, what makes her herself, learn to accept herself, and love herself for more than what clothes she wears and how fat her butt may be.


Anonymous Susan said...

I've just spent the better part of two weekends in a row shopping with my daughters for spring/summer. Yesterday, my SIX year old, first grader, informed me in the middle of a shoe store that I was "ruining her life" because I refused to purchase the, at least, two-inch heeled shoes she wanted. The reason she HAD to have them: because her bottom didn't look right without them!

I guess her bottom just isn't going to look right.

Ya know, she hangs out with good kids. But, they have these messages, these images, and it is darn scary. Her father and I tell our girls every day how loved they are, how smart, and kind, and valueable they are, and, yes, how beautiful they are. We just don't know if they are hearing any of it, we just don't know if it will make enough of an impact.

I am scared to death for their teen years.

08 May, 2006 15:51  
Blogger Michele said...

Again, you have provided me with an interesting read and great food for thought.
I am not dismissing or trying to diminish the concerns about this by saying "it's their age", but in many ways, it is their age. Physically their bodies are changing and they are both enjoying it and somewhat afraid of it. They are also kids, so they dont have a wealth of inner strength to draw from yet. This is a very shallow age and yes, the media only reinFORCES (stressing FORCE) that with the endless parade of "dont try this at home because you will never succeed without an army of personal trainers, stylists and make-up artists" perfection.

I am a bit appalled (if one can be such) about Susan's 6 yr old. I am not sure what to think about it starting so young. Sheesh.

09 May, 2006 07:59  

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