I’m not going to lie – the image to the left creeps me the hell out. It might be due to the fact that I have so many regrets about my own childhood that I feel like kids should be kids and like, they shouldn’t be Photoshopped and airbrushed into oblivion.
Mike Adamick, writing for Jezebel, has a similar aversion to the whole pre-pubescent beauty queen thing. He says:
I would wager a lot of parents would never, ever let their kids enter a contest where looks are everything — where bodies and images are dissected, graded and given points and sashes. But I don’t even want my daughter to even know about them. I don’t want her to watch a second of those shows or to even know they’re out there, waiting, available.
Yeah, I don’t blame ya, buddy. If I were a breeder, I think I’d try to delay exposing my kid to that stuff, too. But here’s where Mike’s analysis gets a little creepy. He says that he and his daughter enjoy watching baseball games and shows on the Discovery Channel together, and one day, when they were about to settle in to have some father-daughter time on the couch, he flipped on the TV, and it just happened to be tuned to TLC, which just happened to be airing a rerun of “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Says Mike:
I heard my daughter’s little feet padding toward the family room, her head probably filled with Mike Rowe’s sweet, manly voice or images of a baseball game. And here I am, watching a rerun of Toddlers and Tiaras.
Mike Rowe’s sweet, manly voice. Um…
Briefly ignoring how fucking creepy that phrase is in context, let’s really examine what’s going on here. I get not wanting to expose your daughter to the pageant world, where young girls are judged on their looks (and spray tans). Yup, that’s pretty sick. But it seems to me like Mike is a bit over-exuberant about the fact that his daughter enjoys “boy stuff” like baseball and Mike Rowe’s manliness (but seriously – who doesn’t enjoy Mike Rowe’s manliness, amirite?)
A couple of days ago, Eld wrote about wanting to try wearing makeup, and we ended up riffing on internalized misogyny a bit in the comments. Pretty much every feminist I know of has gone through a phase in hir life where ze completely rejected anything “girly.” Understandable – it’s kind of a revelation once it really hits you how much of your gender expression was taught, and how much society expects you to “act like a girl.” But many of us then go so far as to loathe anything girly – and then, we start loathing anyone who doesn’t reject the girly stuff. Seriously – how many women have you known in your life who have said something along the lines of, “I don’t get along with other women,” or even, “I hate girls?”
And women are rewarded for that type of behavior. I remember during my first year of college, I was sitting in the dining hall with a girlfriend of mine and a couple of guys from a different dorm that we didn’t know very well. As we were eating, a girl that I’d seen around campus marched up to the table, completely ignored my friend and me, and exchanged a few words with the guys. I don’t really remember what she said, but I remember being kind of shocked by it (anyone who really knows me will tell you that I like to lie to myself and pretend that I’m vulgar, but I’m really kind of a prude – I guess I’m okay with that). When she left, I asked the guys what they thought of that, and they said they loved it. They told me that this girl “acted like a dude,” and they all universally thought it was the most awesome thing ever, and all of them – universally – were seriously mooning after her.
I am absolutely not saying that women should act one way or another, but they are rewarded just as much for rejecting anything girly (and for hating other women) as they are for behaving like “ladies.” So as a result, we end up with a bunch of misogynistic women, which helps no one.
So listen, Mike. It’s awesome that your daughter likes baseball and Mike Rowe. I like baseball, too, and when Mike Rowe was on “Wait, Wait – Don’t Tell Me,” I found him to be a pretty charming, likable dude (shut up, I like radio!). But the message you’re sending your kid when you praise her for liking “boy stuff” and treat “Toddlers and Tiaras” like something shameful is that boy stuff is good, and girl stuff is bad. Unbeknownst to you, I’m sure, you’re teaching your child to hate other women.
I’m all in favor of keeping young girls away from pageant culture, but also let’s be mindful about what behaviors we’re positively reinforcing in our young girls. Because girls who like “Dirty Jobs” and sports are no better than girls on the pageant circuit – they’re all girls, and they all deserve to be valued. Say it with me: there’s no wrong way to be a girl.