Monday, February 04, 2008

Inter-blog Commentary: I feminist, I suck

I'll admit to be ashamed to be admitting it I did watch the Frasier series live and in rerun for a number of years. Ok, so I am not necessary ashamed of it any Bridget Jones sort of way, but still.. Regardless, I have one little gem of dialogue I put on the mental rewind at times. It refers to a dressing down Frasier gets for constantly buying gifts for his family to 'make them into' the sort of people he thinks they should be. Basically, he gets called on giving gifts he deigns his dear ones should have instead of ever giving them the things they actually want.

I did this. My Mom still does this. It is annoying. Somewhere in the the mid 90's I stopped doing it. But now... now I have this growing girl I am at once again. I am reconnecting with my inner social censor. Take the case of Christmas '07. What did my daughter want but a "blue dress with sparkles like Zofia has". I went I shopped; I tried. I could not do it. I knew what she meant. She wanted some gown, some horrendous organza number with rhinestones and a silk rose the size of my head fresh out of the Jon Benet Memorial Collection at Zellers. Frasier might have taught me to comply. If not him then maybe El MetroPadre.

But I couldn't. I didn't. I bought my daughter 3 count em, 3 fancy dresses for Christmas but none of them were what she'd had in mind. I wanted to bend her desires to something I thought was better. And the thought it is quite irrational, I tell you. I want to thoroughly mask my own responsibility for her desperate luxe seeking sex stereotyping. I want to cut a corner. To turn my parenting challenges into a Battle-of-the-Network-Stars-sized social struggle; which it is not. Instead I know in my heart that a goodly amount -- er the majority -- will actually be my stuff. My input, my example.

As I said on the post Chez Metro:
"I hate the princess crap. I hate it. I didn't give my daughter what she asked for Christmas -- which was an organza and sparkles gown like so and so had at school. I tried but I couldn't do it.

That said ... I have had a lot of moments in the last few weeks when I see that I have a much bigger part to play in the self image my daughter has than the Princesses. I have made it a bit of a campaign to actually comb my hair and get dressed just to be with her more often; instead of doing it only to leave her sphere."


I do, of course, fault Disney for what is happening to girls (and boys) in the cult of gender roles polished on every edge. Looking at it critically -- when I think about my recent assignment within what I readily call 'sweatpant nation' when I frame it's occurrence in my own history as a girl who bought into the power associated with androgyny in the '80's (wherefore my double breasted suit and my vintage Dunn's Tailors Cashmere coat)... What does my daughter think is a feminine ideal? When does she even see me put in an earring anymore? Can I give her what she really wants?

What am I afraid of?

Perhaps a little more than just dangling prepositions and the shortness of my rewrite capabilities at this hour.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Mad Hatter said...

I'm trying to take a soft core stance on it all. I will indulge my daughter's gendered whims (hence the Barbie cake and ballerina skirt) but I will refuse to drive them. (Barbie is never a suggested option for play at our house.) I figure that she can enjoy being a princess or ballerina or whatever the hell else strikes her fancy now but she will grow up seeing a mother who doesn't wear make-up or shave her legs or make that much of a deal out of gender typing.

Still, so far I am lucky. She doesn't know about Disney yet. I don't know how much longer I can shield her from the beast but should she come home some day wanting to see Cinderella, I guess I will suck it up.

7:27 AM  
Blogger p-man said...

Unshaven legs? Sorry, Mo, but how can I focus on my work after that admission?

9:35 AM  
Blogger Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

God. The Princesses. Always with the Princesses.

I've taken to actually *hiding* her Disney Princess books.

That's how bad of a mother I am.

I feel your pain.

4:50 AM  
Anonymous cheesefairy said...

Can you take comfort in the anecdote that I wanted a pink bedroom when I was 7 or 8 years old...all I wanted was a pink bedroom...and barbies...and my parents obliged, though grudgingly (they didn't buy real Barbies, but the knock-off dollar store brands) and now I am about as not pink & girly as you can get?

I think because, like at Mad's house and your house, I observed my mother's non-traditional (in some ways) behavior even as I was testing out the girly identity. And at the end of the day, I went with the identity that seemed more usable to me.

Of course I was also forbidden to wear make up until...uh...well until I moved out.

I don't have a girl but I am scared of the Princesses.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

When did it happen that we had to give our kids everything they want? I don't mean to sound like an ogre, but if our parental instincts say "Princesses in large quantities are evil and detrimental to my kid's health" then shouldn't we have the option to not buy them the dress?

I'm in a crappy mood and feeling surly. Sorry.

9:42 AM  
Blogger NotSoSage said...

Oh geez. This hits close to home. We are trying to take a balanced approach, but she is in this developmental stage right now where she is dividing things up according to gender and I just can't help correcting her every time. "I like ninjas. No, I don't like ninjas 'cause I'm a girl. Only boys like ninjas. Maxwell is a boy." And...you know...I'm not exactly keen on the ninja thing, but I wouldn't be if she were a boy either. So how do I convince her that both boys and girls might like ninjas, but...

Aaaargh. I think my head is going to explode.

All this to say, I feel for ya. But you're right, maybe it's a cop out to think that denying her princess things will be modelling something for her that I should be doing anyway. Cripes. Why are there never any easy answers.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

I have the confidence that if I teach Caity to believe in herself...and she has noooo problems with confidence, that she can dress anyway she likes.

We make trips to Value Village where she gets her fix in princess gear...she finds all these HIDEOUS pink outfits..but for$5 who can say no.

And it makes her happy.

The other day she was in rainbow tights, a plaid dress, and a cowboy hat.

And I figure she will get it out of her system young.

I LOVED dressing up as a kid and it was all fairies and princesses.

She only likes barbie because of the fairy and princess one's and that is fine with me.

As long as we are princesses and not Bratz slutz...I am happy.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

oh ya no Bratz. yuck!!
We have a bad habit of playing the princess card - princesses brush their teeth, princesses poopoo on the toilet!
ya but we try to keep it to a minimum and dont allow disney to decorate her room.
I do like her to play dressup though. She loves it and has so much fun. It is that imagination spark that I love to see.
I think the key balance is saying it is ok to play in the dirt and get dirty. That is one nice thing about her having a grandpa day everyweek at the farm. She is on a farm and being a tom girl. I love it.
The key is balanced.

9:35 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

I completely get this. I'm trying for that middle ground where I didn't buy her princess stuff, but I didn't comment on the princess crap that a friend bought her and let her have the horrid plastic Disney Princess high heels she got. On the dress front, I can't bring myself to spend $40 for a fancy awful dress, but will go to a local thrift shop and find something fluffier than normal, but not so outrageous for $6 instead, and call it a draw. she's got tutus if she wants superfluffy. I'm trying to swallow my yuckedoutedness adn remind myself that it is also the age of generification, and she might relax on it in a couple of years, and maybe letting her explore it now will help it pass more easily, and hold less appeal. We'll see.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Alpha DogMa said...

I've been thinking about this post for a few days. I do like to mull.

My girlfriend's daughter loves to play princess. She wants my sons to rescue her and to that end ties her hands up, lies down and begs them to rescue her from a variety of bad men and horrible situations. I find it very distressing -- this role playing of victim. My sons find it very boring and we talk a lot about boys and girls being just as brave.

Like you are aware of influencing your daughters ideal of feminine, I am aware of setting my sons ideal of feminine and I go out of my way to use a hammer and shovel a driveway and solve problems using my brain and my brawn.

9:47 PM  

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