Thursday, February 10, 2011

Domestic Violence and the "Princess Problem"

You might think that there is no way in the world that princess culture amongst little girls has anything to do with violence against women as adults, but Hugo Schwyzer at the Good Men Project thinks it does.

Scwyzer, responding to an article in Redbook titled “Little Girls Gone Wild: Why Daughters Are Acting Too Sexy, Too Soon", argues that even princess culture contributes to an earlier and earlier sexualization of girls.
You may balk—what’s sexy about a little girl in a pink princess costume? But sexy, as it turns out, is not the same thing as sexualized. Sexualization is not just imposing sexuality on children before they’re ready and viewing girls as sexual objects, but also valuing a girl for her appearance over her other attributes. “Princesses are just a phase,” Orenstein writes, but they mark a girl’s “first foray into the mainstream culture. … And what was the first thing that culture told her about being a girl? Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart, but that every little girl wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.”

As Orenstein and others point out, little girls take their cues about what is desirable by looking at how boys and men respond to older girls and women. The father who lavishes adoration on “Daddy’s little princess” but ogles high-school cheerleaders is sending his daughter a clear message. The message is that the princess phase won’t last much longer, and if you want to grasp and hold adult male attention, you need to be sexy.

This sexiness has very little to do with sex, and everything to do with the craving for validation and attention. While all children want affirmation, princess culture teaches little girls to get that approval through their looks. Little girls learn quickly what “works” to elicit adoration from mom and dad, as well as from teachers, uncles, aunts, and other adults. Soon—much too soon—they notice that older girls and women get validation for a particular kind of dress, a particular kind of behavior. They watch their fathers’ eyes, they follow their uncles’ gaze. They listen to what these men they love say when they see “hot” young women on television or on the street. And they learn how to be from what they hear and see.
Both articles are worth a full read, because they paint a dangerous picture of how we as a society value women primarily, and in some circles exclusively, for our appearance and not for the myriad of other talents and values that women can bring to table. It is this view of women as not fully human, or not as valuable as men, that empowers men who use violence against women to do so. If a woman is not fully human, is not valuable, or is not worthy of the same respect as men, why is it wrong to treat her accordingly? As parents, we need to raise our kids to believe that men and women are equally valuable and, as peers, we need to hold others accountable for any words or actions that would suggest otherwise. Only after we change these attitudes as a society will violence against women be brought to an end.

No comments: