In the lead up end of year dance concerts, and the annual shopping frenzy that surrounds Christmas, this guest post by Sonia Lyne, Program Director for Victoria, and her newest team member, Amanda Hull, is timely.
I recently attended my 5-year old cousin’s dance recital. It was the most unsettling experience. I witnessed a group of 40 or more pre-kinders dressed in hot pants and mid-riff halters wearing fake eyelashes, layers of foundation, bright blue eyeshadow, and candy apple lipstick doing club dances and “dropping it like it’s hot”. I have to tell you, it was anything but hot. The only thing that was hot were my blushing cheeks and swelling sense of injustice. These precious little innocents were being exposed to (and exposing the viewer to) some of the raunchiest dance moves I’ve seen this side of a “gentlemen’s club”. Strangely enough, I appeared to be the only embarrassed person in the crowd. All the other parental faces were beaming with pride.
I spend many of my days dancing with pre-kinders to Wiggles songs and various other nursery rhymes. I am quite familiar with a way a child naturally dances. They are full of giggly excitement, with bouncing feet and clapping hands. Children who dance, when not performing choreographed moves and wearing costumes designed by adults, look nothing like the “Sportz Bratz Dance” wannabees I saw in action.
When I asked my cousin’s parents what they thought of the girls’ dance costumes they replied that they looked “adorable” and that the girls were simply wearing what the dance teacher mandated for the performance.
I want to start a one woman revolution! I want to start my own dance company in my backyard with bumblebee, butterfly, ladybug, etc, costumes and age-appropriate dance moves!
There are other (less extreme) ways around this conformism too, and it must start at home. Upon reflection, I can now see that many of the mothers at this dance recital were like 5-year old girls themselves, dressing up their daughters and playing with them just as a child would a Bratz doll. I felt the pain of mothers who were influenced themselves by the myths of the media, doing their best to stay ever-youthful, thin, painted, and “sexy” for their mates.
I treasure the real beauty of women: their ability to reproduce, to run a household, to kiss an injury and magically make it better, to demand justice for their children, and insist on preserving their innocence. Unfortunately, these are not the traits that our society upholds as “beautiful”. I felt for these mothers and wanted to present a few Enlighten Education workshops to them, in the hopes that the positive, self-affirming messages would also trickle down to the daughters.
Yes, we can all be change-makers. And yes, it does start at home and with the decisions we make about what is, and is not, ok for our daughters.
Amanda and I had the honour of attending a forum recently hosted by St Michael’s Grammar School. “The Early Sexualisation of Children and Young Teens” forum was presented by popular actress Noni Hazelhurst and Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2B Kids and comedy writer/performer. Both speakers were informative and captivating.
There were numerous occasions where I found myself nodding pleasantly in agreement and other times where I found myself consumed with either anger or optimism, stirred by their statements. One of those poignant moments was when Noni Hazelhurst announced she wanted to create a room of “Raging Angels”. YES YES YES…
Don’t we all have a strong desire to be active guides in our girls’ lives – and active against the toxic messages they are presented with?
As a parent, I do my best to be a “Raging Angel”. I do filter and ”switch off” but I am also aware that at times I am no match for the endless avenues of sexualised imagery that appears on billboards, mobiles, at cinemas, shopping malls and supermarkets. I recently visited a toy store and upon entering the girls section I felt overwhelmed by the raunchy nature of the branded dolls section. Obviously the Bratz dolls were leagues ahead of the rest but it was sad to see that many of the other branded dolls now look very similar. Even Barbie has succumbed and taken a turn for the worst. I thought to myself, “This is not good enough for our little girls, how far will these companies go?”… alas, further than I anticipated. The following clip clearly illustrates the irresponsible nature of the minds behind these dolls. Somehow I don’t think the Bratz team were sitting around their meeting table discussing the value they can add to little girl’s lives when they came up with this “ingenious” idea.
So wrong on so many levels!!!
As Christmas is fast approaching I wanted to find alternatives to these ridiculous dolls. It is easy to criticise, but I do not just want to just deconstruct – I also want to offer alternatives!
I was able to find the following dolls for younger girls that clearly allow for creativity, exploration and yet still maintain childhood innocence.
The Only Hearts Club™, is a content-based brand of dolls for real girls that is drawing raves for combining beautiful, real-looking dolls, with content that delivers a much-needed, positive message to girls. Only Hearts Club™ dolls look and dress like real girls, and they deal with the same experiences and issues as well. You can click on the following link to find out more: http://www.onlyheartsclub.com. How interesting it is to compare the Only Hearts Sports doll (above) with the Bratz Sportz doll Amanda included in her opening!
The all-new Australian Girl Doll is another fabulous alternative. I love the story behind this launch. Australian Grandmother Helen Schofield was so angered by the hyper sexualised dolls that were being pitched to her granddaughters that she decied to invest her retirement fund into creating dolls that are a more enlightened alternative!
You may recall last year Danni also wrote a post that suggested some wonderful gift ideas for girls – this is worth revisiting too: Christmas Gifts For Girls
My Christmas wish? We allow our daughters to dance to their own beat.
We set boundaries and seek out creative alternatives.
We heal our girls – and their mothers.
And we bring the Rage in 2009!
7 thoughts on “Let us strive to create “Raging Angels”.”
I also attended a dance concert for my nieces and nephew this week. Having grown up dancing with a teacher who preferred us to display our talents rather than our booty, I wondered how the costuming and moves would measure up… happily, the costumes were modest and the moves were not confronting. I was so pleased to see girls (and some boys) of all shapes and sizes on stage, so the stereotype that all dancers have to be rake-thin is, at least at this dance school, dead and buried. There are dance schools and teachers out there who are conscious of preserving innocence and modesty, rather than pandering to the Bratz set. It was an entertaining evening (with an abundance of those oh-so-cute moments where a four year old spies her family, forgets all about the steps, and waves to them, grinning from ear to ear), and I left feeling heartened.
As to Christmas, I bought my 3 year old niece a gardening set this year – she has become obsessed with gardening since she planted some parsley seeds at kindy for her Dad’s father’s day gift. What a productive past time!
Very cute idea Lisa. On my girl’s wish list this year are Nancy Drew books – she is devouring them. She also wants a lava lamp…everything old seems new again!
I work in childcare – more specifically in the nursery…so ages 0-2.5. I used to work with ages 5-6 at a different centre and by that age, a lot of the children are into dance, etc. I agree that a lot of the moves teachers show CHILDREN.
On a side note, I’d also like to point out the revolting, adult clothes which are available for children. Just because they are around doesn’t mean parents have to buy them.
The other thing which distresses me is how great a dance teacher’s comments can impact on self esteem. When I was 5 I had a ballet teacher say she could see my stomach and she shouldn’t be able to do that…Another friend of mine (who has battled very severe anorexia nervosa for 17, earnly 18 years) had a ballet teacher say she sounded like a baby elephant when she ran down the room. I’m not saying these comments solely caused either of us to get sick, but I think there needs to be training for ballet teachers.
On a somewhat unrelated note…the book in your book collection “Real Girls Eat” by Anthea Paul is awesome and has some fabulous recipes in it!
Thank you for the links to those alternative dolls!
I too would love to see the creation of “Raging Angels”. I was taken aback recently when my then 5 year old girl came home a month ago and asked me is she was “hot”. I am truly saddened that her perceptions of beauty are being influenced in this way. Despite being careful of TV shows, clothes and toys that I allow my children, the fact that she can come home from school asking me this question just proves that I can not parent in a bubble. I need my wider community to help me.
This Christmas I am avoiding the shops completely and will be buying from Oxfam. The new Mother and Baby Batsirani doll there is beautiful.
Thanks Amanda and Sonia – I am SO appalled by that video and Bratz relentless campaign to sexualize our girls – it makes me sick. My 2 year old niece is receiving from us a play tent with tunnel and old world wooden toy, crafty stuff. There will be no bratz dolls for her. But next year I will take up your suggestion Sonia and buy an ozzie doll. Just love that idea. Let us rage to support our girls to become healthy, strong and individual women.
As a father of a six year old and a high school teacher I agree that our little girls are being pushed into being ‘hotties’ by the media (and many of the parents at my daughters school do not help). I for one do not allow Bratz dolls into the house (and my wife supports me in this). I am very glad that even though my daughters ballet teacher does not sexualise the little girls dance moves (like some of the others at the last comp my daughter went to went to) my daughter is coming back to Tae Kwon Do with me next year.
WOWWWWW!!! great posts ladies about bad news!!
that banana seat for the baby bratz doll is ridiculous and so is the whole Bratz concept – that bitchy is cool and babies should be sexy… ew!!!!!! So bad. WHAT are parents thinking who buy these things?!
and man … about the dance moves. i also cringe when i see 3 year-olds wearing bikinis and crop tops and mini skirts… or even children up until age 8 even wearing those things!! so wrong!!! might as well have signs on their children’s heads saying “Peadophiles, look here!”. Seriously.
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