This product was seen at the John Lewis store in High Wycombe. Not familiar with this UK institution, I looked it up to find it has almost 650,00 likes.
I imagine the day this product is on display in a museum, an artifact. People will look at it, baffled, not even understanding. Students will study how backwards the sexist culture was in 2013, wondering how and why our culture allowed and accepted all this, as if it were okay or funny or just normal.
The latest global estimate from the United Nations Say No to Violence Campaign is that the percentage of women and girls who have experienced violence in their lifetimes is now up to an unbearable 70%. In a world in which this many girls and women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, allowing content about raping and beating women to be shared, boasted and joked about contributes to the normalisation of domestic and sexual violence, creates an atmosphere in which perpetrators are more likely to believe they will go unpunished, and communicates to victims that they will not be taken seriously if they report.
Violence against women is epidemic. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale. Here’s some propaganda marketed to kids:
Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938
Africans circa 1931
Females circa 2013
It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it.
But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?
Today, my kids had Rice Krispies for breakfast. You all know about the famed three: Snap, Crackle, and Pop. If you’re my age, you know their theme song, too.
But check out the new material we found on the back of the box:
It’s an “IMAGINATION ADENTURE!” Isn’t that great? The directions are as follows:
Can you look at the pictures and tell a story? Make up a tale for each picture or string them together for a creative journey.
How cool, my kids are going to get to use images to make up stories. What could be better than that? Let’s see how Rice Krispies is going to help to inspire children to imagine. Here’s the first picture.
Rice Krispies provides children with 8 characters to work with on this imagination adventure: 6 males and 2 females. Girls are half of the kid population, half of the kids eating Rice Krispies, so why are they presented as a minority in this “creative” game? Am I nitpicking? The box is asking your kids to look at the details of these pictures and make up a story. Obviously, whoever created these pictures put thought into how to develop your kids’ imagination. But If your kids play this game as directed, it’s one more way they’re being trained to create, be familiar with, and pay attention to stories where males are the main characters and in the majority, while females fade into the background.
Looking at picture #1, I asked my four year old: “Can you find the girls? Can you count them?” She was so excited about that, it’s how we came up with the game: Find the Girls on the Cereal Box!
Moving on to picture #2. Who is the protagonist here? Hmmm…
Again, I asked: “Can you find any girls? What is the girl doing? Why?” At this point, my other two daughters, ages 6 and 9, joined in. They were into it, and I found myself hoping that maybe my kids are learning creative skills now, how to notice the female and more importantly, to make her the protagonist in the story. “Find the Girls!” continued…
Picture #3 is the closest a female gets to a starring role in this “imagination adventure,” and she is still, clearly, placed behind the boy. My kids noted she is riding a sea horse. Picture #4 makes up for that tiny step forward, with five males to one female. The girl is clearly in the background, but at least, the girl is in the driver’s seat, right? I asked my daughters what the girl was doing here, and my four year old said, “Watching the boy!”
And now, for the final pic.
When I asked my kids what the girl was doing? “Same as the last one! Watching the boy.”
“Can you make up a story about her?” I asked.
I try to censor the sexism I can, but so much of the time, it’s obviously impossible since gender stereotypes are everywhere. I think the most useful strategy, as parents, is to train our kids to respond with a critical and creative eye. If you try playing “Find the Girls on the Cereal Box,” let me know how it goes. For my family, it helped squeeze some real creativity out of the same old, same old.
You know what’s crazy? After stuff like this Rice Krispies box all over the place, Disney execs, marketers, media people, parents will say that girls go missing in kids’ media because girls will watch stories about boys but boys won’t watch stories bout girls. Huh. How do you think kids get to be that way, Hollywood? Girl aren’t born more generous, open-minded, or altruistic. Girls watch movies about boys because they are trained to.
Here’s a great tip to inoculate your daughter against internalizing the barrage of criticism about her appearance. If that critical voice gets trapped and trained in your kid’s head and wiring, it becomes a bad habit that, like any addiction, is difficult to break. I got this tip from Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals, and so far, it works really well. I can see my kids using it.
Tell your daughter that you use a mirror to see if you have food on your face or something like that. You don’t look in the mirror to see if you are beautiful. Beauty is a feeling that comes from within you, and a mirror can’t give you that. Let your daughter see you use a mirror this way as well.
Repeat this lesson as often as necessary. It’s basic but effective.
Extra tip: If your daughter protests or seems confused, which she may not, explain that the correct way to use a mirror is the exact opposite of how the wicked queen relied on it in “Snow White,” asking “Who is the fairest of all?” Explain how the Queen’s misuse of the mirror, her dependence on its voice instead of her own, sapped her power and helped to cause her downfall.
I am so grateful that both of these women have the courage and access to tell the truth about their lives publicly. When women can speak out and tell their own stories, that helps all women. Both of you are making sure that a “woman’s issue” gets on the front pages and into the forefront of national discussion. Hopefully, we’ll come out of this more educated than we were. THANK YOU.
Update: Here goes the nat’l public discussion: Did u know corporations can own genes? Tweet from Peggy, check out the link:
Myriad genetics OWNS BRCA gene. OWNS it. That’s a block to research & better options for someone like Angelina Jolie http://ow.ly/l1XTX
I guess Disney was right to be so terrified of creating a strong, BRAVE, female protagonist (along with Pixar studios which hadn’t had ANY female protags before “Brave.”) It looks like Merida could be turning Disney’s franchise on it’s head. That’s pretty damn heroic.
Another mistake Disney made with “Brave?” They hired a female director. They fired her, but it was too late. Brenda Chapman wrote “Brave” based on her daughter. She was furious with the character’s transformation and wrote publicly about Disney’s terrible mistake.
That’s right: Although Merida was created by a woman as a role model for girls, the male-dominated consumer product division at Disney has ignored the character’s intended benefits for young girls, sexualizing her for profit. Compared with her film counterpart, this new Merida is slimmer and bustier. She wears makeup, and her hair’s characteristic wildness is gone: It has been volumized and restyled with a texture more traditionally “pretty.” Furthermore, she is missing her signature bow, arrow, and quiver; instead, she wears a fashionable sash around her sparkly, off-the-shoulder gown. (As Peggy Orenstein noted when she broke the news of the redesign, “Moms tell me all the time that their preschool daughters are pitching fits and destroying their t-shirts because ‘princesses don’t cover their shoulders.’” I’ve heard the same from parents, as well.)
Is the sexualized image of Merida gone for good? Has Disney learned a lesson? Or will that lesson be: No more strong female characters leading a film! No more female directors writing about their daughters! Keep the females weak and quiet!
Objectifying and sexualizing girls is dangerous. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale.
Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938
Africans circa 1931
Females circa 2013
It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it, not to mention expose my child to it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?
Be part of the solution. Demand narratives with strong female characters for your kids.
Update: New Merida may be off Disney’s site but she’s showing up all over the place including Target. Below is Target’s web page.
Since his daughter, Princess Merida, made national headlines with her makeover– she’s skinnier with tamed curls, a new off the shoulder gown, and the belt that once held her quiver has morphed into a fashion sash– King Fergus wants to know: “Where’s my makeover?”
Fergus says, “It’s not fair. I’m the King! Why are princesses always the ones who get to look pretty? Some would call me fat, hairy, and I’m missing a leg for goodness sake. Where’s my stylist?” Throughout DunBroch, Fergus has posted these before and after pics of Merida:
Now, King Fergus wants to know: “Artists, what can you do for me?”
The only way to stop the epidemic of violence against women in America is to empower them financially, physically, socially, culturally. Charging Castro with murder of fetuses does the opposite. If Castro can be charged with murdering fetuses, than a woman getting an abortion, even if that woman was raped Michelle Knight herself, she, too, would be “murdering” fetuses. Castro tortured, raped, and assaulted these women in multiple, horrific ways. Keep the focus on the women, not the fetuses, and bring Ariel Castro to justice for his evil crimes.
I still think, though, that there would be something very strange about executing Castro for the harm he did to fetuses, as opposed to the harm he did to three living and breathing women.
And what if Castro had allowed the fetuses to live? What if Michelle Knight had been forced to give birth 5 times in captivity to babies fathered by a rapist? That would have been its own hell. But would that use, manipulation, and violation of Knight’s body be recognized by our legal system beyond rape charges?
A regime, whether enforced by a government or a madman, that forces women to have abortions is the same regime that can force them to give birth. Reproductive rights are human rights, and violating them ought to carry the severest of penalties. But when will violating the human rights of women be recognized by the U.S. legal system as the heinous crime it truly is?
If you thought it couldn’t get worse, it just did. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program prior to being arrested and charged with sexual battery by the Arlington, Virginia police department. Krusinski drunkenly “approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.”
It’s become clear that the military is not capable of solving its epidemic of sexual violence. Despite years of studies and empty talk, there were 26,000 sexual assaults in 2012 — more than 71 per day — and up from 19,000 in 2011.
The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention (STOP) Act — H.R. 1593 — will take the prosecution, reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the normal military chain of command and place jurisdiction in an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office made up of military and civilian experts.
Check out this cool nursery that journalist Lisa Ling designed for her daughter, Jett. It’s black and white and sports a mural featuring… snakes! Ling says, “It’s fine if Jett ends up loving pink, but I won’t introduce her to it now.” LOVE.