The day after Christmas this year, I was so overwhelmed by the consistency of princess themed presents, dress-up dolls, and mounds of pinkness my three daughters ages 1 – 6 received, I started my blog, ReelGirl, to rate kids products and media. I started blogging as a way to connect with other parents and exchange information on products and programs that are empowering for girls.
This weekend, I was so bummed when I read the cover story on this Sunday’s New York Times, that girls and women are sporting contact lenses that make their eyes imitate the cutesy, doll-eyed look made popular in cartoons. Not only is the cartoon world making little progress to portray any advances women have made in the real world, but instead, girls are reflecting the animated one.
Kristen Rowland, college senior, wearing her circle lenses
When I wonder about the kinds of advances feminism has made since I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, I get sad when I look at the kids’ media. Current kids blockbusters almost always feature male stars. Posters all over San Francisco show males from Toy Story (Buzz Lightyear); Shrek (Shrek, of course); Despicable Me (actually, multiple “Me’s” pictured.) My daughters comment on these guys, wondering where the girls are, every time we pass their pictures on the side of a bus or looming overhead on the freeway. Usually there are female characters in these kids’ movies, often smart and strong ones, but the girls are rarely the stars or the title characters, unless it’s a princess movie. One great exception this year was Tim Burton’s Alice (though almost all the posters around town featured Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, not Alice.)
Since I started blogging on SF Gate, many commenters have written that cartoons don’t matter– they’re cartoons for God’s sake! But these programs are programming our kids; unfortunately, watching most kids media is like getting crash course on gender stereotyping.What upsets me about the magical world training kids to imitate stereotypes is that it’s an imaginary world– why can’t anyone imagine gender equality? Whatever happened to creativity?
The NY Times reports the cartoon contacts, illegal in the United States for safety reasons, are called “circle lenses” and cover up part of the whites of the eyes to make irises and pupils look larger. Not only is it disturbing that girls and women are risking eye injuries and blindness, as the FDA warns, but the big eyed look exaggerates features long considered beautiful in women: big eyes (and small noses) imitate babies.
The Times reports:
Joyce Kim, a founder of Soompi.com, an Asian pop fan site on circle lenses who lives in San Francisco and is 31, said that some friends her age wear circle lenses almost every day… Michelle Phan, a make-up artists, says: “In Asia, it’s all about the eyes in makeup,” said Ms. Phan, a Vietnamese-American blogger who is now Lancome’s first video makeup artist. “They like the whole innocent doll-like look, almost like anime.”…
In the article, Alfred Wong, 25, founder of Lenscircle.com says: “A lot of people like the dolly-eyed look, because it’s cute.”
The trend started in Korea, then spread to Japan and Singapore before Lady Gaga popularized it in American highschools with her “Bad Romance” video in which her eyes look very large (It’s weird because in the video Gaga’s eyes are so pretty and tiger-like when she’s not doing the googly eyed look.)
The circle lense trend started in Asia, so obviously there’s racism involved here too, as if a rounder, more caucasian eye is preferable to an almond shaped Asian eye. The preferred characteristic does not reflect any kind of objective standard of beauty; it reflects the power structure.
How more non-threatening can women be with large, innocent, baby-like giant doe eyes? When will appearing smart and powerful be recognized as attractive in women the same way powerful men are considered a catch? Please, no more baby-like girl cartoons and toys with giant eyes and giant heads. What’s next– cranial implants?
(To all readers, apologies for the 2 week absence. I’m going on vacation for three weeks and was finishing up much work. I’ll try to blog from afar but unsure about wireless.)