Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Girls' Activities and Barbie Dolls

One of those sporadic topics that comes up in the upbringing and education of children centers around what are proper activities for children to engage in in their playtime.

This is especially the case with girls.

Recently, an article in Atlantic provided a typology of three types of girls that pre-adolescent girls are encouraged to be:  "graceful girls" ("girly girls"), "aggressive girls," and "pink warrior girls."  Basically, the graceful girls were described to be encouraged to be very feminine, and to pursue activities like ballet classes.  Aggressive girls were encouraged to be edgy and forceful, to compete with boys, to de-emphasize feminine qualities, to develop cutthroat and aggressive, and to go out for soccer.  And pink warrior girls were encouraged to be nonphysically competititve, but to be the equal of boys.  Like in pursuing chess or other competitive outlets.

Like most typologies, these were overframed or oversimplified.  In fact, very few young girls' experiences in parental encouragement fall into one category only.  For example, I was in many ways the typical tomboy turned "girly girl," maybe being the last-born was part of it.  But I also played softball for a while (not well) and did track.  I found, by the way, that the boys in track were most encouraging to girls.  Kind of like geeks: they're so amazed that a girl would be around that they bend over backwards to encourage her.

Another area of parental angst is what types of toys children play with.  Some parents (and schools) get troubled when children play with gun-like toys (even super soakers).  It's as if these eight-year-olds will grow up to exterminate a whole passel of Native Americans or druglords or French waiters or Yankees or clowns.

Hmmm . . . . clowns? 

But the old standby, the Barbie doll, has also attracted official irritation.  Let's face it: Barbie's figure is totally supernormal.  Only women with improbable technical augmentation can compare.  And Barbie is a quintessinal material girl!  Nothing spiritual about Barbie.   They even cavil about Barbie's prediliction for color schemes: heavy on the pink and mauve.

There was even more umbrage with the old Bratz dolls.  Somehow, nervous adults saw them as little hookerettes.  Or maybe it was the name -- parents find it convienent to have well-behaved children and want to do nothing to cause otherwise.

I think there's an overconcern for the effect that these activities have on children.  Barring dangerous pursuits, most of us come out of childhood okay.  And parental pressure can abridge the scope and enjoyment of children's pursuits.  Surely, being a tiger mom or a helicopter parent is no fun for either parent or child.

Sometimes time spend doing nothing is time well-spent.  And it's nice to be able to sample a variety of possibilities without a heavy adult agenda being behind that.  Isn't schooling enough?


Duckbutt said...

Tiger moms and helicopter parents tend to live vicariously by micromanaging their children's lives.

The Bastard King of England said...

Pink warriors is about as dumb a term as they go.

TexWisGirl said...

i'm with bastard king. :)

i loved my barbie and a few other baby dolls, but i think i loved my barn set with tractor and hay wagon even more.

Grand Crapaud said...

A lot of people are very anxious about how to bea parent, and are clueless.

Mike said...

There's too much pressure to fit social norms when the fact is that there is no such thing as normal.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I'm afraid that the side effect of some parenting practices is that it's not acceptable to be a girl, or to like to do girl things. This emphasis on competition can be overblown.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Parents are definitely into structuring their daughters' lives with career orientation in mind. It's kind of early at 11 or 12, though.

Bilbo said...

"improbable technical augmentation" ... great choice of term!!

Renegades said...

I used to call the Bratz dolls hooker barbies.......but my kid still had some and yes even I played with them as a child.

LOL and by my opinion I turned out ok!