The birth of ‘Sunshine’ in 2002 brought with it fascination, excitement, and a bit of shock as was evidenced by my reaction at learning that I was soon to be a dad.
“Are you happy now?
Obviously a poor choice of words for such a happy moment. But soon enough the life altering news set-in as the activities of preparing for the new arrival got well underway. However these feelings of shock and awe were soon replaced by moments of sheer unbridled terror. I recall a conversation had between myself and the ‘Jap’. As we were waiting to join friends for dinner discussing our future parenthood I concluded our talk with the revelation that I felt completely and utterly alone.
Well over eight years have passed since that confession and the joy and fascination remains even as I have become ingrained into single fatherhood, but unfortunately the pangs of fear have lingered as well. The very idea of raising a girl in our current culture often makes me wish for the nearest deserted island or a place to bury my head in the sand. Observing the challenges that many of my friends endure with their older daughters send bolts of dread through my body.
In a recent post I discussed how today’s concept of beauty is the product of an elaborate manufacturing process which has resulted in the American woman second guessing everything about her appearance. And its orchestrators, specifically the fashion and beauty industries, have leveled their sites on the next generation of potential shop-o-holics and plastic surgery addicts – our daughters. In this same post I asserted my belief that it’s time for fathers, through our own actions, to challenge Vogue and Cosmopolitan’s idea of beauty. We need to reveal the truth, that it was created for the express purpose of luring our wives, girlfriends, daughters, and sisters into believing that they don’t have what it takes, but if they’ll just buy the industry’s products and services they might have a chance to look like the digitally enhanced models in their advertisements.
This conviction was substantiated recently as I picked up my kids for the weekend. Sunshine had a DVD from a popular girl’s toy line – a movie starring the Bratz. What stands out first, when one looks at these dolls, is the amount of industrial strength plaster on their plastic faces, followed closely by their clothes which possibly inspired Britney Spear’s latest video wardrobe. After your retinas have had time to adjust to the sparkle and bling these dolls sport, you’re forced to concede that they look like complete hookers.
This doll line is one of the most popular in the toy industry. Created in 2001 with four dolls, it has given rise to numerous others plus movies, television and video games. At about $20 a pop, Bratz sales and accessories have topped $3.3 billion! A entire generation of girls has been playing with dolls that look they just walked out of a Twisted Sister video or are heading to work at The Bunny Ranch. Would anyone ever let their princesses dress this way? I just don’t understand why parents can’t see what this says to our daughters. I did a bit of research and found some of the messages this brand uses to market itself:
Bratz: “The Girls with a passion for fashion.”
The Bratz Facebook page, with over 170,000 followers, this is a wall post from a one Bratz girl to her fans (notice how they teach proper grammar, lovely):
“Hello Angelz, it’s your grrl Cloe! I’m going strong on my healthy eating: I’ve had some candy here and there but I’ve seriously cut back. Fashionably Fit workout clothes go great with my new resolution. Are u more inspired 2 get fit with stylish outfits?”
Their product line overview (from their company website):
The Bratz are all about rockin’ the hottest fashion trendz with their friends… and some serious attitude! With tons of confidence and style to match, the Bratz Pack makes heads turn wherever they go!
Am I missing something here?!?! What I continue asking myself over and over, what is it about this doll that is so appealing? Baby dolls nurture the mothering instinct and stuffed animals provide a level of comfort, but what do these plastic tramps foster? From what I can see they teach my daughter that looks, fashion, hair styles, partying, and popularity are all that really matters.
But the more obvious question is – who’s buying this garbage? I’m going out on a limb and predict that it ain’t daddy. Regardless of who’s stroking the check, my point is that dads need to get out of their lazy-boys, take their noses out of the TV, and find out what their little girls are doing. Have we spent any time just hanging in our daughter’s rooms? Do we know what toys she plays with and movies she watches? Are we even paying attention? Or, are we assuming that because they share the same plumbing, momma is better suited to handle all the girl stuff while we stick to the boy stuff?
Let me ask, where do you think this is likely to go next? If like most girls before them, they’ll start idolizing celebrities like Kim Karsashian and Paris Hilton because they reinforce what she’s already learned to believe about beauty. Then before long she’ll be wearing shorts with words printed on the butt like “love”, “faith”, or “peace”. Which for whatever reason we seem to think it’s ok to draw attention to an eleven year olds derrière as long as it promotes nonviolence and racial harmony.
Gentlemen it’s high time for us to man-up. We need to put on our big boy underwear and have a good old fashion “come to Jesus meeting”, if necessary. Because whether we think so or not, we’ve got skin in this game and it’s also our problem. We’re on the outside looking in with the opportunity to have an impact on our daughters that can last a lifetime. And you know what? They need us to.