I know this will totally come across as a Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?! post. But if there is one point on which I agree with the Helen Lovejoy Crowd, it’s anger over the premature sexualization of little girls. It’s always bothered me, and now that I have a daughter of my own, it bothers me even more. The biggest perpetrator of this crime is, of course, Madison Avenue–although Roger Clemens has certainly done his part.
To be fair, this trend is part due to the fact girls now hit puberty at ridiculously young ages. Thanks to all the hormones we pump into the animals we eat, if you poured some milk and slapped a raw steak on a bowling bowl, it’d start growing breasts. But I also wanna say it
started with Britney Spears, ’cause hey, why not?
Way back in the late 1990s, Britney Spears made music that was squarely aimed at the Radio Disney crowd, while cultivating a persona of Slut In Training. She had all the confused sexual politics and virgin/whore complexes of a Rock Hudson/Doris Day movie, but with better production values and half the self awareness.
The creepiest part about it was, when you heard her talk at this time (and God help you if you did), she seemed blissfully unaware of the Lolita Vibes she gave off. When the subject of sex was actually broached, she sounded like Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock trying to fake-hit on Tracy Jordan’s wife. She was clearly being manipulated by a publicity machine capitalizing on the Look But Don’t Touch Appeal of an underage hottie. Not to be alarmist, but look how well that turned out for her.
Here’s but one example of what Spears hath wrought: In the post-Britney universe, the sluttacular Bratz dolls are perfectly acceptable toys for little girls. They look like someone took the creepy big-headed chicks from Steve Madden ads, made them nine years old, and dressed them up like Hunts Point prostitutes. Feminists got all mad about Barbie’s impossible-to-live-up-to dimensions, but the Bratz are a million times worse, with their monstrous egg-shaped domes and frighteningly thin bodies that a real girl could only achieve if she was strung out on methadone or harboring an intestinal parasite.
But at least the Bratz deliver a positive message to girls, that’s it’s totally okay to, like, shop. I was sick of all those dolls that told girls it was cool to go to school and use their minds and be independent and stuff. Spend daddy’s money and rely on boys to do the
heavy lifting–that’s the true path to liberation!
This brings us to the latest object of my ire: a commercial from Dairy Queen that has so many double standards and gender issues in this ad that I’m sure Andrea Dworkin is spinning in her grave. Just take a peek.
Where to start? First off, neither of these kids can be any older than 10. And yet the girl makes goo goo eyes at the boy, and the boy smiles back like they’ve spotted each other across the proverbial crowded room. Ten year olds should not even be close to dating. What’s supposed to happen after he sends her the sundae? He gets her number and invites her out for a drink at Chuck E. Cheese?
So basically, this girl cons the boy into buying her a sundae, which seems a sort of pre-teen version of fourth- or fifth-wave feminism. In other words, it’s okay to engage in the kind of capricious, manipulative behavior that sexist men ascribe to women, because this shows that you’ve somehow liberated yourself from traditional feminist notions of how women should assert themselves. Or something.
In the old, Gloria Steinem days, women showed their independence by getting jobs in male dominated fields, challenging unfair wages, and lobbying for reproductive rights. Nowadays, they do it by treating themselves to a shopping spree! Whee! Luckily for Big Bidness, this notion of “freedom” just happens to involve lots of conspicuous consumption.
Like how Sex and the City is presented as being feminist because Carrie loves fancy shoes. The mere act of buying a bunch of Pricey Shit is now considered bold and daring, as long as you do it unashamedly and with a sense of entitlement. It’s the intellectual equivalent of a diet that promises you’ll lose weight while eating nothing but White Castle and Haagen Dazs: it’s popular because it tells people something they’d like to believe.
Even worse, the jaded, world weary way in which she manipulates the boy to buy her a sundae is the creeptastic topper. Like she’s been twirling males around her finger for so long that it’s no longer even a challenge. She dismisses the boy with a sniff of goddess-like superiority. “Like shooting fish in a barrel,” she says (which is totally something a ten-year-old would say).
So at the tender age of ten, she’s already figured out the secret to stringing along dumb guys, and this realization has brought not satisfaction, but resentment. She feels the hollow sting of getting what she wants, and realizing it means nothing to her if it comes so
If Brett Easton Ellis wrote a novel about fourth graders, this would be the film version.
The first time I went clothes shopping for my baby, I was struck by an intense Gender Achievement Gap in toddler apparel. Shirts for baby boys say things like FUTURE ALL-STAR or FUTURE PRESIDENT. But shirts for baby girls said things like PRINCESS or SPOILED ROTTEN or HIGH MAINTENANCE. The boy clothing was indicated, This child will strive to be successful. The girl clothing indicated, This child will be taught to expect other people to do things for her.
This commercial is just another signpost along that same road, like a sparkly pink onesie that says FUTURE GOLD DIGGER.
A simple request: If you’re gonna film a commercial that portrays women as joyless, manipulative harpies, can you at least make the girls of legal age? Even Neil LaBute keeps his misogyny restricted to adults.