While driving home yesterday I happened to tune into a radio interview with author Peggy Orenstein. Her most recent book is Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Orenstein believes that today, more than ever, girls are influenced from toddlerhood on to believe that the outer appearance is what matters most. She backs this up with examples of how much glitz and glamor is pushed on girls as soon as they are old enough to walk. This was present in the past but reached a crescendo when Disney released its Disney princess collection.
Children are dressing more mature at much younger ages wearing lip gloss, makeup, and clothing that glorifies sexuality. It's not so much about what's on the inside but what's on the outside that society is pushing, leading girls to believe that if they don't dress in the most trendy clothes, wear the right lipstick, attract men like a sex magnet, then they are valueless.
Having recently spent time with my three-year-old granddaughter Lucy,who I rarely get to see, I have to admit that I was also a bit bothered by all the glam that is being pushed at girls at such a young age. My daughter Rachel has sought to balance things out by encouraging Lucy to enjoy unisex toys, dress in colors that are not merely pink and to toughen up a bit. What I saw was a mix...a kid that enjoyed watching Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, and then Cars, who received a Barbie for Christmas and a Doctor's kit.
I hear and agree with what Orenstein is saying and am also concerned. Something has drastically changed. Adults are behaving more like children and children more like adults in some sort of bizarre role reversal. We have mothers pushing toddlers to become beauty queens wearing makeup and hair spray and competing to see who is most beautiful when they should be enjoying teddy bears and trikes. This carries over into an increased pressure on sexual allure as early as 8 or 9. You can see it in the fashions and in all of the play makeup which is no longer obviously play makeup but the real and sparkling deal. It's become more of the norm than the exception.
I think parents should be aware of what's going on and do what they can to balance things out to where less emphasis is placed on looks and attractiveness and more is placed on the child's gifts and interests. Doing so will build a healthier future for our children who need to enjoy childhood for as long as they can.