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‘Rescuing our daughters’
Even the phrase “girl power” has taken on new meaning as marketers and the entertainment industry have changed the phrase from meaning “change the world” to “go shopping and be sexy,” but two professors are trying to change this way of thinking.
In a new book titled, “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes,” Sharon Lamb, professor of psychology at St. Michael's College, and Lyn Mikel Brown, professor of education and human development at Colby College, show how these industries enforce stereotypes and present girls with fewer choices for their future.
Miss Brown said the industry uses the power of language to encourage girls to create an identity around shopping and physical self-improvement.
“So much written towards girls is about liking to shop and being a diva,” Miss Brown said. “It’s no longer about changing the world; it’s about changing yourself.”
The writers encourage parents to analyze what their daughters see, hear and wear in terms of how girlhood is packaged and sold to them by talking with their daughters about what they observe from the media.
“We encourage parents to help her read the world and read it well so she can make choices,” Miss Brown said. “There will be a point in her life where everything that we have done to contain her world and help her make good choices … where we don’t have the power to do that anymore.”
“There were a lot of young women who would come through our courses who said they get a lot of self-esteem from being sexy,” Miss Brown said. “We asked our students to go out and see how they were packaged for the world.”
The book tells parents to start talking with their daughters about images and stereotypes when they are young.
“Although she has sucked up a lot of visual images by age 3 or 4, the age when gender identification begins to settle in and gather some permanence, she will be listening more closely to your thinking about what it means to be a girl and the kind of choices you’d like her to have as she grows up,” the book says.
Miss Brown, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, said she encourages parents to help their daughters identify the stereotypes and have a critical eye on the media.
“Parents say they’re scared but we say jump in and engage it,” Miss Brown said. “Closing our eyes doesn’t make it go away. We have to be involved with it.”
The book says parents also must learn to resist pop culture by not being “pulled into the pink and pretty stuff for the young girl as well as the glamorous ‘hot’ and fun-looking stuff for the middle-schoolers.”
“These things are pretty and they are cute even when we know we’re being sold a narrow image of how a girl should dress, think, act and be.”
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