The other day PigTail Pals asked on facebook what our daughters did that day sparking the idea of what influences our daughters. I spent some time thinking about my own daughter age just barely 6. Before I get into that PigTail Pals sells t-shirt that depict girls doing jobs like Astronaut, Pilot, Scientist, Paleontologist and more. On the website where she talks about forming the company there is this statement that really sums it all up.
The art and messages on my empowering shirts show girls that they can dream in any color. They can dream to be adventurous, to be a hero. The shirts tell girls that being smart, daring and adventurous is being girly. My company will show girls how to respect themselves, their community, and their environment. Our girls deserve to know their actions can change the world in a meaningful, lasting way.
I started thinking about the negative influences in her life and I didn’t come up with that many mainly because as parents we simply don’t have them in the house not through planning but just through who we are. I’ve never seen my wife pick up a fashion magazine so they just are not around to look at. A lot of the TV we watch is recorded so we can skip the ads but still there are negatives. Just about any form of advertising paints an unrealistic picture. There is just no way to avoid advertising so I think our kids need to be educated on advertising.
My son(8) one time snuck down to our basement after lights out and after my wife and I were in bed and watched an all-night classic cartoon station. At one point they showed an infomercial on a juicer. The next morning we just had to have a juicer. He probably would have gotten away with staying up all night if it hadn’t been for the juicer but those only air in the middle of the night. Skipping over the punishment part we had a long talk about marketing. Examining questions like ‘Why do you want it?’ ‘Did you what it before you saw the ad?’. I have had similar talks with my daughter in the toy store.
Why do you want that toy?
Because its pretty.
Why is it pretty?
Because it has lots of colors. (her favorite color is rainbow)
How will you play with her?
We can go on adventures.
The more I thought about the negative influences and saw my role as to point out to her what those influence were and discussing them I started thinking about the positive role models she has. The first is mom who is a computer programmer and very smart. My daughter now want to make her own website and mommy is helping her do that. Then there is me who is also a computer programmer and a ‘stay at home dad’ (sahd). She loves to help me cook particularly if it one of her favorites like cookies or tortellini with cheese sauce. Her older brother who she looks up to and plays with all the time. She wants to read like him so she worked very hard this year learning to read. She routinely plays Harry Potter with him and is always Hermione and she has the list of spells because she came to me and had me look them up and then she carefully copied them out. She is currently reading the first Harry Potter although very slowly and with lots of help. I think characters like Hermione are good role models as well. We as a family watch Mythbusters so there is Kari Byron as some one who is a very smart, and talented women. Myself, son(8) and daughter also do Tae Kwon Do. I see that as very positive for her in that we have a number of women instructors who range in age from teens to early twenties. They are all extremely confident, capable women. These classes really teach self respect, self-esteem, leadership and lots more.
When she grows up she wants to be: (current list) mommy, super hero and snake scientist. The mommy because she wants a baby. The super hero because her brother whats to be one and they are going to be partners. The snake scientist is because after holding one at a science center she wants an Anaconda for a pet. We told her that she had to be a snake scientist and study them to own one. That is actually partially true in that they are a restricted animal where we live. We explained to her what she needed to know to become a snake scientist.
As I was writing this I was think about a video I saw years ago that shows a fashion model from start to the billboard. She doesn’t look anything like the ad.
I would love to see advertisers stop targeting our kids with increasingly sexualized marketing campaigns but in the mean time I believe that its is all about the positive role models in their lives and teaching them to be media savvy.