I have this kid. She is a 6 year old version of me, except saying that is not exactly fair is it? She is her own person, she has her own thoughts, her own likes and dislikes and her own feelings about herself and her place in this world. Genetically we may have MANY, many things in common, but sometimes I have to remind myself that there is a limit to all the "mini-me" comparisons, and I have to let her be the person that SHE is meant to be.
The thing is that lately, the unfortunate and yes, similar trait that she is exhibiting is one of worry and anxiety about what people are thinking about her. She has become concerned about how she looks, about people laughing at her, and about looking or being thought of as 'stupid'. She has inherited a bit of a perfectionist streak from both her father and myself and while we both try to quell our own tendencies towards "perfection" in ourselves and we never ask of it from our children, it seems that our actions and our behaviours are speaking louder than we thought.
And so, here we are.
With a six-year old who has been asked by another six-year old in her dance class, "Why do you have such a fat belly?". Who told me the other day, after we watched a trio of Russian gymnasts perform an amazing floor routine that, "I can't do that mommy. You have to be skinny to do gymnastics." And who asked me if we could "work out" together this weekend because she thinks that her legs are too jiggly.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
How is this happening already? What have I done wrong? Why are some kids such little assholes?
What the hell do I do now? Because we all know this won't go away. The images and messages of beauty and perfection and SKINNY that she will be exposed to will just grow and grow and grow and they will continue to infect her beautiful, creative, wonderful little mind. And I will have to be ever vigilant about the language I use when talking about myself and about others, because damn it, these kids hear and notice EVERYTHING these days!
My daughter asks me why girls aren't allowed to go to school in some parts of the world. She asks me why I wear make-up. She asks me about my "jiggly" arms and why I have them. She notices all the "sexy" ladies in TV commercials and giant billboards in the mall and ask why they are walking like that and only wearing their underwear. She asks me why I won't let her have any Monster High dolls, even though all her friends have them. She wears her heart on her sleeve this one - another trait she got from me - and I am so afraid of it getting crushed by the constant messages of BEAUTY > Everything Else That Makes Up A Person that we are bombarded with every day.
So yesterday, when I read about LEGO "beauty-trolling" 5-12 year olds, I felt defeated. I felt like any strides that we are making as women, any steps towards a better world for our girls (and our boys) is pointless when we have to start FIGHTING THIS KIND OF MESSAGE being purposely aimed at our very young daughters.
In her article for the New York Times, Sharon Holbrook, can't help but also wonder why her own 7-year old daughter is in need of these "helpful" beauty tips from her "friends":
Now, we don't subscribe to the Lego Friends publication in this house, but my daughter does have a shelf full of the pink and purple and teal blocks and buildings. My kid wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and the Lego Friends line has that particular career path tied up very nicely with one of those ridiculously small purple bows. We have every little animal and animal house Lego created for this line and she loves them all. She puts the damn teeny, tiny purple bows on all the little animals and creates stories about them and these stories are elaborate and complex and funny and heartbreaking (especially the one about the lost baby penguin!) and you know what? No one in the story is ever worried about the shape of their face or the right hair cut for said face.
AND I WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
Seriously, though, LEGO, cut it out! Yes, yes, I know. You've got a market for the Friends line now and we get it. It's a half-way decent 'gateway' toy to get girls into building things, but I think you've gone far enough. You need to STOP perpetuating the notion that girls only want to go to pool parties and shopping and hair salons and jet-skiing with dolphins (although, I do admit, I kind of want to do that last one.) That's what we have Barbie for. And I mean, for god's sake, even Barbie is at least trying to BE more these days.
LEGO, what happened to you? You used to be all about instilling the gift of BUILDING and PRIDE in our children - at least that is what you did for my brothers and sister and I. This ad from your early 1980's campaign could have been my little brother and sister. And you know what, it CAN be my daughter and my son NOW too, if you'd just stop telling kids how and what they are supposed to build and dividing them according to a colour chart and the shape of their mini-figurines.
So LEGO, as a gift to you, and since I assume you are not about to give up on the whole Lego Friends line, I'd like to give you a few suggestions for future sets:
1 - Make the damn Supreme Court Justice - Women Supremes Set.
2 - Can we get a female Olympic Hockey Team set please? USA vs. Canada. In appropriately coloured team jerseys. (That means no pink vs purple, OKAY??!)
3. How about a nice Women of History set, with the likes of say; Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Emily Murphy, Queen Elizabeth I, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. With future expansion sets to come!
4. Enough with the Harry Potter and The Hobbit and Star Wars. Let's get some Hunger Games/Katniss Everdeen sets going, and maybe a Divergent/Tris-centered set too. And while you're at it, do you mind making me one with Hit Girl from the movie Kick-Ass please!
5. Give WyldStyle her own full line. She is a Master Builder after all. And maybe a whole movie too!
6. And my friend Lizz and many others too, would like you to make ALL the mini-figurines the same size and shape for seamless play between the sets.
As for me and my little mini-me, we'll be over here plugging along on the road of being female in this world. We will NOT be reading beauty tips in LEGO magazines, or any other ones for that matter. We will NOT be purchasing anymore Lego Friends sets unless we start seeing some more substance to them. And we WILL be having all kinds of conversations about what it means to be a strong, intelligent, confident girl, how we can help others feel that way about themselves and what it means to love ourselves first and foremost.
And I'll be re-reading these powerful lines from this viral Huffington Post article from a few years ago, over and over and over again: