My Mini Maven is now 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. She’s at that age where she’s really beginning to come into herself and learning how to express her inward self, outwardly. It’s a beautiful spectrum of multilayered colors & hues of personality being brushed onto a pure & untarnished canvas. Every day is a new day that sweeps in brushstrokes of new phase, and I am never left unfazed by how extraordinary she is, organically. However, this is when it gets both tricky & scary sometimes as a mum, because now I have to determine & decide which spills & splatters I need to come at with a clean cloth and make sure I get up before they dry — which ones I don’t want her to have to paint over later, and cover up, because we all know that no matter how many times you paint over something, it stays underneath. Forever.
With media, the Internet, commercialization, advertising, and the over sexualization of EVERYTHING, it gets *very* harrowing bringing up children in these times. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed & underwhelmed with the underbelly of society when raising a healthy, respecting (of her own body) daughter. It’s also entirely too easy & cumbersome to feel as though, while you’re taking wide & powerful strokes sololy, that you’re also powerless & only paddling massive, triumphant bodies of water full of voraciously bloodthirsty sharks. I work very, very hard on a daily basis to try and go against the currents of the current state of affairs that has become the over-sexualization of women. What makes it all the more hard is that it is no longer *just* women who have to balance on the beam between femininity & sexuality, but now it is also our young women. Our little women look up to young women — it is just human nature — so now, by that default, it’s starting even younger than it did when we were children, just less than a couple decades ago. Our generation of children are leaving childhood before they even learn how to be bona fide children. They are barely out of kindergarten before their Disney “stars” become Pop artists in Daisy Dukes, stiletto heels, & spray tans while we’re still trying to teach them all the constellations with the telescope we wanted them to see them through. Not the microscope of the media ones.
I could REALLY go on & on & on about all the evils I see in how childhood is “marketed” in these times. (Until a child is 18, they are still a child. Heck, until a child is 25, they are still a child, if you ask me, and should not be preyed upon by middle-aged men as they laughingly make jokes even more disturbing about younger women like, “You know what’s great about high school girls? They’re the same age every year!” Our culture is deplorable when it comes to this *acceptable* “just typical male” behavior. It is, in earnest, all fun & games until one of these older gentleman say this around a father of a 16-year-old daughter.) Yet, What’s Ravin’, Maven? is not really my forum for that, even if it *should* be. I have other projects in the preproduction stage being generated, as we speak, that will be used for many different platforms, some pertaining to these issues. Nevertheless, What’s Ravin’, Maven? IS the forum to broach the topic of fashion for little women — starting as young as toddlerhood! — to not only introduce the idea of projecting outward expression from within, but to truly introduce self-respect, non-gender specification if it’s desired, AND empowerment.
As I stated in the start of this blog post, Mini Maven is now 9 going on 49. In most regards, she’s a happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care, food & Elmer’s-glue-in-her-hair kind of digging-for-worms, fantasy-novel-reading, everything’s-a-potential-science-project sort of 9-year-old. Yet, in those few regards, she’s another 9-year-old little girl trying to find her place & way in the small world of 3rd grade; defining the difference between struggling against –or– succumbing to peer pressure, & what it means to be a woman. Yes. Woman. No matter how much we enforce what it means to be a “Child” to our children, it is the force of human nature in which makes us all hyper-fascinate on being our own adult from the start of us. So when so many of the examples they [youth] see are via media — actresses, musical artists, fashion models, tabloid magazines, Victoria Secret commercials, Hooters girls, & pornography (you heard that right, pornography, people… believe it or not, smart phones & Nintendo DS make it onto your schoolyards, unbeknownst to you) — this tussle to stay on top of things with your children can feel like a full-on war on terrorism. You’re fighting against full-fledged weapons of mass destruction against your child’s ego, self-preservation of dignity, & sense of position in life. It’s simply not enough, anymore, to say, “You’re too young to dress that way. Go back in your room and change.” You have to EXPLAIN why and HAVE the discussions. And your discussions have to have as much oomph & pizazz as all the other ones that go into arguments against becoming what is presented to them as normal. Cool even. I hate to break it to us all, but children have that innate desire to be accepted — rather it be from the popular crowd, the artsy crowd, the outlaw crowd, the mathlete crowd — and it is our job to be aware, able to identify, educate ourselves, and know the scene. From here, we have to be a part of what they build with it, on top of the foundation we give them. Then it’s all about the personal research & dual dialog. You never knew that Persuasive Speaking class would go to such pivotal use, did you?
For me, as a parent, I have made a distinct point of making sure Mini Maven has no gender specific boundaries put on her from within the walls of our house & my heart. I want to enforce & brace her going out into the world with the solid & firm fact that she is a woman who can do and be anything. And yes, anything a man can do or be. Even moreover, I want to enforce & brace her for going out into a world that is going to throw out images of women like her in demeaning, degrading, & over-sexualizing photographs, positions, & careers of falsely labeled power. If nothing else, I want her to know her choices, and give her the right tools, independence, education, & self-confidence to choose wisely — not because “Sex Sells”. I have always been a To Each Their Own person, for the most part, but if I hear ONE MORE person nonchalantly wave off very critical topics with, “Ah, you can’t change anything. Sex sells!”, I am going to drag their indifferent derrières to a children’s department store and show them how many pairs of hot shorts are dangling off the rack with the word “Cutie Pie” printed on the bum, starting in as small a size as 6X. On WHAT planet in this universe is there a specie of parent who invites other people to READ their child’s bottoms, willingly? No part of this sends up a blazing flare? That’s already a lesson… “What’s it say on the seat of your pants, Little Lady?” “Oh, that my butt cheeks are ‘cute’?” You don’t want me to go on, no matter how much I would like to. Believe you me. That can of worms is actually serpents and would overwhelm Medusa.
Too-too many people think this is just cute & harmless. I think we all need to get our heads out of ours! Beyond the fact that there are perverts & predators in this world (around every commonplace corner we take for granted as being our safe community) this IS indeed harmful because it already says something to our kid’s developing minds. And it’s not that THEY are “cutie pies” because their faces are not on that side.
I let Mini Maven dress herself now. She has full reign of her self-expression at this point. I don’t care if she leaves the house looking like an age appropriate, elementary-school-age 7th member of the Village People, as long as she’s covered in all the right places, LOOKS HER AGE, and is wearing her regalia proudly. When she walks out ready for school in the mornings before breakfast, it does not matter if her socks don’t match, her pants are actually pajamas, her t-shirt is on inside out to make a fashion statement, and her hair is not brushed that well because it looks “Punk” that way. *I* care that her belly is not hanging out, her shorts abide by the proper length rule, and that nothing is from last spring and is now too tight against her flesh. As long as she’s dressed for the weather, has brushed her teeth, and is NINE, then she’s good to go.
Likewise, Mini Maven is reeeally into all the boy bands right now. Darling Hotbuns & I know just about everything there is to know about the lads in One Direction. Her affinity for them goes far beyond “Heart Throb”. It is diabolically an obsession. You’d think they were the bloody Beatles! But to her they are. I am fine with this. (She has all the time in the world to discover *real* music. ::snicker::) I see nothing wrong with a schoolgirl crush on 5 boys she’ll never meet. Nonetheless, when I go out and look at some of these t-shirts marketed to young ladies, I am horrified — shirts that read things like, “Justin Bieber’s Property”. Say whaaat?! Oh no. No, no, no, NO. Not in my house. No daughter of mine will ever be encouraged to think it is okay to even JOKE about being anyone’s property. Even in my custody, she is not MY property! For me, this kind of money-hungry marketing, mindless consumerism, & mainstreaming of dominance/subservience is beyond daunting; it is yet another media manipulation. More so, it is a sign of how much further we need to go as a nation, and how we can’t get comfortable here. There is still too much out there that we’re ALL doing to feed the disease, instead of curing the causes, for what is a real illness amongst the human race.
Where it starts is to be debated. Where it ends is anyone’s guess. What we can do, as one small person with big hopes, is to teach our children differently than the generations before us did. With each generation, we can only hope to get better. And we have to, because now we have technology, and it’s both a blessing & a behemoth beast. Forlornly & disturbingly, it is bigger than us. By the time our children grow up, they’ll be even better equipped with their own offspring because they are more technologically advanced by being born with it. But we HAVE to do what we can do, even if it seems like such small potatoes against the big kahunas who can trump us if we get lazy or idle.
So for me, I start with self-respect and end with a big explanation point on empowerment. If “Sex Sells” for teens & adults, FUN sells for kids. If there’s one thing I have learned in my 38 years, NOTHING is more fun than empowerment (and this is *not* gender specific, folks, because little boys need just as much empowerment to not be treated as protective, providing tanks who are less valuable without a 3 figure salary & a cape by night — chivalry is a must, but so is partnership, and men need respect, honor, & equality just the same)! All we can hope is that what they learn at a young age bleeds into their young adult years, and strengthens their backbones into adulthood.
Our babies, no matter how young or old, need to know they are beautiful. Beautiful because they are smart in their own unique ways. Beautiful because they are talented in their own unique ways. Beautiful because they are brave in their own unique ways. Beautiful because they are DIFFERENT in their own unique ways. Beautiful because they don’t need to subscribe to *just* girl things or boy things. They need to know they are beautiful not because their breasts, their bums, or their brawn is big, but because their BRAINS are big…… and fierce & unlimited. Boundless, without boundaries.
Start by way of teaching them differently than “Sex Sells”. And if all else fails, make empowerment equally as fun. You can’t sit back and lazily say, “It’s just never going to be that way.” and give up. I’m not trying to raise a quitter, so… Yeah. You may be right, but what if you’re wrong? How many times did every revolutionary figure hear these blanket statements muttered to them, do you think? And if you can’t start a revolution globally, you can give the globe one more little girl or guy who doesn’t fall prey to all the hype, and doesn’t sell themselves short. You can CONSTANTLY promote awareness, independence, self-love, equality, *healthy* relationships/sexuality, & empowerment, so that they hopefully never have to feel demeaned, degraded, damaged, or objectified by their own actions, even if we can’t fix a sometimes deviant & misguided society for them immediately enough. We have no other choice than to get to them first. If you wait, you’ll be beat to it, if you know it or not. I would also like to note that nothing I say within this article comes from a place of self-righteousness, but a place of experience. I am just about the furthest thing from a prude, and I still do believe To Each Their Own, but lets fight to keep it private & intimate, and OUT of the media and our establishments! I shouldn’t have to shield my child’s eyes EVERYWHERE she is. This is the child’s world, too, and should belong to them more than any of us. How are we supposed to protect them if all these other machines don’t even think of them at all? Lets keep the eyes/ears/hands of those who deserve their innocence, for as long as they can have it, free of it. Once it’s lost, it’s not ever coming back.
Now that I am raising a daughter, I’d be 100% lying if I didn’t say that I still don’t like the askew & skewed world I brought her into, now seeing it through the lens of a 9 year old.
Sex does sell. It sells us all short.
Keep calm & EMPOWER on, Maven & MANvens!