Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The princess rants, continued

I’ve been having a running argument with a friend on Facebook, all because of this one article that she posted. She liked it, I didn’t. She has good points but I hold stubbornly to mine that constantly being on the defensive implies guilt and uncertainty, both uncalled for.

The author’s stand seems to me to be highly coloured by certain (probably involuntary) fascist aspects of the “women’s movement”, for want of a better phrase:
1. Women worthy of respect have to conform to specific non-“girly” rules, which is as appearance-obsessed as the point of view it affects to despise.
2. The professions most worth aspiring to are those that were historically male bastions: lawyer, doctor, entrepreneur
3. Women have to try harder just because they are women just to impress other women
4. Everything, but everything is judged in comparison, not as it is.

It's a tyranny of discrimination nearly as bad as the other one. I agree there was a time when it was necessary to go too far, but the pendulum wasn’t quite allowed to continue swinging until it found equilibrium. I have three nieces below the age of six and I resent much of the article on their behalf and for their sakes.

If anything, girls should be taught that being female is merely a fact of birth, like your family or the colour of your eyes. It's not your only identity. Your achievements shouldn’t be judged by it ("woman president", "woman CEO"), nor should you be strung up for having failed the “sisterhood” if you're an underachiever. You can be girly or feminine or boyish or butch, or whatever the current media label, or none of them. What type of woman you are doesn’t matter, what counts is what kind of person you are.

I hope my nieces will know that they are free to respond to the world as people. To ignore the media, both for and against, and think for themselves. To not argue with fools who start stupid discussions that begin with "all women" or "all men". To laugh at a sexist joke if they find it funny without it in any way affecting their power of perception. I hope they understand that the world will chatter incessantly but they are free to let go of all expectations but their own. To be women or ladies or girls without feeling a driving need for aggression or apology.

Only one important thing is wrong with the pink princess franchise – her inherent helplessness. The princess does not do for herself. Fate, fairy godmother, prince or a singing teapot always has to intervene for her. The other things – obsession with beauty, for example – are only secondary to this very dangerous message. For the rest of it, they’re just fantasies, no more cause for socio-cultural angst than Superman or Tarzan.

Then there’s this genius who wrote 1000 plus words in the New York Times, no less, about women bullying women in the workplace. Apparently the gentler sex is usually the kind, caring custodian of the careers of all other women in the world, so any deviation from this is an aberration worth reporting. What is this - a Bene Gesserit breeding program?


Anonymous said...

If nothing else, I expect a more ambitious and attainable goal from children who haven’t yet learned to read or write.--From the article

That's just sad. I can understand (but not necessarily agree) if it was "from children who can read and write" but two ickle winks who can't read and write want to be princesses and she has such a big problem with it??

Gargoyle said...

Thank you! I agree so much I could cry! This was the other part of the article I didn't touch on because my rant was already too long. I quoted this line to my friend saying that if my four-year-old wanted to be an "entrepreneur" I would consider counseling. But weirdly she didn't seem to think it was deserving of my displeasure.

Mrs.Shandekar said...

I read that line and just about took my laptop and threw it in the toilet. I have two daughters (3 & 1yr) I let them believe in Prinncesses just like believing in Santa Claus, this phase will pass when they DO learn to read and write and move on to better literature which I will make sure are freely available to them.

With you on this one, Mina!

Krishnan Menon said...

Dia has just got her new kitchen set with pots and pans and ladles etc. Jeru hung the pots and pan under the kitchen stove in her play house so that it would be just like Dia sees in her mum's kitchen and the winker spent the whole day stirring up imaginary dishes with much joy in her play house mumbling "cook cook cook cook" to herself constantly. I suppose the author of the article would have us sit her down and explain that this is not real, real cooking involves fire and ingredients etc etc.

Makes me thing of a mad old man from our family trying to explain the difference between tomato red and post office red to a 2 year old.

Mahesh Shantaram said...

Very well said. Your para #4 is imminently quotable.

Thom said...

I suppose the author of the article would have us sit her down and explain that this is not real, real cooking involves fire and ingredients etc etc.

I think more than that, she'd swoop down and ask, "Are you playing Chef-chef or are you reinforcing disgusting stereotypical notions of woman as housewife and carer. ANSWER ME!!!"

If Dia says, "Chef chef chef chef" she'll get a pat on the head (but with an injunction to make sure it's her own restaurant).

If she says, "Wife wife wife wife" then her toys will be snatched away, broken and thrown out, and there'll be a new game. "Dia? Let's play Spreadsheet-spreadsheet!" WAAAAAAAH!!! "No? Okay, let's play Year-end Appraisal--year-end appraisal!" WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

"Chairing AGM-chairing AGM?" "Calculating trajectory-calculating trajectory?" "Reading ECG-reading ECG?"

[That's Dia pumping the shotgun.]

Madhumita said...

Just read the princess article - offensive on so many levels ... So we teach our kids to deny their true natures and take offence at perceived injustices? This is just going to lead to adult angst of a different kind in the next generation. Gender questions/roles and such balance themselves out in the normal course - generally speaking. We're so uptight these days about 'progressive parenting' that we're seriously harming our kids with all these conflicts we pass on to them. Whatever happened to sensible parenting?

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