This media-dominated world is driving our girls to be body-conscious – sexualised – before they’ve even hit their teens. It said so on the telly!
So I was on the rampage today when I found Bonnie navigating her way around ‘GoGirlsGames', dressing up doe-eyed chicks in cool gear (click!), styling the hair (click! click!), applying the make-up (click! click!)… ‘You can go on The National Geographic Society website’ I’d said ‘it has some interesting games for your age-group.’ But she’d tricked me, and I’d let an hour slide past – that's an hour of brainwashing already.
‘Bonnie – this is superficial sexist narcissistic drivel – turn it off now. You are internalising inappropriate sexual stereotypes.’ I thought I had the tone about right. ‘That Geographic thing was so boring’ she said ‘and anyway, you had Sindy dolls, same thing, so don’t be a hypocrite’ ‘Yes but I wasn’t begging my Mum to take me clothes shopping every three seconds,’ I said ‘and I wasn’t trying to sneak mascara on for parties!’ (‘What is a tart Mummy?’ ‘Shh. I didn’t mean to say that…’)
‘Anyway Mummy,’ said Bonnie, ‘you promised to stop calling everything I like ‘drivel’’. Oh yes! I must keep the channels of communication open, man. I changed my tune: ‘Bonnie’ I simpered, ‘you know that beauty is only skin deep, don’t you sweetie? It’s what’s inside that counts.’ She looked me up and down witheringly. ‘Actually, Mum, you need some new clothes…Anyway, see Lola on the screen, do you think I should crimp her hair or straighten it?’ My words of wisdom were clearly hitting home.
Josie and Maddy have taken to watching ‘their TV’ (that means it has lots of supermodels disguised as school kids, swearing, taking drugs and having sex ) behind closed doors, because they know I’ll moan. Usually I’d respect their privacy, but not today. I opened the door quick as a flash (‘Oh sorry girls – didn’t know you were in here!’ cough cough) and caught a flicker of a babe drinking a shot of whisky out of a boys belly button before they could wipe the picture. ‘Girls’ (I was stern) ‘You must watch age-appropriate TV from now on.’ 'Everyone watches this – we’ll be left out’ they said. ‘I don’t care!’ I replied, ‘this is for your own good. You know all your isms these days ‘sexism’, ‘racism,’ ‘homophobic…..ism’…but watching drivel like this means you are more shackled with inappropriate sexual expectations and more beset with your body-image than ever. There’s a fantastic programme called ‘The Human Planet’ I’ve recorded – let’s watch that instead!’ Silence.
I’ve been telling them they are beautiful since they were born, but they see only perfect physical specimens around them. ‘I’m fat,’ said Bonnie, ‘look at my tummy! I need to go on a diet.’ ‘What??? WHAT DID YOU SAY??’ I am aghast, horrified. Eight years old. That’s it – anorexia, bulimia. And they’re all at it: ‘I hate my podgy knees, my hair is disgusting…’
‘Just eat healthy food, girls, do not go on diets’ I say. Turns out it’s my fault they binge on sweets and chocolate because I only buy ‘horrible’ fruit, and of course vegetables are not on the radar at all, don’t be daft. Year round blueberries and mangos would be helpful…so I dug deep and bought a heap of exotics with red ruby pomegranates as the centrepiece, the seeds of which I scattered hither and thither amongst fresh pineapple. ‘Look at those colours!’ I cooed ‘-what a stunning dessert!’ But it was ‘Ow! Pips! Bitter!’, Alan helpfully concurring in the background: ‘Mmm. I always found pommegranate disappointing..’ (SMACK). ‘Actually Mummy is their any ice-cream?’ they said. ‘Or is it bad for your skin?’