This Friday for our Feminist Mom Round Up hosted by Transatlantic Blonde, a topic was given for us to ponder....fashion. I cringe. I should share this with my sister who has fashion blog.
When I think about fashion, my mind automatically goes to advertising. I don't know anything about fashion nor do I really care. Personally, I know I have no fashion but as long as I am comfortable and feel good about my self, it's all good. I look at clothes and the way that other people dress and want to be more fashionable but since I have never made a conscious change, I think that is a clue to, again, I don't really care. I do care about the advertising part of fashion and the magazines that are based around fashion. I spent a lot of time on this subject in college and I don't want to bore anyone with a research type response, so I will relate the issue with the magazines and the use of these magazines to help educate our children. Bare with me, it could easily turn into a rant.
Collages....pretty harmless. I remember cutting out pictures from magazines for collages in elementary school and middle school. My best friend in high school and I even made collages when we were bored. I haven't ever thought of them as anything bad until I picked Parker up from daycare one day last year. He was in the lower pre-school class at the time and they were learning about emotions. Easy things like happy, sad, mad, scared, angry....so on and so forth. The children looked through magazines to find pictures of people with these expressions on their faces. Again, doesn't seem like anything to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but that is what they did. The magazines that the children picked through were all donated fashion magazines. This is what surprised me and this is what bothered me. If you look through a fashion magazine at the way that women are portrayed, it is bothersome. You have to really look though, which is a big problem from the start. We are so used to women having their mouths open or eyes closed or mouth covered or just her legs or midsection or chest, constantly portrayed as pieces instead of a whole, that no one really looks at the damage or the message that photo is sharing with the world. We don't even see a woman. We see a brand. She no longer exists for any purpose but to but sectionalized and sold. Her purpose is to entice, to sell, to tempt those looking at her. The way that her body is set on the page is damaging. Laying on the ground in a victimized fashion, hands over her mouth because she isn't there to speak, eyes covered because she isn't there to see or learn or challenge, arms up as if she has been startled, mouth open because nothing is more sexual than an open mouth. These are some of the images I saw on the posters in my son's classroom. There was a picture of a women laying on a bed in underwear with a surprised look on for the poster of "surprise." The images were of young girls dressed like women with their mouths open or big eyes on the poster labeled "sad." I want to say that I was outraged, but that isn't they right word. I was suprised, but that doesn't convey the right emotion for the time either. I realized that regardless of the fact that I saw everything that was wrong with these images, no one else did. If anyone else had, they would not have been used. I think I was disappointed more than anything. After I was disappointed, I wanted to make sure they knew why I thought this was inappropriate. Whether or not they agreed (which they did not), I needed them to know why I thought they were damaging to my son as well as the other girls and boys.
[Side story, I was in the same classroom more recently and there were pictures of men, women and children from magazines that were arranged from biggest to smallest. When there was a male and female picture that were the same size, the male picture was placed as the "biggest" in 9 out of 10 posters....one child had a female as the "biggest" on their poster....interesting stuff eh?]
So why were they damaging? The biggest reason is the misconception of beauty that was taught to both the girls and the boys in the class. Why push the "ideal" beauty to girls younger than 5 when they have their entire life to be told that they are not what men want them to be? Why push this image upon little boys younger than 5 when they have their entire lives to incorrectly think that is the way women are supposed to look? They were not images of emotions expressed through photography, they were images to sell a product. Why teach children younger than 5 that their purpose is to consume? Let the little girls and boys be just that, use images from magazines that suit their lives, magazines that have children who look like children in them, magazines that show team work or activities or better yet.....make a collage of all the children in the class portraying the emotions that they are learning! (In the teacher's defense, there were atleast two pictures of the children expressing the feeling on each poster). I told the teacher that I had an issue with the magazines that they were using and that I am trying to raise my son to know that women are not his subordinate. Of course, she didn't see an issues with the pictures, which is irritating, but I get it.....not everyone thinks the same way that I do...and she said that she uses what she gets donated to her. The next day I brought in all of the baby magazines I got for free, catalogs and few family magazines that had been sent to me. [The hardcore feminist in me wants to completely digress on the damaging effects of the women in these magazines too but I will hold back......deep breath] The teacher appreciated my gesture, but the posters remained hanging in the classroom.
We push our children to become little adults too soon but yet we are surprised and disgusted when they are teenagers and pregnant or have an STD. We can't dress pre-teen girls in Victoria's Secret and then be mad when she objectifies herself....we taught her to do that. We objectified her when the pants that say "Sexy" on her ass were purchased on her behalf. [Again, the whole Pink collection at VS....another rant, but women trying to look like prepubescent girls but then prepubescent girls purchase the product to then look like women.....ugh]. And our sons? We want them to be "players" in Kindergarten and applaud the number of girlfriends they have. The clothes that are designed for them are for playing, running, being active and socializing. The clothes we design for girls are constricting, meant for watching and sitting. Skirts are harder to run in because you have to constantly be wondering if you underwear is going to show (that is why I always wore my bike short, you remember the spandex neon ones, under all of my skirts when I was little). Every time I have walk into the daycare, I see little girls fumbling with a strap that has fallen off their shoulder or readjusting the skirt they have on or the halter top. I haven't seen the same issue with the little boys. They are chasing each other wildly.
Whew! I didn't know if I was going to make it through! So much you could cover on such a topic. Good choice Blondie!