Yesterday on the way to the park, my five year old daughter and her six year old friend, also a girl, started waving, saying hi and smiling rather coquettishly at some builders. I couldn’t believe it- they were shamelessly flirting!
After a chat with the mum of the other girl, I learnt that she’s been displaying this kind of flirtatious, almost sexual behaviour a lot lately. She’s learnt that by doing so, she gets not only the attention but the approval of the boys. This is not rocket science of course, but to see this kind of behaviour in a girl still in infant school is rather alarming.
I’ve seen my own daughter do this kind of thing before. The moment my husband walks through the door, she becomes all smiles, cuddles and affection, after I have struggled with her bad mood and tiredness-related tantrums for most of the afternoon. But she’s learnt to turn on her charms as soon as the man of the house is around, and subsequently gains his affection and approval.
It really troubles me to think of young girls trading on their charm for approval, rather than having a genuine sense of self to draw from. Where do little girls learn to use their femininity so manipulatively?
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a Disney Princess fan, in terms of the unhealthy influence it has on our girls. They’re all about ‘getting the man’ in the end. Why do we feed our young daughters with notions of romantic love at such an early age? Why aren’t we giving them a narrative of self-worth based on ability, perseverance, tenacity, and potential? Of course Disney has tried to redeem itself with Brave and Frozen. But any of that good work has been undone in my opinion in the 2015 Cinderella remake.
I’ve read that this new version allows time in the plot to see ‘Ella’ becoming “strong, empowered and intelligent”, whilst “dealing with life as best she can”. That’s all great, but we also see her walk into the ballroom to be absolutely adored- based on her looks, and fall into the arms of the very-blue eyed and handsome prince. So in the end, the enduring narrative is that she’s rescued by her fairy godmother- rather than finding her own way out of her troublesome life; and into the arms of a gorgeous man.
It doesn’t sound very empowering to me.
In 2010, Mumsnet started a now government-backed campaign called “Let Girls Be Girls”. Their aim was to ask retailers not to sell products which play upon, emphasise or exploit the sexuality of young girls. As one Mumsnet contributor put it:
“Little girls are being groomed into passively accepting their place as objects in our increasingly pornified culture, and it stinks.” TenaciousG
I couldn’t agree more with ‘Tenacious G’. I see many of the messages that little girls are bombarded with, and it does feel as if they are being groomed into mini-sexual beings.
I know you think that I’m the over-protective, prudish mum who is robbing her daughter of a part of her childhood. Every generation needs a Cinderella story! What’s wrong with girls acting a bit cute or coquettish? It’s endearing isn’t it? It’s what all girls do eventually!
Well to me, the premature sexualisation of our young girls isn’t cute. ‘Sexiness’ isn’t one of the main qualities that a girl needs to make it in a tough and competitive world, in my opinion. And if she is trading on that, then you’ve got a problem.
We can teach our girls differently. We can empower them! We can give them a sense of self-worth based on their talents, their abilities and their unique personalities- and not on how sweetly they can smile and work a room.