Sunday, March 16, 2008


My friend Rachel and I had a chick-flick night on Friday. We ended up watching a movie with a significant "girl power/girls are all princesses/you can do anything you want" message. At one point, they all gather together for a pink slumber/bachelorette party, go mattress surfing and sing a song about sisterhood.

Not a big deal , right? I mean, what else do you expect from a movie with the word's "Princess" and "Diairies" in the title? These types of messages have become so ubiquitous in society that they don't really even register to me any more. I mean, girls are vulnerable right? They need to be nurtured and empowered before setting sail into that scary sexually charged co-ed school/workplace/life in general unless you life in a convent.

I've seen this movie before - and let me say that I DO like it - but this was the first time I noticed how heavy-handed a message it really carries. For the first time in my life, I started to question the hidden implication. I mean really, it was so over the top, I was surprised there weren't unicorns and fluffy bunnies floating around. Think "Enchanted" but without the tongue in your cheek.

This feeling was further underscored by my Saturday morning ritual: sunshine, coffee, pancakes, pajamas and Hannah Montana (relax, this was by accident. Last week it was 'Saved By the Bell'). Unsurprisingly, her show also underscores the "girl power" message.

I got to thinking - where are all the "boy power" messages? How come little boys don't get together and celebrate their burgeoning manhood with bibi guns and Xbox marathons? Who celebrates THEM as they go out into the equally scary world?

I guess one could argue that, as the incumbents, boys/mini men already have a social mandate that highlights their worth and ability to rule the world. Sure, I don't argue that point.

But, don't boys need just as much direction and guidance and slumber parties and empowerment to make smart decisions as little girls do? In the advent of us telling girls they can do ANYTHING, who is teaching the boys how to power-share with equanimity?

It's guess easier to market unicorns and fluffy bunnies.

And then, this evening, I'm in the middle of this fabulous book: Fragments of Grace: My Search for Meaning in the Strife of South East Asia, by Pamela Constable. She writes about the dowry system in India:

When I arrived in India, I started a folder of news clippings on cases of dowry violence [...] by the time I left, the folder was bulging. [...] A pregnant woman of twenty-six hung herself from a ceiling fan after her husband, a police officer, and his relatives repeatedly harassed her over demands for a $5,000 dowry. A man shot his wife dead because her parents had given them an Opal sedan and he wanted a Honda. An eighteen year old wife was starved, burned, and finally beaten to death by her in-laws, who demanded more money and a motor-scooter.

Uh-huh. That says MOTOR SCOOTER.

Yes, teaching girls to value themselves is important. But so is educating others as to their value, outside boy baby-making machines. I guess it hit me this weekend: You can't accomplish this buy in with excessive, over the top, in your face, obnoxious messaging. Yes, it's easier to advertise unicorns and fluffy bunnies, but you can do it without alienating the other 50% of the population.

Otherwise, what you'll have is one very angry, pink unicorn shouting in a corner while the rest of the world wants to put it down.


~moe~ said...

It's like society has flip-flopped here. It used to be women's place was only in the home, barefoot and pregnant and it was the man's job to bring home the bacon (there's that bacon again). Now it's women being 'empowered' and while I think it's good to empower women, I do agree with you - it's like we're alienating the rest of the population by doing so. How can we fix it?

Nate said...

moe- How about a movie where people come together, regardless of skin color or sex or even sexuality and realize that together they can do so much more? This is a bit of a tired movie/tv-show formula, but it usually involves a larger element of complete fantasy- alien invasion, Godzilla, rapscallion little league team against bigger, better foe. What if it was just people coming together to make a positive difference and leaving their social hang-ups at the door?

All that, and a motor scooter.

Kaia said...

I don't think there are many men that are upset that they didn't grow up with the equivalent to "girl power". Boys grow up with plenty of "you can do it!" kind of lessons from more "guy centered" activities or stories (sports, comic book heroes, adventure stories, etc). I'm not saying that boys have it all easy. I'm saying I don't think we are alienating our male counterparts as much as we are sending mixed messages to girls. It has always bugged me that "girl power" movies almost always involve a makeover and a resulting boyfriend. What can I say? We love our pedicures.