Bring Back She-Ra! (Wait, hear me out)
Tuesday 2nd September 2014
Reading The Guardian I came across this article:
Loads of it is interesting/depressing/hopeful (delete depending on how optimistic you feel about the world) but one of the things that jumped out at me was the bit about parenting and toys.
"When my son was five, and my daughter two years younger, he said he wanted to be prime minister when he grew up; the height of her ambition was to be a princess. It didn't take this job to tell me how wrong that was, but it has revealed how strong the pressure is to put them both in a gender straitjacket."
I completely agree that on the surface that sounds like as a society we/toy companies are failing young girls, encouraging them to pick vacuous things instead of proper ambitions.
But I would still say this:
Both 'Princess' and 'Prime Minister' are high status positions of power. You get to rule over a nation, make important decisions and people have to listen to you.
Maybe young girls have to turn to fiction for their more commanding or impressive 'role models' because there are so few real ones for them to emulate.
It comes back to the idea that 'you can't be what you can't see.' (The thrust of feminist film Miss Representation).
As a child of the 80's I grew up under a Queen, a female Prime Minister and headmistresses (as apposed to headmasters). So it didn't seem to me that women couldn't become positions of authority.
Admittedly, I was aware that Margaret Thatcher was probably the most hated person in the country (certainly by my left-leaning family) but that wasn't the point. The male politicians were also hated and lambasted in my house. Women were equal to be just as disappointing as men.
Also as a child I loved She-Ra, the kick-ass female alternative to He-Man, who was sort of Royal, on an important mission against bad guys, and constantly fighting and winning.
As far as I can tell the modern day closest to this is the Princess in Disney's 'Brave.' But as far as I can remember (and my memory may be flawed) She-Ra never said things like, 'I'm just a woman but I can still do stuff,' or 'but I don't wanna get married to secure the Kingdom, please don't make me.'
She-Ra never begged. She never had to justify herself or her status at all. The creators made up their own universe, with it's own rules, and she was just She-Ra. She didn't have to worry about it. She wasn't tough 'for a girl' she was just tough.
(again, that's my recollection. Maybe the show was littered with sexism that I didn't pick up on at the time). But the impression it gave me was one of equality.
And the thing is, I grew up feeling like I had unisex rights on all toys. If I wanted to play with girly pink stuff I could; if I wanted to run around and get covered in mud pretending to be She-Ra rescuing people, I could do that too. Maybe that's what's missing now.
I don't think there's any point taking Princesses away from girls. Or ridiculing their choices if that's what they like. (Why be another voice limiting their ability to accrue self-esteem by reinforcing the idea that girly stuff is rubbish and to be derided?) But maybe we could add a few more options and alternatives so that they can make more informed decisions? We've got the lego scientists, now come on, let's bring back She-Ra!
PS - and/or get more women into prominent positions of power not based on their looks.