by WENDY HANKS
2001 was a year of many awakenings for me. The world embraced a culture of fear after 9/11. Wikipedia was launched on the internet. The first ipod was introduced by Apple, and Bratz dolls were being marketed to little girls. 2001 was also the year I bought my little girl into the world at the ripe old age of 18.
Becoming a teenage mum was never part of my plan. I had completed high school with straight A’s lining my report card and a full scholarship to university. My plan was to change the world. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but took it for granted, that change the world – I would.
Babies, dare I say, especially baby girls, have a way of changing your perspective on the world, and for an 18 year old, my coming of age was both a shock and a joy I could never have conceived. There is something about little girls that evokes a protective instinct in mothers that we don’t even afford ourselves.
Why is it that we want our little girls to be “little princesses”, even though we know that it will never happen for them? They are never going to be princesses, and if we dig a little deeper, what we really want for them is that they reach their full potential, unencumbered by sexist stereotypes.
The increasing awareness of the sexualised wallpaper that surrounds our children probably had its genesis with the advent of pop culture at our fingertips. Bratz dolls; born the same year as my daughter, epitomise the insidious way that pop culture is influencing the way we view our little girls and the way they view themselves. Protecting our girls from this culture is near-on impossible. Every step of the way, with my own daughter, I have endeavoured to shield her as much as possible from the sexualised culture, but I realise that with all the clever marketing and peer pressure she is subjected to, my role is probably more fruitful through open communication and education. If she really wanted a Bratz doll, (which by the way she did), we discussed at an age appropriate level, the pros and cons of owning a Bratz doll. Funnily enough, once she owned the Bratz doll, it was relegated to the bottom of the toy box, proving how insidious marketing and peer pressure is.