The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘sexualisation’

How Can Feminist Mums Avoid Being Humourless Childhood-Ruiners?

Posted by Mel Campbell on September 14, 2009

Jo Case has a fascinating article at Kill Your Darlings that focuses on a new book from Spinifex Press called Getting Real: Challenging The Sexualisation Of Girls. This is a topic The Dawn Chorus has discussed before, and these posts have always attracted lots of comments from mums who talk about the challenges they face trying to raise both boys and girls in the face of so many gendered cultural imperatives, from obsessing over the colour pink to seeing one’s body as a constant renovation project.

In a way, the comments people have made on blog posts like this – especially ones that come from personal experience of parenting – interest me more than the issues of female sexualisation (raunch culture) in the media, which are so mainstream it’s dispiriting, especially when they’re conflated with “empowerment”. The impression I get is that on one front, mums feel strongly enough about the issue to ban Barbies and pink things, to refuse to buy slutty pre-teen clothes and to stand up to schools and organisations who condone sexualised behaviour and attitudes.

Then there’s a subset of parents who appear to find this stuff amusing and ironic. Before the story got a little too old, I was planning to write a story for The Enthusiast about the quality of ‘edginess’, and the way that to involve children – who are consensually imagined as ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ – in these knowing gestures treads an especially keen edge between propriety and obscenity. Indeed, as the Cotton On example reveals, certain companies actively market their products as ‘edgy’; part of the appeal to their consumers is that other people might find them offensive, and hence these consumers feel more sophisticated because they ‘get’ the joke.

That, for my mind, is the most confronting aspect of parenting – especially of girls. Are you going to be the kind of humourless, daggy mum who interferes in everything that’s cool and is a source of mortification to your children (“You just don’t GET it, Mum!”), or are you going to be a hip mum who helps your kids navigate pop culture rather than trying to restrict their access to it?

I mean, as adults we all fondly tell stories about the wowserish parents who banned junk food and served pitiful Pritikin imitations of the foods kids love; who prevented us from watching commercial TV, or even any TV at all; who wouldn’t buy the ‘cool’ clothes so we had to look like dicks in front of our friends; who wouldn’t buy the in-demand toys such as Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. (Oh boy, I’m showing my age with that one!)

But this just goes to show that kids don’t ever forget this stuff. Time can transform an embarrassing mum into an endearingly daggy one, but do we have to accept being an embarrassment to our children as the price of ‘protecting’ them from a culture they desperately want to participate in? Do we ‘know better’ than our kids or should we perhaps try to find some middle ground with them, rather than being the inflexible person banning things?

One of my main worries as a feminist is that feminism is so often about being angry and disapproving; it rarely seems hip unless it concedes something to raunch culture. Just last week I was thinking, “No wonder people say feminists are unattractive; nobody likes hanging out with angry people.” Perhaps we should also consider what we’re teaching children about feminism if their main experience of it is telling them what they’re not allowed to do.


Posted in body image, Family, Parenting & Family | Tagged: , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Essential Baby: Bringing Sexy (Breast Cancer) Back

Posted by Clem Bastow on November 5, 2008

It’s important that the media continue to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, when it comes to breast cancer and associated (potential) freak outs – remember when they said underwire bras would cause breast cancer? So, good on Fairfax Digital’s Essential Baby for reminding us of what’s true and/or false in that department with a lengthy feature on the topic.

But did they have to use the same old “sexy breasts” treatment for their linkage?


Breasts: they’re sometimes sexy, it’s true. They are also, variously, useful, painful, annoying, fantastic, nonexistent, attractive, unattractive, full of milk, full of silicone, and often a completely mundane fact of life. So treating breast cancer as little more than a scourge de-sexying the bosoms of the world’s women is hopelessly misguided.

The fabulous Hoydens have some great further reading on the topic of “sexy” breast cancer awareness.

Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch, Watching The Ad Breaks, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Raging Feminists Ruin Everyone’s Stalky Fun

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 31, 2008

It’s hard to know where to start with this “colour and movement” piece from today’s Age Technology coverage, detailing how a GPS-enabled bra is apparently “rais[ing] the hackles of feminists” because it allows men to keep tabs on their partners. Oh, really? Here’s the front page slug:

Those bloody feminists, always raging! It continues in the article proper (the point-missing idiocy, that is, not the raging – funnily enough not a single “raging” feminist with their “hackles” up is quoted in the piece!):

Lingerie maker Lucia Iorio says her new design targets the modern, techno-savvy woman, but the GPS-equipped “Find Me If You Can” line has raised the hackles of feminists who call it a 21st-century chastity belt.

The lingerie combo consists of lace bodice, bikini bottom and faux pearl collar, with the GPS device visibly nestled in the see-through part of the bodice next to the waist.

“This collection … is a wink to women and a challenge to men because, even if she gives him the password to her GPS, she can always turn it off,” Iorio told AFP.

“She can be found only if she wants to.”

“It’s not a modern chastity belt. Some men think they can keep tabs on their girlfriends with it, but they’re wrong,” she added.

Oh, she can turn it off? So can the freak who has been following her and has just tied her up in the boot of his car!

That men’s magazines have already trivialised stalking by making it fun and sexy and hilarious has already been well documented, and the Find Me If You Can bra is not the first odious tracking device for women (no, there’s the vaginal-temperature-monitoring Forget-Me-Not panties!), but really, do people need to be told how fucked up this stuff is?

Furthermore, given Iorio makes the reasonable point that GPS-enabling items will likely sell well in a high-crime, violence-prone country like Brazil, why the need to present them in such a ridiculously sexualised way? She should have door-to-door denial sales parties with those high-heels-for-newborns people!

Posted in Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Forget Sexualising Teens, Now You Can Sexualise Your Newborn!

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 12, 2008

While I usually look askance, to a certain extent, at the “sexualising our kids” debate (a lot of it is Australian Family Association-led hot air), there are times when I have to agree to file things in the “yep, that’s fucked up” file – like Heelarious’ high heels for babies, for example:

They sold their first shoes 14 weeks ago and haven’t looked back. “Oh yeah, it draws attention,” Jenelle Kulaas said. “People see them and are like, ‘Those are hilarious’.”

The booties are only made for children up to 6 months old, and the heel is squishy for safety reasons.

The shoes are the brainchild of Washington woman Britta Bacon, who thought up the idea and the brand name, “Heelarious” on her daughter’s fourth birthday.

The shoes are described as “extremely funny, completely soft shoes for babies 0-6 months designed to look like high heels.”

“That’s kind of all I could think about at her birthday party and came home and registered the website, and called Hayden,” Bacon said.

Supporters of this incredibly naff product will no doubt cry “It’s a joke, get a sense of humour!” (already boxes of the booties are being shipped to the Emmys to include in goodie bags, evidently). But I fail to see the gag.

Of all fashion and clothing items, one could argue that the high heel is – along with perhaps the corset and, if you want to go there, the bra – one of the most contentious points in discussions of gender conditioning and the perceived oppression of women. Added to that is the fact that, really, high heels are designed with sex appeal in mind and you have one unbelievably icky proposition. It’s not heelarious at all, really.

Posted in Family, Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Black Canary Barbie: Bondage And Discipline And Sexualised Superheroines, Oh My!

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 18, 2008

News of Mattel’s new Black Canary Barbie doll filtered through most online outlets yesterday; for ease of reference, here’s Cosmopolitan‘s take on it all, which is more or less identical to the rest of the “stories” – the piece is titled ‘Dominatrix Barbie’:

Move over, Astronaut Barbie – there’s a new doll in town.

Mattel has released a doll based on a character from the Black Canary comic book, clad in leather, fishnet stockings and thigh-high boots. The doll, to be released in September, has outraged Christian groups, who have dubbed the toy “S&M Barbie.”

The group Christian Voice said, “Barbie has always been on the tarty side and this is taking it too far. A children’s doll in sexually suggestive clothing is irresponsible – it’s filth.”

It’s not the first time the toy chain has come under fire for releasing sexually suggestive dolls. In 2002, the company launched Catwoman Barbie – dressed head-to-toe in leather and brandishing a whip!

(By the way, Cosmo, those boots reach her calves, not her “thighs” – Barbie’s vital stats are all sorts of wack, but not that wack.) Okay, anyway, got all that down? Good, let’s all hold hands and jump into the Barbie/superheroines/sexualisation debate headfirst.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Blog Watch, body image, Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »