Yesterday, while I was at the library, I picked up a copy of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers Schemes by Sharon Lamb, Ed.D and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D. I’m only about 40 pages in so far, but it’s already been something of an eye opener. I’ve been aware of rampant consumerism and the way the clothing industry tries to push people (not just girls and women) into the little categories it wants us to be in (male/female, preppy/rebel/geek, “urban”/”rural”, etc) for awhile and I’ve been aware of the brand-worshiping aspect of consumer culture for as long as I’ve been scratching my head over the importance of wearing clothes just because there was a certain word or logo on it (that happened around age 9, when I moved to a new school and everyone seemed to have to wear stuff from The Limited or Limited Too and if you weren’t wearing those clothes then ohmygodwhatiswrongwithyou?). However, it turns out that there’s a little more than I ever wanted to admit going on.
What I have gotten out of this book, thus far:
- There is always this push to make girls want to be older, faster. This is nothing new to me, but, they’re marketing “bras” and pretty underwear and bikinis to 4 year olds now. *4*!!
- Girls are being pushed into camps from a early age
- Camp 1: pink, the classically feminine color is soft and sweet (which there is now a bit of a split in the pink camp, with the pastel hues reflecting innocence and bolder hues (or pared with black) reflecting a bit of a sexier edge.
- Camp 2: red, a bold and assertive color.
- From the book, “The red girl is the girl who is not like the other girls can develop into not liking what makes those other girls who they are, putting them down for being too girly and weak. The girl wars mentality we see in the media is often between girly girls and tomboys, between what we fear starts out as the pink girl and the red girl.”
- The same items are marketed to 6 year olds and 13 year olds.
- The hetero-normative push into what is supposed to be the most important thing on a girl’s mind: Boys! (which, even I fell victim to with the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync when I was 12-15) Stores are happy to sell all manner of trinkets and shirts that espouse love for whatever male teen star is hot at the time… and this is marketed to 8 and 9 year old girls as well as teens. Why would 8 and 9 year olds be concerned with the cuteness of boys? When I was 8, I was still listening to what my parents listened to (and Michael Jackson).
Like I said, I’m only about 40 pages in. However, while I was scrolling through teh internets, I came upon one of those stupid “what you should/shouldn’t wear” lists. From LifeScript: Healthy Living for Women (I’m already laughing, folks), is an article telling me the “Top 10 items [I will soon be] Too Old to Wear” Here are some of my favorites:
- I can only wear my beloved Tshirts that say stuff for another year and a month. According to this article, I have to retire my tshirts at 30 because, “the freedom to express yourself via your wardrobe is part of the teen and 20-something years… but beyond that?… ‘The message tee boom was fueled by Young Hollywood… it’s mostly a way for people to express frustration.'” So, I guess I’m only allowed to express myself for another year, then I need to shut up and hand it all over to people younger than me.
- Not that I like to expose my cleavage, but I am now aware that after 50, it’s no longer an option for me. That’s because, according to the article, “‘An older woman shouldn’t feel she needs to show it all off. Anything below the middle of your [bustline] has got to go,’ DeMartino says. ‘A little goes a long way,’ writes Krupp, who in her book bans excessive ‘boobage’ past the age of 40 and warns readers not to display too much sagging skin.” That’s right, women who are 50+ need to cover up because they have “too much sagging skin” [read: not attractive anymore; gross – read: younger *should* show cleavage – read: women are to constantly be aware of, and compliant to, the male gaze]
- Now, I don’t do much with my hair beyond a simple pony tail, because I don;t like it down and I’m too lazy to do anything else with it. BUT. If I feel like putting something cute in my hair (it happens), like my tshirts, I’m only allowed to don these items until I’m 30. Because, “whether it’s flowery scrunchies, banana clips or your daughter’s plastic kiddie barrettes, whimsical hair accessories are not fitting for a fully grown woman.” For the record, my grandmother, a woman in her 60’s, wore a pretty red hair gizmo over the holidays -the first time I’ve seen her wear anything in her hair in my life – and I thought she looked fabulous.
Dear Internet, Marketers – Kindly stop telling us what to wear or not wear and stop pushing us into boxes. I’ll wear what I want, how I want, for as long as I want.