Monday, August 22, 2011

sexualizing children

This is a really cool optical illusion. But what is more interesting is that, depending on your age, you might see something different. Children, who don't have a frame of reference for sexuality, usually just see the dolphins. Adults, though, see a couple in an embrace.

It would seem that this is not good enough for us in this fine country and we need to make sure kids see the sexual pose as well.

Go to any store selling clothes. Go to your local WalMart. Look in the section where they display women's undergarments. What do you see? Hello Kitty. I even found a pair of rhumba panties (you know, those cute drawers we put on baby girls with the ruffels across the butt?) in MY SIZE!!! WalMart - at least in my neck of the woods - is not so bad in the little girls' department, but they do sell padded bras in a size my 5 year old granddaughter will be able to wear in about a year. Look at some of the online offerings for some of the major brands. I could, if I should lose my mind in the next hour or so, buy that same 5 year old granddaughter a cute lacy thong. I can also find shorts or yoga pants for her with attention-grabbing words written across the seat.

Who needs to be looking at a 5 year old's butt?

But look the other way. Look at what women have to choose from. On a recent A.N.T. Farm (Disney) episode, the principal of the school wanted her portrait painted by one of the students. What did she wear? A white oxford cloth shirt tied at her waist, a short red plaid skirt, knee high white stockings and mary janes. If you clicked on the link, you know she is no school girl.

Rhumba panties. Cartoon character jammies. Who is the child and who is the adult.

And more importantly, what does this do to our view of the sexuality of a woman?

Little girls are encouraged to become sexual beings (can this be real?) while grown women are encourage - nay, it is demanded that they not age. The message seems to be that a woman's sexual peak is during her very young years and she needs to get all the mileage out of it she can.

So what do we do? How does a sane society respond? We can recognize that businesses are "in it" to make money. Period. If some idiot will buy a padded bra for a seven year old, I'm happy to take that $50 off your hands. That's a good place to start. And maybe we can refuse to purchase that stuff for our little girls. Maybe we can also start telling our daughters, our granddaughters, our nieces or any other little girl in our life, not just that she's beautiful but that she's smart. Maybe strong. Or athletic. Or funny. Anything else that she can DO is better to compliment her on rather than on how she looks. Even an ability to put cool outfits together is a skill we can praise rather than looks. Maybe that will start a trend with girls seeing themselves in in that light.

What are some ways we can combat this? The APA article is good reading for anyone interested.

I've linked a few articles at the bottom of this post for further reading.

watch this video for a great idea of how women are sexualized as little girls Katy Perry video
little girls' lingere
goodbye to girlhood
consuming kids
APA report

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wicked Step-Mother

Walt Disney seemed to have no love for mom's. Most classic Disney cartoons either have no mother or mom is a silent backdrop to use for close ups at either the beginning or the end of the movie. Many of them even had the anti-mother: the Wicked Step-Mother.

"Not my real mom."


Or this lovely example.

Well, that's me. I'm a step-mom.

I'm pretty lucky in that while ours is a blended family, we never had a lot of contact with either ex's and functioned much more like a nuclear family. Plus, our kids were all under five when we married and under six when we had one of our own.

Motherhood is a pretty awesome calling. Not everyone who can conceive a child can be a mother. It takes a certain selflessness. You know - mother is the one who takes the thigh and swears that it's her favorite piece of the chicken. And for most of us, falling in love with our children is like breathing. Automatic. Without conscious thought.

But this is for moms who love someone else's kids.

We didn't have nine months to start falling in love with an anticipated bundle of joy. Often, when we come onto the scene, a bond is already strong for that first mother. And sometimes, falling in love with a man does not always mean you will fall in love with his children, as the article linked above demonstrates.

Very early in my career, I read a bit of profound wisdom: God is not going to cut me any slack as a mother just because those four little letters precede my title. God is not going to look down through my life and see messes made and things not said or love not given and say "Well, you were only a step-mother, so that doesn't really count."

Many believe that God is the one who gives us children. I'd have to agree. Sometimes, he gives them to us the traditional way, with stretchmarks and 16 hours of labor. But sometimes, he gives them to us from someone else's womb.

I was blessed to be able to deliver into this world two remarkable sons. They are like me in myriad wonderful and irritating ways. They make me grind my teeth in frustration and beam with pride. I take credit for their successes. I accept blame for their failures.

I was also blessed to raise two daughters who were given birth by another woman. They are like me in myriad wonderful and irritating ways. They make me grind my teeth in frustration and beam with pride. Plus they've given me four wonderful grandchildren. I take credit for their successes. I accept blame for their failures.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Choosing to See

I caught a bit of Chuck Colson on the radio today talking about his grandson, Max, who is autistic. I actually didn't know that until I looked it up because I literally caught just the tail end of his segment of Breakpoint. I heard the part where he said that his grandson wouldn't cure the common cold or anything amazing like that, but he will, if you take the time, show you love and grace and maybe teach you a little humility. His final point was that people should quit playing God. I think the reference there was to abortion.

I wholeheartedly agree. Lots of children with disabilities are aborted for "quality of life" issues. Often it's less clear who's quality of life is under consideration, but this post is not a rant about abortion.

I have heard many, many parents of profoundly disabled children talk about the blessings their children are. My mom has a cousin who was born with Down's Syndrome at a time when the only real option was institutionalization. Her parents opted to keep her at home and help her reach her fullest potential. And that potential included holding a job and living independently and having a boyfriend. She also lived longer than many with Downs did at that time. She was a great picture for me, as a young mom, of the power of love in the life of a child.

But those kids are still not who I'm talking about. I'm talking about another set of disabled children. Their disability is usually economic. Or maybe it's a color issue. Or maybe geographic. For whatever reason, instead of an extra chromosome, they have a deficit of money. Or they live in a bad neighborhood/city. Or maybe they're a minority. All of those things work together, especially the lack of $$, to produce less. Educational outcomes. Employment opportunities. Social outcomes.

True, there are some mores. More jail/prison time. More drug/alcohol problems. More criminal behavior. Sadly, though, it seems that people choose to see labels instead of potentials. We're not investing in potentials. We are happy to celebrate when someone pulls themselves up by "their own bootstraps," defying the odds to make it. But they are so few and far between.

I spend a lot of time with kids and families who are dealing with emotional problems. Many of those problems are a result of chaotic lifestyles, which are usually birthed by poverty. I have met some really amazing and wonderful kids who have so much stacked against them. I have listened as they told of their dreams and hopes for the future. I have watched as a few of them were able to at least start off in the right direction. But I've watched just as many, if not more, wander with little other support into an abyss they may never see the other side of.

We need to see the value in all our children. We need to see the potential for greatness. We need to see the imago dei that exists even in dirty, cursing, angry faces. We need to see that even after they've been born, many kids will need help that their parents are either not equipped to handle or they just don't exist for whatever reason. We need to quit labeling kids and start loving them.