Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Slutwear Debate Continues

I think this is Ru Paul Barbie.

Okay, folks, we were having so much fun in the comments section of the recent Slutwear post that my response was getting somewhat lengthy. So, I decided continue the discussion with my comments here.

Okay- it's really an excuse to use more of the hilarious Barbie images I found at Mattel's site. I am going to post a few of these every so often and ask you, my beloved handful of readers, to invent names, situations, stories or anything else that strikes you when you see them. Some of them are...well...just wait and see. I have to wonder what some of those doll designers are thinking and if they really believe we can't figure it out!

Asian Brothel Barbie?

Okay. Back to the business at hand. In reference to comments made by Eric and Richard on the initial post, I have no disagreement; young women should be able to wear anything they like, sexy, slutty or otherwise, and it's okay for children to be exposed to this, no problem. In such a situation, parents (like me) can easily explain that "big girls" get to make those choices. And I think it's good to have such opportunities to teach lessons like these to children -lessons about individual choice, without judgment. And to me, that's what the the issue really is about: choice.

Little girls seem to want to grow up faster than little boys, and it appears that this trait is being exploited. You, too, can dress like a big, grown-up girl. When "slutwear" is depicted as the standard to which little girls should aspire (as dictated by the great marketing machine of many influential corporations) and it then becomes the norm for little girl clothing, my ability to choose what I feel is appropriate for my daughter is weakened. I'm fighting a behemoth with a voice much louder than mine and with the power to challenge my protests that certain types of clothing or behavior are age-inappropriate with pervasive examples to the contrary. This is the real issue, from my perspective. My fight to have a choice and some control over the values I wish to instill in my child -and she is my child and it is my choice until the point at which she can make her own well though-out decisions -becomes much more difficult.

We're both serious about the stakes -money and market share for them and for me, the power to install something of more substance in my daughter's perception of herself as a female. But we're not on a level playing field and it's getting more and more difficult for me to win this battle. And it's a battle I resent having to fight in the first place.

I can tell you that this is the reality. Rachel can hear everything I tell her, but what's to stop her from thinking I must be wrong when so many marketing messages in so many places tell her otherwise. She will fight and argue for what the marketing machine has told her to be. This disgusts and infuriates me. Manufacturers of toys or other consumer goods targeting pre-school to pre-adolescent children have an ethical responsibility to use the power of mass marketing responsibly, especially when they have the power to establish or significantly influence cultural norms or affect stereotypes.

Dominatrix CatWoman Barbie

I had to fight to keep the pro-violence toys, games and shows out of my son's hands, too and this was not easy either, (nor was I always successful), but it was nothing like what I am facing today with my daughter. I think the Barbie examples say it all rather well.

Nausea inducing combination of overnlown branding and stereotyping... I wanna... ya know... grow up to be a Coke swilling cheerleader, just like Barbie, ' cause you're like so totally cool if you're a cheerleader and especially if you ...like...drink Coke 'cause it's so...like...totally awesome!

Post Script- Renard just looked at the Barbie pictures in this post and said that they would have been serious masturbation material when he was an adolescent...and uh...maybe even now. Ha, ha, ha!... Oh, wait ... that kind of proves my point, doesn't it?

Post Post Script- As many of you may know, I teach marketing courses at a large, urban university in New Orleans and my students will tell you that I jokingly refer to myself as the "marketing antichrist. " I do this because so many people believe that marketing is all about exploiting people to make money. Unfortunately, that may be true in practice for so many organizations. But it's not what we in the academic world profess. It's all about acting ethically, which means doing what's in the long-term best interest of the consumer and society. Usually, this involves some short-term sacrifices. But simple logic will show, if carried to a long-term conclusion, that the pay-off is more than worth it -and not just for the company but for everyone. This is where I stand. So, don't be surprised if you see me bashing a lot of bad, short-term, profit-driven marketing strategies and tactics at any time in the future.


Blogger Richard said...

Thank you for posting such a cogent response. I couldn't agree with you more, the influence of big marketing on this topic is pervasive. I find in the comment space my arguements condense and I don't end up say what I wanted, nor sounding like I thought I did. Now as for the Naming the Barbies, mine go as follows.

1. Drag Cabaret Barbie
2. Mail-order Bride Barbie
3. Power Exchange Barbie
4. Cybergeek Porn Fantasy Barbie

2:06 PM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

1. Aesthetic Distortion™ Barbie
2. Return to The Valley of the Dolls™
3. Anorexic Schizophrenic Chic™ Barbie
4. Date Rape™ Barbie

5:09 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

You guys are good! I cracked up reading your submissions.

How about the one or two other people who read this blog?? I know you've got it in you!

There will be more to come.....

12:56 AM  

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