This is a tough topic, but here goes nothing. I’m really struggling with what is going on with product marketing and very young children, especially marketing to girls.
I realize this is not a new topic, but it struck me in a new and disturbing way on a trip to Target with my daughter this week. I despise what they are doing with Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell and her fairy girlfriends (http://disney.go.com/fairies/fairies/fairies.html), but mostly it has been my frustration that the come-hither poses, cleavage, and general body language seemed inappropriate as role models for young children. This week changed all that.
For the first time – and perhaps it was because my daughter was with me – I looked at one particular product that seemed insanely sexed up, and got a cold chill down my spine that still hasn’t gone away. It’s no longer for me what these images say to children about how they should behave. It’s what these images convey to adults about children.
I’ve spent a good portion of my professional life focused on children’s well-being. As part of that work, I made it my business to know as much as I could tolerate about specific threats to kids. There are a lot of things I wish I didn’t know about what our children face out there in the world. Without going into the weeds, I want to state a clearly as possible that little girls being seen attracted to and interacting with the kinds of images Disney is churning out with this fairy money machine is not increasing their safety.
What makes me most angry is that it is Disney. As in Walt Disney -- the alleged magic kingdom where we are all safe and respected and can explore our dreams as kids to our hearts’ content. They are sucking these kids and parents in on a reputation that they simultaneously are sending up in flames to anyone who is paying attention.
Sure, little girls are suckers for pretty. And for cute. And the more you ply them with pretty and cute, the more money you make. Probably no one will notice much if you show more of Tink’s leg, or give her bigger breasts. Probably no one will make a fuss if you add a few more girls to the mix. More girls, more money. It’s basic math. I mean, any adult who complains about this has issues, right? It’s just for fun. It’s for the kids.
Here’s the deal: I know when my spine goes cold with fear. I know when my mind’s eye races at 90 miles an hour down to the image of an innocent kid being perceived as a sex object and where that is headed and who’s to blame. And I know all about how big companies like Disney try to cover up what they are selling for their own profit.
I wish I didn’t but I do.
I’ll try to chill this weekend, and see you next week in a better place.