The Grooming of the Youngest

grooming of the youngest

Yesterday I ‘ve stumbled upon the new advert from Dove and posted it on our Facebook page.

Here it is:

I dream of the day where all the adverts will remind people of their beauty. Not the type of beauty needing photoshops and breast implants, nor even the one needing a couple of hours of careful preparation in front of the mirror, but our natural beauty radiating from within.

I dream of the day where all adverts will be a glorious celebration of love and self-acceptance  instead of feeding self-loathing, insecurities and obsessions!

Then I spent a couple of hours compiling various playlists for our You Tube channel and after watching video after video with little girls doing make-up tutorials I started to feel a slight depressive feeling in the realisation that YES, this is the system in which we live and many young girls are enthused by make-up and beauty: they are trained from such a young age through family, friends, playing practices and the media and the millions of images,surrounding them…everything starts with what it seems like harmless fun: little girls imitating their mothers, their sisters, their favourite TV character.

Wondering if that depressive feeling was only my one, if my concern was shared by anyone else, I found myself reading the many comments left on every little girl’s tutorial video (most of these girls are between 4-6 years of age and some of these tutorials have millions of views, yes, millions!!). I’ve realised that most viewers find the material “cute” and “funny”: training our youngest to be concerned about their look is for many parents and sisters just a matter of learning how to fit in a beauty-obsessed society I guess…?

I agree that it could be just a fun way for little girls to imitate adult life. I am sure many of us can remember doing the same thing: messing up with our mum’s make-up was in fact pure joy and delight!

So, far from turning my concern into an indiscriminate moral panic, I reckon that playing with make-up can still be seen as a harmless fun, as long as these girls have alternatives and their life doesn’t start to revolve around a mirror.

While watching these girls recording video after video, building their own channel of beauty tutorials by the age of 7, I only wonder more about their life: how healthy and diverse is their embodiment of femininity? Do they know there are lots of other options out there? Do they know they could spend the same amount of time learning to play a sport or an instrument,creating their own music and art, playing with a pet, fundraising for a local charity, learning to dance… becoming confident, empowered, loving beings, capable of improving the life of thousands around them? IF THEY DO, then certainly their make-up tutorials are just another way to express their creativity, they won’t become self-obsessed, insecure and narcistic individuals.

I invite you to have a look at the playlist for yourself and let me know your comments: is this “grooming of the youngest” just harmless fun?



The mistery of crowd funding

screenshot indiegogo_2nov

Today it’s the first week anniversary of MSG crowd funding campaign and I want to take the opportunity to reflect on how the campaign is going.

To put things into perspective perhaps I should start by noting that on the very first day of the campaign I did not just sit down looking at the screen and praying for some miracles to happen.
I went to a Conference organised by Feminist in London with my 10 years old son and my partner, which turned out to be an incredibly inspiring event: on the day, we managed to distribute around 250 cards and explained our venture to many sympathetic activists who expressed vivid interest in our cause.

On the online front, despite a huge amount of tweeting and re-tweetting regarding the initiative and many organisations’ emailing me personally their support, the donors are very slow to materialise and – call me a dreamer- I struggle to understand why!

Not to take anything away from the 43 committed donors actually turning up, I was expecting to see at least double in terms of donations and I am wondering what make people interested and supportive of the cause (at least through their re-tweeting and emailing activity) waiting a day further to actually reach their pocket and press the “contribute now” on the page.

With my surprise, I have been congratulated on the results as the outcome so far seems to be perfectly in line with the nature of crowd funding campaigns, or so I’ve been told by an expert in the field: “Be patient, it takes time to build up public interest and as soon as you’ll have a few sponsors in, then you’ll see things actually start to move much more quickly”.

With a massive number of people actively following the campaign on Indiegogo, I am gathering that there is a lot of “lets’ way and see” going on at the moment!

Of course, in my dreams the campaign would have reached £1000 by the end of the first week: I dreamed that all the fervent activists, concerned parents and passionate educators I personally engaged with would eagerly log into the campaign page and make their contribution.
Judging from the current trend and the limited resources I can invest in it, I need to re-focus and think of more creative ways to convince MSG’s supporters of the urgency and necessity of their donations: something to really awaken their sense of power to act on things! (On this regard, I welcome your advice and suggestions: please don’t ask me to take my bra off in sign of protest to attract potential donors…yes I have been suggested to do that too!)

I need the people and organisations which so brilliantly supported me with their words, emails and re-tweets actually reaching their wallet if I want to regain my confidence in the power of collective action.

Call me a dreamer again, but I remain convinced that nothing will change unless we truly act collectively on this urgent issue.

In any case – success or failure of this campaign – you can be sure that I won’t shut up!


indiegogo campaign

Ok, I admit it, I am terrified! This morning I woke up and I discovered that the campaign is gone LIVE during the night without me activating it! Divine intervention? Mhmmm…I am not sure 😉


Barbies & Bratz: an ideal toy for toddlers…really?


Today I had an interesting discussion with a parent regarding how to stop her two young girls (age 2 and 4) obsessing over their Barbies dolls:

“At the beginning I didn’t give so much weight as it started gradually, but now I am at the point of almost wanting to bin their whole Barbie’s collection at once! They rarely play with anything else, I think they are getting pretty obsessive over them, constanlty changing clothes and then bringing the dolls with them everywhere…sometimes I feel like I am a bad mother allowing this…I think we are playing a dangerous game with the toys we hand over to them”.

This is nothing new: socialisation into stereotypical gender roles through playing practices, “let the girls be girls and the boys be boys”, many conservative parents would have no problem with it. However, I know even very conservative parents who will argue that the extent to which girls are trained into the role of “beautiful dolls” is getting far out of hand these days.

Young girls must be looking around, finding very little alternative to this role. Starting from the innocent comments received during family reunion (“Oh…she’s so beautiful” “she’s such a pretty girl”), the message is then reinforced through several hours of Barbie or Bratz play, possibly accompanied by some indoctrination into the glittering world of Disney’s princesses cartoons, merchandise and bedroom paraphernalia.

Interestingly – and more worryingly so- Barbie/ Bratz and the like have now become in many countries a must-have early years’ toy for girls age 2-6. Most of the girls I’ve talked to throughout my project (girls living in UK, age 8-11) were ready to dismiss the toy as “babyish”.

While there’s a lack of research on the direct effects of this playing practice from such tender age, it would respond to logic to think that handing out a skinny doll with unrealistic body proportions to 2-6 years old doesn’t represent the wisest educational choice. Let’s also consider the fact that playing with this type of dolls involves mainly changing them into different clothes, outfits, make-up and hair styles to make them more beautiful and sexy (possibly to attract the only man character in Barbie’s world, Ken!).

Now, developmental psychology tells us that toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development, with children playing practices shaping their believes and attitudes for their later life: so let’s stop a minute and think “what are the attitudes and believes we promote in our girls by a regular daily dose of Barbie/Bratz play at this particular stage of their development?” And what if this practice is accompanied by Disney princesses’ cartoons and strict gender stereotyping in marketing and media?

This is a far cry from the traditionally feminine practice of playing with baby dolls, although I am aware that many feminist would equally class that practice as limiting, stereotypical and damaging, at least when not mixed with other types of play.

But surely you would think that pushing baby dolls on a pram, or pretending to feed them or change their nappy is a “parenting role play” which can develop a caring and nurturing attitude in children, so potentially nothing too wrong with that, right? (For the same reason I would be extremely happy to see as many boys as girls engaged in this type of play…but of course this would make uncomfortable too many parents who still firmly believe in the benefits of stereotypically gendered socialisation for their boys and girls…we have a long way to go I think!)

To conclude, shouldn’t we be a little more considerate in deciding which toy would be best for a 2-6 years old child? This is such a delicate and important phase of a child development… I contend that the effects of such universal play practice – especially in cases where it tends to monopolise girls’ attention and when not compensated by a diverse range of activities – should be really considered much more seriously.

Should Girls aim to be Cheerleaders or just…Leaders?


Today I came across a recent article about cheerleading in The Guardian (prominent UK newspaper).

While the author tries her best to sing the praises of an exciting emerging new “sport” for girls, most of the comments left at the bottom of the article seem not to agree with her, and I think this has a lot to do with many people’s resentment towards a foreign imported tradition which seems to perpetrate the stereotype of girls as nothing more than attractive ornaments cheering for the boys (added of course to the fact that cheerleading – as a tradition – has little to do with this country):


As an Italian, I have always considered UK as a country very proud of its own traditions and not keen on importing foreign customs, but judging from what I’m seeing in the last few years I have to say that there is an ever growing influence of US culture which completely dispel my myth: from primary and secondary schools introducing the practice of proms as end-year celebrations (feeding relative anxieties to “look nice” or “find the boy to go with” or “who is going to be the queen”, not to mention the commercial expenditures associated with it!), to the current wide spreading of new afterschool clubs offering cheerleading classes, I see that the influence is now becoming fairly noticeable.

Anyway, I was curious to find out a bit more about this growing trend and another article from the 2010 archives of the Guardian came to help:
While I do not personally have any problem with foreign traditions being introduced and shared between countries (after all I am a traveller and find in cosmopolitanism a very stimulating way to live!) some of the comments at the bottom of this article seems to be even more livid towards the influence of US culture: again, the criticism towards cheerleading refer mostly to the prevalent connotation of the activity as a “training of cheering girls-ornaments for the boys”.

To tell the truth I would not have any problem if cheerleading was promoted and popular among both sexes, but as it stands, the activity is becoming more an exclusive girls’ endeavour here in UK just as it is in US, and with this I do feel less comfortable!

Do we need another influence towards the “dancing bimbos cheering for the boys” in this era of constant bombardment, where most of the images seen by girls are already reinforcing this type of feminine stereotype? Or at least if there could be more balance …let’s say more emphasis on sports and skills for a change instead of sparkly clothes and popularity!

So, I am not sure I am excited as many young girls are, regarding this new trend and I wonder if we could improve in taking the best we can from US traditions, that’s all…


Girls are the best because we are pretty! That’s it?


This is one of the drawings coming from one of the youngest participants in my research (Kirsty, 8 years old; all names have been changed to protect girls’ identity).

During a bonding group session with 6 girls (8-9 years old) I asked the girls to make a drawing about what they thought it was the best thing about being a girl. Let’s consider that out of so many qualities, characteristics, situations, attributes…the girl has decided to focus on just ONE: perhaps the one aspect of being a girl that first came in her mind or the one that she considers more poignant, we don’t know about this.

What we know is that a 8 years old girl has made this drawing in response to the prompt: “why girls are the best?”.

In other girls’ drawings (with the exception of one girl who emphasised instead being imaginative, creative and fun) “prettiness” was a constant component, with girls referring to make-up, fashion and boys’ gaze.

I suggest that this kind of drawings are powerful, emblematic representations of the way young girls internalise media and society messages about being a girl/woman and as such their meaning should be taken very seriously.


What children really think about gender stereotypes in their TV programs?

This is a huge scale content analysis of gender stereotypes in children TV programmes around the world and one of a few study investigating children’ own preferences regarding gender  stereotypes.

Gotz. M. (2008), Girls and Boys and Television The Role of Gender.

Gotz and her research team tracked gender representation in almost twenty thousand children’ TV shows from 24 countries and found that gender stereotypes are still extremely prevalent within kids’ television. The same study reveals that these stereotypes are far from what kids actually prefer: most girls in the study actually identified with “assertive and resourceful female leads that are in control of their lives and find their own solutions to problems” (Gotz, 2008).

Click the link below to access the file and read more 😉

This is another US movement which started recently

SPARK is a girl-fuelled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualisation of women and girls in media. They’re collaborating with hundreds of girls (age 13-22) and more than 60 US national organizations to reject the commodified, sexualized images of girls in media and support the development of girls’ healthy sexuality and self-esteem.

“One of the most unique, important things about SPARK is that we’re a movement by girls, for girls and girls’ allies (including boys and grownups). We center girls’ experiences and elevate girls’ voices because we know that “protecting them” from sexualization doesn’t work–we need to help girls develop their own strengths and speak out against the forces that harm them. Our SPARKteam is made up of engaged, passionate girls and young women who are building their own solutions and leading a movement against the sexualization, objectification, and violence against women present in the media”