This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Summa' Time and Why Do Girls Want To Be Saved?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summa' Time and Why Do Girls Want To Be Saved?

It's summer and in a way things have slowed down, but there also seems to be a lot going on right now.  In an effort to be on top of things I've created chore charts, purchased craft supplies, I'm organizing a weekly church playgroup, have a community calendar of fun things to do and have compiled my own mental list of outings of places to go and things to do.  Uh we gots a SeaWorld pass up in herrr, OK?  We are taking this shiz seriously.  I know it was only a year ago that I had both my offspring with me all the time, minus some pre-school mornings, but after only one year of my oldest being at school all day I have this pervasive fear that if I'm not prepared this summer will eat. us. alive.  Interestingly enough, on our first Monday together I was so stressed about not getting bogged down with the summer doldrums I basically had a melt-down and by 3:00 realized that maybe I was a little too worried.

Kids can be a little bored.  And that's fine.  In fact, I believe in it.  I reject the notion that children need constant activites and plans and learning to thrive.  Personally I believe in the need for unstructured free time to play, and use those imaginations I hear are so very important.  But whatever, I wigged.  I have plans, I have crafts, games, activities, friends.... but days will look lazy and all willy-nilly too.  And I sorta forgot that that is also part of the plan.  

Speaking of unstructured play time, as I listened to my girls playing yesterday I heard a common theme they often resort to in their play.  Help me, help me!  The crocodile is getting me!  He's pulling me me!  And which ever one is not in immediate peril pulls the other one to safety.  Sometimes it's a crocodile, sometimes it's Captain Hook, other times just an ambiguous monster.  Listening to this type of play is very familiar to my girlish ears.  I too remember playing the damsel in distress and taking turns saving each other.  In 3rd grade the daily recess game was 'chase.'  The boys chased the girls as we tried to make it back to the small bars where we were deemed safe.  I know there is a lot of backlash against the typical narrative of the Disney princess movies--many of them feature some sort of damsel in distress where a prince, a man, rescues them from their miserable circumstances.  Many women find this storyline troubling.  What are we teaching our young girls?  That they need a man to rescue them.  That they are too weak to do it themselves.  We've seen this start to change over the years particularly with Disney's latest Princess Merida in Brave.

So when I listen to my daughters play out this familiar narrative and when I remember my own desire for 'saving' as a young girl, frankly I don't worry about it too much.  Perhaps we're over-thinking it.  Sure some of you may say that it was through these movies our daughters have learned to act that way, but I don't think so.  We didn't have VCR's as a young kid where these movies were played at the frequency they are now.  I really think it was inherent.   Like when PSP was barely walking she would take any piece of string or stray fabric and drape it around her neck.  Since she was still a grabby little baby I hadn't worn a necklace since she was born, so I knew she wasn't imitating me.  She the desire to drape herself in 'jewelry, seemed to just be there.

In short, I don't think Disney movies are going to ruin my girls.  I outgrew the need to be saved and I think they will too.  Yes I outgrew that need as a girl, but also as a woman.  I wanted to get married for a million reasons, but not because I needed saving from my own life.  There are so many traps our kids can fall into, so many things to worry about.  I guess Disney movies just aren't one of my worries.   So when I hear my girls squeal as they try and escape their imaginary captors and watch as they pull each other to safety, I just smile and think back to familiar childhood memories.

For me, it's that simple.

Plus, how cute is this one pulling herself up to stand?  She's been doing this a lot lately... even in her crib.  Kinda exciting.

What about you?  Do you worry about the narratives our children are being taught through media or do you think somethings are just part of their DNA?  Have you made choices about the shows your kids can watched based on perpetuating negative stereotypes?  Or like me, do you think there are bigger fish to fry?  


  1. oh, i think so many gender traits are more inherent than we give credit for. we started with two little girls and when we found out our third was a boy, i didn't think much of it, and didn't really think i'd see many differences for a few years. kids are kids, right? wrong. he was a boy from the get-go. he plays differently, he treats random things like cars long before anyone had shown him how to play with cars. he is just different from my girls.

    and my girls surprise me similarly. right after i had my second, i found my oldest trying to nurse a stuffed caterpillar because we didn't have any dolls in the house (i believe this is the point where my mother-in-law started insisting that we buy her a doll). my girls constantly do feminine things that i know they did not learn from me or my husband or from anyone else, for that matter. they are still little and have extremely limited media exposure, so i know that it's just part of them. and yes, that includes constantly wanting to be saved.

    i will say (because this comment wasn't long enough yet) that the other day my daughter said something about legos only being for boys and i had a really visceral reaction, followed by a long talk about how girls can build and do engineering-oriented things just as well as boys. so there are things that i'm not willing to let slide, just because they are little.

  2. I read a study saying that the number one thing women desire in a relationship is security (for men it was sex). I think this relates to the damsel in distress idea a bit. Security is a very important and good thing for a female (or anyone) to have-- I mean, biologically it was VERY important and day to day issue to have a a man create a secure place to have offspring because having children was the females main focus. Finding security in a relationship could be a version of "being saved" and I think that's okay. I think it's OK for partners to rely on each other for things (such as security)-- as long as it's not codependency but, rather an interdependency.

  3. I used to work with children, and I can tell you there's nothing gender-specific about pretending to run from monsters or needing "saving"-- or for that matter, making and wearing necklaces. If you clocked how long every child in the center engaged in which behaviors and then figured out separate averages for the girls and the boys, you could show that there's a gender-based play difference.

    But it's kind of hard to definitively eliminate social learning from such results. Studies have shown if you ask people to rate a baby or toddler's personality traits from a video, the results will be predictably affected by whether they're told the child is male or female-- regardless of the the child's actual gender. We start trying to nudge babies down the "right" path very early.

    I strongly agree with you that it's nothing to worry about! Play is play. Well, unless the child is reluctant to engage in an activity because they think it's off limits for their gender, as in the Lego example.

    After the Duplo years, Legos do seem to be marketed as a male-only preserve, don't they? The recent development of "Legos for Girls" sets only underlines this. The very existence of a "for girls" product line strongly implies that regular Legos are thus NOT for girls. Just sayin'.

  4. My boyfriend's mom refused to show her daughter any of the Disney Princess movies when she was a kid. She's now 16, model pretty, doesn't feel the need to wear makeup, keeps saying she doesn't want to get married and that she never wants to rely on a man for happiness. Instead of going right to college next year she's taking a gap year. She's going to work in an orphanage in Africa. She's fearless! The thing that impresses me the most is her killer confidence. She does everything for herself, not to impress anyone. All her friends are the types that are beyond obsessed with their boyfriends and constantly working out and wearing pretty clothes to impress boys, which was more like me.

    I was a Disney Princess fan as a kid too and I feel I came out okay without the "dire need" to get married as a way to be saved. But my friends and I joke often about "finding a rich man to take care of us." All in good fun but this post made me start thinking about it. Thanks!