I am the proud father of a walking, three-year-old, advertisement for the Walter Disney Corporation. Her main goal in life right now is only to acquire more Barbies, in the form of princesses from various Disney movies. It’s partially my fault, since I, sometime back, vowed to not allow anything that objectifies women- toy or otherwise- to be in my daughter’s possession. So regular Barbies are out. Also off the list are Bratz and Monster High, because, holy crap, those things are stupid. More than Care Bears stupid. Like, drinking antifreeze stupid. The creators of these products must be sitting together in some hot tub, sipping their martinis, and laughing their collective asses off right now. Not only are they offensively objectifying of women, they look like some executive at the toy company ate some hot pink nail polish and shat it out on a half-melted Barbie.
So here I am, having outlawed Barbie as a truly idiotic toy that completely embodies everything wrong with how we treat women in our society, but somehow accepting basically the same doll packaged as a pretend princess. Or an actual princess in doll form, in the case of Pocahontas. But minus the Stockholm Syndrome. I get it; I’m a dude. It is truly hard for me to see how any girl’s toys are cool to my daughter, when I can’t stop comparing them to the things I grew up with. Does that toy transform into a jet or something? No, but you can buy new outfits for her, and she talks to her effeminate boyfriend for hours. They do have a Corvette, but it’s pink. In fact, everything is pink. And that has to be okay, because it’s my daughter’s stuff, and I want her to have the freedom to choose her own toys. Except not to the point of destroying her very fragile, unformed, psyche.
I wasn’t always this militant. Before we had Linden, I had considered myself to be a borderline feminist. I was vaguely aware that some of our societal standards had evolved from cavemen and that I may have been guilty of perpetuating them. I tried not to participate in activities that subjugated women, as far I as could tell when it was happening. But, let’s be honest: I am male. A somewhat womanish, very sensitive, male-nurse-type, but a male, nonetheless. Somehow I could want a woman to be president, and yet, at the same time secretly hope that she would be hot.
When I became a father, all of that changed. Suddenly, everything was assaulting my daughter. Almost every value assigned to women in our culture is sexual. So many things I had never perceived as dangerous were now aggressively beating the living crap out of my poor baby girl’s potential as a human being. She already lives in a world where women still aren’t paid as well as men. Almost 250 years after we declared war on the British to plead our belief that all of mankind was created equally, gender inequality is still rampant in almost every vocation my daughter may aspire towards. It is terrifying to be a father of a girl.
I was afraid to take her out of the house. “What if, when her tiny eyes first learn to focus on objects, we might be standing in the checkout aisle at the grocery store and the first thing she saw was the cover of Cosmopolitan?” I thought. The cover of Cosmopolitan. Not to pick such an easy target, but yes. Even without the ability to read, what an awful message to send to girls. The models on those covers are preposterous icons of unobtainable beauty - before they get photoshopped. Not even the women on the covers can, in their best moments on earth, hope to look like they are made to look in those photographs. What a heartbreaking thing it must be for them, when they must accept that they will never actually be that beautiful. And if one were only to peruse the headlines- what a vapid, tiresome, piece of banality. So, Cosmopolitan, and the thousands of copycat magazines next to it, aping its merciless drive to crush my daughter’s sense of self-worth... is definitely off the list.
Also off the list - and this one hurt me- comic books. I love comic books so much that I have a life-sized, aircraft-aluminum, Captain America shield hanging in my office. Comics were so formative to my adolescence that I have dedicated half of my right arm to a tattoo, prominently featuring not just Cap, but your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But before Linden was born, I can remember having a conversation where I tried explaining the character Kitty Pryde to my wife after her being mentioned in Weezer’s song “In the Garage”. In reality, defending her. I had described what I remembered to be a sweet teenage girl, with such indescribably slight powers, and how the other X-men always had to look out for her. Like some adorable kid sister. Except, when I Googled "Kitty Pryde", I got this picture:
All I can think about when I look at this is... boobs. I know it’s because I’m a dirty, misogynistic, caveman piece of crap, but I cannot help it. Is it just me, or did Kitty Pryde look like this when I was a kid?:
And another current picture...
Is that camel toe? I believe it is. What I realized, after trying in vain to argue with my wife for the validity of my favorite comics, is that they are almost all some type of gateway to soft-core porn. Sure, there are better examples for girls, some issues with less provocative females, some artist with a clearer sense of decency or a better moral compass, but overall, the comics I loved as a kid, are dangerous.
Even the cartoons are bad examples. Marvel has Super Hero Squad, a cartoon designed solely for young kids. After watching four episodes with Linden, I had to turn it off. There were two female superheroes, portrayed as weak compared to the male heroes, and even in a cartoon aimed at pre-adolescent kids, somehow I could not ignore the boobs. If there were anything about comic book heroes and heroines that could be applied to a vocation, aside from character, I may have kept them on the table for when she gets older, but alas, there really isn’t. And the rest of comic book cartoons certainly fared worse in my new fatherhood witch hunt.
Linden’s favorite toys, as I have mentioned, are the Disney Princess Barbies. One day, in trying to talk her out of getting her fifth (with her own piggy bank money, I might add), I had to stop myself. I wanted her to get Legos instead. Even the pink ones teach some fine motor skills, and building principles that I thought might one day spur her to be a great architect or an engineer. “But Daddy, I want princess Tiana”, she pleaded. My retort was on the tip of my tongue when I caught myself. Real Princesses die in Car crashes. Ouch. Not the kind of thing you want rattling around the head of the same three-year-old that you are laying awake at night trying to protect from the evils of the world. I had to think about this for a moment. “Okay, Linden. We can get that princess.” I said. “She is a good person. When I was a boy, there was a real princess just like her. She helped babies who were sick. She tried to rid the world of land mines. She was friends with Mother Theresa.”
So, I swallowed hard and chose to allow the Disney Princess Barbies. Somewhere in there I hoped for some gleaning of altruism, and maybe if I was lucky, an admiration for a truly great actual princess. At least this way she might aspire to be someone of somewhat noble character, instead of what is more than metaphorically a pretty doll whose head is filled with air. Just to be fair, one could never really pursue a dream to be a robot that turned into a jet. However, were my daughter to invent an actual robot that turned into a jet, her family would never know what it would be like to wipe their butts with anything smaller than a twenty dollar bill.