It’s a long, lonely walk and why it shouldn’t be

I stumbled on this trailer (*not safe to open at work*) on F.B sometime this week and as all things related to being a woman, it jolted me.

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

My brain has a lot of jumbled thoughts. Thoughts on why I think this is a very relevant conversation to have. Thoughts on why my armchair activism is not enough. Thoughts on what do I actually do to get involved. Involved here may not mean for me, rallying like-minded parents and spreading the word at local schools. It may just mean cognizant parenting. It may mean involved parenting where my decisions are more likely to have an effect on the two lives I am responsible for.

I often look away or switch channels when I see shows or ads portraying women in a demeaning light. It affects me. It riles me and I feel powerless about it. In the past reading about a Miley Ray Cyrus album causing a stir amongst parents or Taylor’s Swift endorsement of certain products would have not touched me in a way it does now. In choosing programs for my daughters to watch, in picking clothes for them to wear, in deciding the kinds of toys they get, I try to be gender neutral. Yet, when book after children’s book talks about Princesses being saved by a Prince in shining armor and fairies looking for tiaras and wands. I shake my head and wonder. Am I being irrational? Perhaps such amount of scrutiny is not needed. Perhaps I am over-reacting. Perhaps, my daughters will shrug it off and go on to become entrepreneurs and powerful women in their own right.

I take a leaf from my own unremarkable life. Growing up, in middle school my aspirations were shaped the books I read. I wanted to be a detective, a scientist, a writer, an anchor on Television. All of these roles were self-reliant, prominent and were not tainted by social conditioning. By high school, I had wizened up. My aspirations changed to wondering if I would be a stenographer, a secretary or if I would work at all. The messages I heard loud and clear was that domestic subservience superceded any personal ambition.

The India I lived and grew up in is a far cry from the demographic that this trailer talks about. The core messages are the same. Do we want our children to be fed messages that pander to marketing dollars and what the media/society wants them to be? How do we go about being strong role models for our children? How do we as parents raise them to be self-confident, strong individuals who can decide what they want to be without undue influence from the surroundings? I am not sure. I do know I will be trying hard not to repeat the mistakes I have made in life with my children.

But beyond a point, unless we band together as concerned parents and citizens, there is good chance that my child and yours will hesitate to make that long trip to the top. Take a few minutes, hop on here, ruminate and if you can, spread the word. If you are active in your school’s PTA, perhaps you can arrange for a screening of this movie. Or talk about it to your pre-teen. It may be all you need to open that line of communication and talk to your daughter aspiring for the skies. To tell her that grooming is important and so is dignity.

It is a long, lonely road to the top and our children need all the help we can give them.

3 comments

  1. The way I am thinking of doing it living my example. Something that is in our hands. Its amazing how much children emulate their parents, I was surprised to find how like my Mom and Dad I was, how all my thought trains and views were unintentionally taken from my parents.

  2. This had me thinking as well – so I feel there is a difference between role models for leading good lives and being extraordinarily successful and aspiring to greatness. While I can definitively affect the former, I need to seek out the latter all around me for my daughters. I also feel that I need to be willing to talk about anything – create that environment at home so even if I find something unappealing, I can explain why to my kids and/or explore the reasons myself. And as you point, a key ingredient is being there and being proactive. 🙂

  3. Laksh, nicely written. Having both of them at home I try hard to maintain gender equality but honestly I am struggling. VD is naturally attracted to the tiaras, princess and cars :). Not to blame but Media does have a big big hand, the other day SD and his friend S were playing and she wanted to be iron-man because she likes him too, the reply SD gave her no you cannot be iron-man you are a girl and you should only sit and manage the buttons I can fight because I am a boy. I intervened and questioned the concept… the reply I got… Mom you don’t know anything boys save girls that is the rule. I asked about power-rangers they are 4 guys, 2 girls and 2 boys, the reply I got… red ranger is a boy and he is the leader the pink and yellow rangers are the weakest…girls can only be princess and look beautiful… looking at my glares he adds mamma’s are different they have mamma powers… I am now trying to show him jhansi ki rani….

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