When my oldest was in first grade she came home from school one day lamenting, “Everyone’s a fan of Hannah Montana but me.” We didn’t (and still don’t) have cable TV so she had never seen the show. That afternoon I watched some clips of it on YouTube and thought it seemed more like a teen soap opera than something a 6-year-old should watch. I told my daughter why it was inappropriate for her and she moved on to other interests like turtles and horses. Many of her classmates moved on from Hannah/Miley to Taylor Swift. Flash forward to a few days ago when Miley Cyrus twerked her way back into our lives.
This time my daughter is a 6th grader in middle school and Miley has moved on from teen soap opera to raunch culture. My first inclination was to ignore the Miley mess and not give it any extra attention. I had a change of heart after realizing the odds are high that my daughter will see the video from one of her peers. It’s important that I talk to her about it ahead of time to limit the damage.
It’s ‘good PR’ and helps them to be taken seriously by directors for roles which may get a PG13 rating or better. While that’s all well and good for those celebs, it wreaks havoc on those of us who are trying to raise emotionally healthy girls…It can hurt our daughters if we don’t take the time to unpack the culture for them when they’re young.
I have been unpacking the junk food culture for them since they were very young. This was driven by our family history of diabetes and the need to instill healthy habits at a young age. In teaching my daughters to love food that loves them back, I soon realized we were up against some very powerful junk food marketing forces aimed at children. Seeing the film Consuming Kids moved me to act to limit their exposure to advertising and teach them media literacy.
I hope this will help them question the legitimacy of Coke’s claim that it’s part of the solution when it comes to obesity.
If you make billions of dollars a year selling unhealthy food, you don’t get to tell us to work out.
I hope it will help them question a woman in a cupcake bra shilling for Pepsi. I hope it will help them avoid what many of their peers have learned from advertising: to crave both junk food and an unrealistic thin ideal. I don’t underestimate what I am up against.
Today’s parents have to pull off parenting by exercising some degree of control over how much pop culture gets to their kids while also giving them the increased freedoms they need as they get older to develop media literacy and critical thinking skills. It’s a tough balancing act. And it’s unfair that this burden lands squarely on the shoulders of well-intentioned parents who are outgunned by conscience-free corporations.
Those conscience-free corporations (aka “merchants of cool“) are made up of people who see the harm, but do it anyway.
“Even though I work at MTV…I am starting to see the world more like someone who’s approaching forty than someone who’s twenty,” says Brian Graden, the channel’s president of programming. “And I can’t help but be worried that we are throwing so much at young adults so fast. And that there is no amount of preparation or education or even love that you could give a child to be ready.”
This Frontline program, which first aired in 2001, unpacks the intense relationship that exists between youth culture, the media and marketers. It connects the dots that bring us to Miley Cyrus twerking in 2013.
In the midst of all this controversy, it’s easy to overlook some important signs of progress for women. My alma mater, the Air Force Academy, now has a female general at the helm.
The first woman to lead the Air Force Academy says she faced resistance and sexual harassment in her career, but competence and confidence helped her push through the ranks to one of the top jobs in the service.
This is the kind of competence and confidence that I strive to instill in my daughters instead of the false power of raunch culture.