There are times, and they recur quite often, when I wonder about the wisdom of having brought a child into this world. This is one such.
Our culture creates and sustains a toxic atmosphere for women from cradle to grave. Wear pink, play with princess toys and unrealistic dolls that almost immediately start to create body image problems; wear non-functional clothes whose primary task appears to be sexualization of the wearer; be subjected to endless litanies of stereotypes and genderized commentary; suffer sexist discourse and sexual violence; struggle for reproductive and family planning rights; lack adequate political representation and access to social, economic and cultural power. And on and on. The list is exhausting.
Perhaps we should have beauty pageants for young girls. Wait; we already have those. Do we have bikini competitions and perhaps even a Sports Illustrated Pre-Teen Swimsuit issue? If not, they are surely on their way. Do we have pre-pubescent girls working as models, performing sexualized poses for glamour photographs? I think we do. (No surprises, these models suffer from anorexia and bulimia.) What atrocity is left to commit on our young women? Surely there is commercial imperative out there that will be able to dream up some new avenue of derangement.
Here are some ideas–in the domain of games and services–that come to mind:
1. Video games in which a young girl must traverse an obstacle course to get the boy of her choice. Other variants could include beating other girls–violently or otherwise–for pole position. These obstacle courses could be staged in many settings: for instance, one could be on a campus, where a library-based female students spots a boy walking on the quad, and chucks her books to take off in pursuit. Another one could be staged on a gym floor: our heroine would spot a weightlifter on the other end, and try to reach him while navigating the obstructions–like barbells–placed in her path. She is not allowed to lift them but must enlist male allies to move them for her instead. This could be advertised as ‘building hand-eye co-ordination skills’, ‘developing the competitive spirit’, and ‘building team partnerships.’
2. A constraint satisfaction game in which a fixed amount of money must be spent to buy the best possible combination of make-up items. “Best possible” is a function of which combination of items–perfume, lipstick, lipgloss, eyeliner etc–appeal to a select list of desirable boys, who themselves are ranked on a scale of hotness and cuteness. This could be marketed as ‘helping to develop mathematical and algorithmic capacities.’
3. A culinary course in which young girls would be instructed how to make ‘food for a new, light, sexy, you’. Menu items would include traditional classics as weight-loss shakes, skinny lattes, fat-free dressings, and celery salads. This could be pitched as ‘a modern version of the traditional Home Economics class, one geared to today’s adventurous young woman.’
We’ve only scratched the surface, folks.