Friday, October 1, 2010

Unbalanced and UnAmerican

When the editor of Mamapedia asked me to submit a post from this blog, I scanned through and picked one that summed up the small changes I'd been trying to make, and sent it on.

Several weeks later, I got an email with the date that the post would be published.  I re-read it and thought, "Hm, not one of my finer moments, and there it is in print."  I read it and thought, "Hm, maybe I could instead re-submit something more neutral, containing more facts and information."

So, I wrote a separate piece, all about advertising to kids and how it impacts families, and sent it on, asking, "Mind if I switch?"

The lovely editor, who was named Ariel, replied to the effect of:  I've read both pieces and I think the first post is better written, and geared more toward an audience who don't have a lot of time.  But, whichever you are comfortable with.

So I stuck with the first, and it ran, and of the 70 or so comments, these were some snippets:

 Why are we blaming a company for something we as parents need to be responsible for. Disney is a company and they don't need to have feelings nor is it their responsibility to watch out for my child's well being.       --Michelle
I feel like most parents are so disillusioned and dissatisfied with their lives, that once they have children, they try and make little mini-Me's...only better.    --Nyle
Parents have complete control over the degree to which a movie takes over a child's life.   -- Lisa
Please let your girls be girls!  There is nothing wrong with being a princess. First Daddy's princess, then hubby's princess.  --JoAnn
Let's try to keep this in perspective and not create problems where none exist. There are too many other real issues out there!  --Amy
I am so sick of people telling us we are doing everything wrong as parents. --Julie
Everything in moderation is the key. In this article Mary, you sound insulting and come across as one of those "I'm a better parent than you" sort of person....And to tell you the truth if a vegen came in my house I would make sure there is something there, but I sure wouldn't feel bad and still have no problem eating my big juicy steak in front of them.   --Kelly
It is un-American to hate disney and all the marketing that goes with it. If you dont want to be a consumer on any level move somewhere else and take her self-righteous attitude with you.   --Kim
There was a lot of great feedback in there as well, some supportive, some mixed, some questioning my deeper issues, and even some resources that people included. 

My hesitancy to let the piece run, I think, was that in looking at it months after the fact, that instance felt rather far away, so old, and not where I was, and not where I am now.
At the time, that was how I felt: a little overwhelmed.  And I felt that it mattered enough to talk about, and to write about.

Have you ever been frustrated about something, and someone tells you, "Don't worry about it!  Relax."

How did that work out for you?

I prefer to say, I was in a mood of critiquing circumstances.  
Mainly ours, but perhaps some of that spilled over.

I think the reason a lot of my early documenting of these things feels far away, or not as relevant, is because I have spoken to others about them, and written about them.
Not because I've pretended to relax because someone else suggests I should be focusing on Water for Sudan.  You can care about more than one thing.  And you can care as much as you need to.

I can't end this one without referring to the unAmerican claim.  I've seen this exact statement, specifically for anyone who critiques Disney,  in different articles, about 6 times now.
Anti-Disney = unAmerican.

Just curious, but if you are from New Zealand or England or Brazil or Canada, what are some things that might get you called unEnglish?  UnBrazilian?  I don't even know how to write unNew Zealandin.  New Zealandish?
I want to know specifically who started the word, unAmerican.
And also, who connected it with an act of critiquing something.

Because quite frankly, I am so sick of people telling us we do everything wrong as parents.
And now, I must go and let my girl be a girl.
First a daddy's princess, then a hubby's princess.


  1. "First a daddy's princess, then a hubby's princess."

    Wow really missed the point, yeah?

  2. If not liking Disney is unAmerican, then I must be mega-unAmerican (despite being born in Washington, DC!)!!! I disliked Disney as a child and I still dislike Disney as a 46 year old woman and I especially disliked those dorky princesses even before they became over-marketed. Maleficent was the only Disney character I could relate to because she was tough and turned into a dragon. :-)

  3. Un-British… showing emotions in public I think. Or talking about money! I don't know, criticising the Queen would probably get you those kind of comments here, but putting down a company - never! But we don't have the capitalism=yay! anything else=socialism=ultimate evil kind of culture here.

    Can't get over the comment from JoAnn, that's incredible. Can you imagine if her daughter turned out to be gay…?

  4. Yeah, the "let your daughter be a princess" one really confuses me. I tend to use the term princess as a derogatory term like "ugh, she's such a princess". Who would want that kind of attitude for their daughter.

    And the Daddy's princess thing - well that's just creepy.

    And I still think the fact that you got over 70 comments about something you wrote is fantastic - even if it was unAmerican and irrational, you wacky socialist.

  5. "First Daddy's princess, then hubby's princess. --JoAnn"

    What the hell? This is just creepy D:

    re: the UnAmerican thing. It's not UnAmerican to dislike an American corporation. What *is* UnAmerican however, is lobbing insults at someone for exercising their freedoms as they see fit. And possibly selling secrets to the Russians.

  6. If not being fond of Disney/Disney princesses/Hannah Horetana, etc., is UnAmerican, someone needs to revoke my passport. Ooopsie! Don't like ANYTHING that limits what any kid, male OR female, might want to become, and I think the princessification of girlhood is vile, limiting, just UGH. Agreed re: Maleficent. She kicks ass, AND she has the best dress.

  7. I think that Un-American likely started (or was popularized) by the McCarthy era House Un-American Activities Committee--because communism was Un-American (and apparently blacklisting people and denying them from working in the country that capitalism created is MORE American?).

    One of the strong reasons that communism is said to be un-American is that it restricts the individual ability to make choices about what we want or need. In the present day, that choice that is filtered through capitalism and consumerism as much as the democratic state, but making an individual choice to keep something out of your life is a part of that democracy. And market-based capitalism.

  8. I can't remember where I found your blog exactly, and wherever it was I didn't comment. I just quietly added you to my google reader.

    There are more people out there who agree. We just don't shout as loudly.

  9. Oh, and I'm English, and I can't think of anything un-English off the top of my head. Sorry. We tend to split ourselves into even tinier areas than England, and then come up with personalities for those.

  10. I moved from Australia to England over a decade ago, and on a visit about 3-4 years ago I discovered that Australia had taken on this concept of being "un-Australian". I hate it. I suspect it has the same feel about it as un-American does. I've heard Un-Australian being used as a real insult, a proper smackdown, for everything from not eating lamb to wearing burkhas to accidentally standing in someone's way at a fireworks show (this was me; standing, that is, not calling people unAustralian!). I find the whole concept disgusting; the implication that if you're not Autralian then you're the lowest of the low. We used to pride ourselves on being multi-cultural, but I think attitudes in general have gone backwards in the last decade. I think un-Australian came from a speech the then PM, John Howard, gave, can't remember what it was about but he used it as a negative.

  11. I think I came across your blog from the Mamapedia article, and I've found it fascinating. You saw a specific problem with your child and worked out creative ways to overcome it. I especially like how you're letting her have what she loves and at the same time demonstrating that princesses come from all over the world and have their own strengths and abilities and aren't locked in to one pattern of behavior.

    My kids have definitely had their love affairs with licensed characters ... I think there's something comforting about seeing the same familiar faces everywhere. But their likes are always changing and I like seeing when they can take one character and setting and springboard off that into their own adventures.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. I'm English (love your blog!) and being "unEnglish" or "unBritish" only seems to me to come from a place of racism or Islamaphobia. So things like Sharia Law, niqab/burqa and so on. It's not really part of mainstream discourse in the same way that "unAmerican" seems to be. I think we have a lot less pride in "Englishness" as a concept as it's responsible for a whole heap of wrong that we'd rather move on from.

  13. I'm from Montréal (Québec) and sincerely it seems really hardto me to think about: what is it to be «unCanadian».

    There is a strong culture in Quebec, but you cannot say to someone that he is «unQuébécois»
    It doesn't make any sense.

    Weird country...

    sorry for my grammar, english is not my first language

  14. I just vomited a little in my mouth when I read about Daddy's and husband's princess. EW.

    Looks like so many people missed the point of your article... maybe when writing for a new audience everything needs to be spelled out, but I still think plenty would miss it.

  15. "Parents have complete control over the degree to which a movie takes over a child's life. -- Lisa"

    REALLY? REALLY? My guess would have to be that Lisa does not have children because to think that you have complete control over anything in a child's life is ridiculous. You cannot control a child's imagination. You cannot control a child's thought process or likes/dislikes. Yes, you can "control" what movies your child can watch and yes, you can "control" the amount of licensed merchandise that comes into your home (overzealous grandparents and family members excluded :-)) but to say you have complete control???? Nonsense.

    I love your blog Mary and not just because I know you personally. I don't think you come off sounding "holier than thou"..I think you saw an issue in your personal situation and decided to address it. You haven't limited C's exposure to DP's (i.e. control) but you have made darn sure that she gets other messages about strong women. Bringing awareness to an issue and providing strong examples is not unamerican or unbalanced. Isn't that our role as conscious consumers, good parents and members of a society that protects free speech? When we stop questioning and challenging the "powers that be", we will cease to exist as a progressive and successful country/culture.

    And yes, there are "more important issues out there", but so what? That's not the point of what you're trying to draw attention to. It's not like you've abandoned your entire life to eradicate the Disney empire from the world. I applaud your efforts to bring awareness to an issue that concerns you and know that your posts have greatly influenced the way that I think about my role as a role model and educator of my children. I am neither disillusioned or dissatisfied with my life but rather see it to be my job as a good parent to provide different view points for my girls and not let them only be influenced by the powerful marketing/media/consumerism groups out there.

    American Mother of two girls...aged 4 and 6.
    (sorry this was so long)

  16. Hi, I am from Brazil and I love your blog.
    Well, in Brazil, if u don't like football or "Carnaval" or samba u get mean comments, like "unbrazilian" (although this word does not exist, hahaha!), it is frowned upon...

    Oh, and by the way, even though I love your blog, I love disney too! I think I can like something and still be critic about it! I had realised how weird the princesses act, like, they almost never DO anything, just sit and wait for the prince, etc...but as an adult I NOW that this is abusurd and should never be a model for any, IF I have a daughter one day, I will ensure that she will read stories about girls who do stuff, who are active and brave and DONT need a prince to be happy and stuff...=)

  17. "First Daddy's princess, then Hubby's princess" actually gave me shivers/turned my stomach a little. Can't BELIEVE that one was written by a woman! Is she Hubby's princess? If so, OH BOY what a lucky man he is. *snort*

    I'm Canadian, and I guess you might be called unCanadian for not caring about hockey.

    Keep writing, Mary, and keep parenting. You're doing a great job of both.

  18. mary, i don't think i have anything to add to the rest of these comments, and i hope that this reinforces that what you are doing is awesome, mostly because it's exactly what you and dave believe is best for YOUR child. i am very proud of you!

  19. Wow, I'm not only unAmerican, I'm also unCanadian (what's hockey?), unEnglish (for shame, I have talked of money!), but...I AM Brazilian (love of futbol)!

    Great comments, interesting, and insightful.

    And supportive too (thanks!).

  20. Your blog is refreshingly analytical in a domain where feminists and sociologists mingle facts with opinion or even agenda.

    It is the Alltag* that lays the foundation of thoughts, habits and worldview of the masses, not some uberpolitics. And you post exactly how and where to look for this reinforcing elements. I am sure there are other domains (car, IT or interieur design... ) that could be analysed the same way you do.

    Ok, now for Switzerland. Hm, depends heavily on where you live. Our little country is so fractalized, one corner hates cosmopolites, the other thinks anti-urbanism is the abomination. But almost everybody "swiss" enough thinks of a swiss identity, and woe to you if you question this identity! Even if a Romand and a Swiss german can't even determine what exactly this identity should be - when an outsider asks, he will regardless be frowned upon. And woe to the whole discussion if some Ticinesi are around, the mess will be ugly afterwards. :)

    My opinion on this whole thing: If parents could be parents again, then no merchandise or media whatsoever could form especially girls the way they do today. Parents are role models, but not only the parents, any parents befriended with the family around the first ten or so formative years serve as a way to live, a potential option in life. If _everybody_ does the same around you (I suspect life in america is so uniform it borders creepyness), the media delivers the diversity needed for the childs brain and thus the princess message reaches the target. If you have other parents around that don't treat their kids like princesses, you know there are alternatives around. And maybe someday you turn out to like the alternative more.

    Unfirm thoughts, i know, but at least you know that somebody from around here reads your blog too. Not daily, but weekly I try.

    *Sorry, no perfect english word available in my english parsing brain department.