Friday, September 2, 2011

Observations in Target: Mass Marketing and Young Females

"Mom, look! That's Rocky and CeCe, from Shake it Up! Can I pleeeeease get one of their clothes?" She stands on tiptoe to reach the higher shelf, and points to a t-shirt with an attached pinstriped vest. "I like that one!" I wonder if she notices that it's almost identical to the one CeCe is wearing in the poster above the rack of clothes.

My post- elementary school years have contained very little Disney Channel, which I consumed vigorously as a child. But after spending a week with a seven-year-old, I was fully informed on how Disney is functioning today. I know every person says this about the shows they watched when they were a kid, but I truly believe that the shows were much better then, especially for girls. Or maybe it's just that I have better media literacy now. After reading in Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter (not intended toward my demographic, but I still found it quite interesting) about the marketing system Disney uses, I've been genuinely frightened. There would be the show, and then an interview with the show's co-stars, and then a music video of their song, all within a half an hour. It's no wonder this young girl's eyes was drawn to the ad immediately.

As I stood in the pastel-hued feminine products aisle of Target, I muttered to the girl, like a batty old woman, "You don't know what you're doing! You're buying the clothes that she is wearing! You are not thinking! The advertisers have infiltrated your brain already!" Of course, within a minute, the vest-shirt combination was in her mother's cart.

A few minutes later, two girls and their mother passed by with a cart. One girl, about seven, sat in the cart's bottom, and the other, maybe ten years old, walked next to it. The younger girl was rooting through a small pile of clothes next to her crossed legs in the cart. "Sophia's shirt is an extra-large!" she said loudly, giggling. "Mommy! Why's Sophia's shirt an extra-large?" she asked, smirking at her sister. Sophia sped up walking, blushing. Sophia looked to be at a completely healthy weight, similarly in body type to both her mother and sister. What struck me, though, was how such a young girl already thought that the size "extra-large" was something to mocked, and mentioned, and giggled at. She knew that it was fodder to embarrass her older sister. I gather that looks have been a source of sister feuds for centuries, but I had a feeling the media threw something in here, too.

Disney usually plays it safe in terms of political and social correctness, so I was shocked on another Disney show, Good Luck Charlie, how often weight was mentioned. On the show, featuring a family of four children and their parents, the two sons frequently mock their dad for being overweight. When I saw this, I was completely shocked. Many TV shows have featured overweight fathers, but I've never actually see it be mentioned, as well as mocked, on a show targeted towards young children.

These experiences, although tiny in the scheme of my life, these girls's lives, and, feminism itself, gave me personal proof of the influence of the media on today's young girls. The girl who wanted the Disney shirt proves that Orenstein's claims, as well as those made my many feminist-themed mother bloggers, aren't alarmist. Sophia's little sister, as well as Sophia's own apparent humiliation, proved that the associations with weight begin at a very young age. It makes me so sad that by the age of seven, girls might already think that their appearance ties to their worth as a person. It makes me sad that people think that at all, but now it's happening even younger. This proves that we need to improve the media that children today consume.

This was reblogged on The F-Bomb.

1 comment:

  1. Good point about sisters and the history of looks as a point of rivalry. I feel like in reading pre-mass-media stories, there was indeed a "pretty sister" and everyone knew what that meant, but it also meant that by being sought after she was sort of destined to only be a wife. There was a freedom in not being the pretty sister. Now pretty has to come in addition to smart, talented, daring, etc., so it's hardly a freedom after all.