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Time to Talk

Recently I took my 10-year-old daughter, Teyah, on a trip to a shopping centre. Mother’s Day was coming up, and I needed to buy a gift for my mother and a new outfit for Teyah to wear out for our family lunch.

Rather than enjoying this experience, I found myself increasingly frustrated, and in fact furious, because of some of the ridiculous and simply toxic messages my daughter and I were presented with.

First stop: the girls-wear department at Myer, which caters to children aged 8 to 14. Recently renovated, it now has an instore Weight Watchers shopfront smack bang in the middle. Why, Teyah asked, do they need to promote dieting in the girls’ section?  Girls are still growing, so they are constantly moving up to bigger clothes. With Weight Watchers located right in this part of the store, she wondered, is there a risk that girls will think their ever-changing dress size is a sign they are getting fat? Wouldn’t the adults’ section of the store be a more appropriate place for a dieting program?

And it is not just our young daughters who are being told they need to shape up. I am usually a fan of Peter Alexander, the designer of leisure and sleep wear, yet on this shopping trip I was so deeply offended by his store’s window display I couldn’t bring myself to even enter. Their Mother’s Day slogan? “Spoil your Mum (after all . . . you spoilt her figure!)”

And finally, to ALDO, a shoe shop. I don’t know the name of the song they had blaring; its lyrics were so vile it must be banned from radio, so I hadn’t heard it before. The lyrics included the word f*ck and the singer was telling a b*tch to get on all fours and take it like a whore, get on the pole and spin . . .

You get the idea.

Teyah and I retreated into a cafe, and our shared experiences became a catalyst for a really interesting conversation about gender, the media and marketing messages. This impromptu “retail therapy” session got me thinking about powerful questions we can all ask our daughters, to get the discussion going. The following may provide inspiration:

Which brands do you think portray women in a positive light?

Describe an advertisement you thought objectified women. How did it make you feel?

What are the things others do that make you feel precious and special?

What are the things you do for yourself that make you feel precious and special?

What are you most proud of in your life so far?

What are five things that you love about yourself?

Describe a time when you compared yourself to someone whose looks you admired. How did that comparison make you feel?

Who is a woman you admire for reasons other than her looks? What do you like about her?

Describe a time when you felt truly beautiful.

How do you think society defines the words “beautiful” and “ugly”? How do you define them?

I would love to hear what other topics you think are in urgent need of being addressed with our girls and the conversation starters that you have found helpful.

Published inAdvertisingBody ImageFashion IndustryMediaParentsPower of WordsSexualisation of children

6 Comments

  1. Melinda L

    My question is always…..Why is beauty considered to be the only characteristic worth thinking about?

    I even shudder when I hear words like “women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful” or the advertisements from dove which send the message “look even older/freckled/larger women can be beautiful.” Its not that I don’t think that women of all shapes sizes and appearance aren’t beautiful, its more that I think “who cares?” Why do I constantly have to make an evaluation of my own physical appearance, as well as the physical appearance of others?

    Why do I have to look “beautiful?” Why can’t I be creative, athletic, opinionated (well, i *am* opinionated) musical, artistic, academic, etc. etc.

    While we’re all worried about our beauty, men are getting jobs in high places and making decisions that affect all of us. Meanwhile, women are inspecting the lines on their faces. I’m hoping that if my daughter can spend less time on beauty, she will have more time to be prime minister of Australia. 🙂

  2. Lisa Porter

    Well, I am currently waiting for a Year 10 boy to come and see me with regards to his decision to bellow the song featured in a beer ad about “I’m a t*** & a** man” in the corridor of our high school during roll call this morning. I despise the advertisement and mute it every time, but this impressionable boy clearly hadn’t thought about the offence it would cause. I asked him if his Mum would appreciate being valued for her body rather than her brain and her heart. He was mortified and apologetic and agreed to see me at recess AND lunch to draft, not just a letter of apology, but to help me campaign to get the ad off TV.

    *sigh*

    I know these companies rely on humour to sell their product, but this is just not funny.

  3. Francesca

    I’m right with you Melinda! I want to be confident in how I present myself to the world but it has less to do with my appearance and more to do with all that I am. I believe a woman’s value, sense of presence and worth goes far deeper and far beyond her looks. The qualities we possess and share is what creates a lasting impression on others. It is really quite tiring seeing so much advertising encouraging us to constantly re-evaluate our looks. I’m over it!
    Oh and Peter Alexander, as a frequent customer and mum of two, I am so sad and shocked. His clothes have always made me feel so ‘comfy’ and happy. Sadly his recent Mother’s Day sales pitch certainly doesn’t.

  4. Melinda L

    Lisa, what ad is that? Let me know and I will send a letter to whomever in support of your campaign.

  5. Stephanie

    Hi Danni,

    I know this isn’t directly related to your article, but I was wondering in light of what has been entrenched in the media this week regarding the “Matthew Johns” incident and the ongoing disrespect footballers have for women, is there any way that you could introduce some sort of training to young girls who may look up to football players with stars in their eyes to prevent them from falling into trouble? Maybe if they are aware at a young age of the terrible things that could happen to them when they start going out to clubs etc, it might educate them a little better. I know this is a delicate subject, but there’s got to be something more that the community can do to help!! The football clubs just put up their walls, and put their heads in the sand and it’s not going to go away!!

  6. Lisa Porter

    Melinda, it’s the Lion Nathan campaign for Hahn Super Dry. The tagline is, “In the name of good taste.” Irony of ironies… Thanks for your support!

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